How to Make Decisions

by Jessica Brookman in ,

FACT: You suck at making decisions. But practice makes perfect. 

Don't you dare fucking procrastinate. via  GFDA .

Don't you dare fucking procrastinate. via GFDA.

On any given day, I  can be found reading about 100 blogs and publications, taking down notes and sketches. And, if you see me out in public, and especially if you're causing a scene, there's a good chance that I'm documenting it. Sorry, but it's true. I'm spying on you. Possibly right now. 

Now imagine, if you will, the sheer volume of random shit I've recorded over the course of the year. I had a cadre of half-filled notebooks, scribbled-on napkins, and other scraps covered in notes. Not surprising that I had a hard time deciding what to keep, where to keep it, and....uh....what to do with them regardless. I held onto so much of this paper clutter because I didn't want these little gems to disappear into the apocryphal, wasted. 

Since my resolutions for 2013 involve taking continuous, immediate action towards a) minimalism, and b) my vision for myself for next year, a pile of paper clutter representing all of my half-baked, unwritten stories was painful sacrilege. It was clearly time to confront this cluster fuck. But how? 

I recently read WHAT DO YOU MAKE? on  Seth Godin's blog:

You don't run a punch press or haul iron ore. Your job is to make decisions.
The thing is, the farmer who grows corn has no illusions about what his job is. He doesn't avoid planting corn or dissemble or procrastinate about harvesting corn. And he certainly doesn't try to get his neighbor to grow his corn for him.
Make more decisions. That's the only way to get better at it.

Yes. Most marketing decisions can be summarized by Decide, execute, measure, repeat. And Seth is a marketing genius, but this concept doesn't just apply to executives and people's whose "product" is their decisions. It also applies to creatives.  

I realized that I had to simply start making more decisions. For example, I am not able to arrive at any output - a blog post, scene, or even a press release - without making a series of decisions on when, what info to include, where, and how. 

make something beautiful.jpeg

Not having easy access to my notes was making this MORE difficult, not easier. And just as I didn't want to potentially toss notes that I hadn't used yet, I didn't want to limit my flexibility or my creative process with schedules and plans.

What if I didn't like the topic in 2 weeks? What if my plans changed? What if i slipped into a random bout of depression and/or forgot how to speak English?

But it's time to call this shit what it is: Procrastination. 

It's another way of saying "Look at how hard and complicated this is! No wonder I haven't done what I wanted to do yet!" And that's a little bit of whiny bullshit if I ever heard some.

I also recently read the Hugo Lindgren riff in the NYT talking about the process of writing and editing. He talks about the creative process and the shitty feeling of staring at something you've made - bit of writing, piece of art, or some decision - and being disappointed by its initial awfulness. Mr. Lindgren also mentions Pixar's in-house creative theory: BE WRONG AS SOON AS YOU CAN. 

Every single person who aspires to "make" something has been here. It's totally gross and terrifying. Hesitation is essentially the fear of "being wrong," staring us down and daring us to do it anyway, to keep going.

So starting is hard. Looking at your shitty, shitty, shitty first draft or mock-up and deciding whether to keep going or fold is hard. But it's these things that separate writers, bloggers, even marketers and other professionals into classes. And the feeling good part only comes after the shitty, shitty, shitty part. 

Anyway, as Mr. Lindgren wrote,  "I know that the next brilliant brainstorm is never going to be the one that will just write itself, any more than the last one did." That is, there will ALWAYS be a shitty, disappointing, and/or torturous part of making new things. Unless you're fucking Joss Whedon or something, there will never be a time when the process becomes "easy." 

BOTTOM LINE: If you have dreams of making something, just fucking start it. 

Decide to say FUCK IT. Fuck your vanity. It's not going to be perfect right away. It's not going to make you money right away. It's not going to bring you flowers and make love to you. It's going to sit on your couch scratching its balls, asking if dinner is ready yet. 

Make it anyway. At least it's YOUR dead beat. Now whip it into shape: If it sucks, try again. If it still sucks. TRY AGAIN. If you get stuck, try a different approach. Whatever you do, don't fucking sit there and complain about all the things you want to do. They're YOUR THINGS. Ain't nobody gonna harvest your corn for you. Just go fucking take care of it. 

So tell me: What are you working on? What will you start this weekend?

Happy friday! @jessicabrookman.