“Do The Thing?” — An FAQ About Doing The Thing

Last week I did a… let’s be charitable and call it “unhinged” fusillade of tweets about how you, Dear Person, should go forth and —

*clears throat*

*bangs the timpani*

*screams*

DO THE THING.

And I thought, I should really bring that over to the blog. And I should, in turn, answer some KEY CRITICAL QUESTIONS about DOING THE THING.

So, here it is, a Frequently Asked Questions about Doing The Thing. Did anyone actually ask these questions? No! Probably not! Whatever! Quiet, you!

Let us begin.

Q: When should I do the thing?

A: Now. Right now. You should do the thing now. Not tomorrow. Not ten minutes ago. Now.

Q: But I don’t have time right now.

A: Nobody has time. We do not collect time like coins or eggs. Time is water in the river, you gotta reach out and grab a cupful as it passes. Also that’s not a question.

Q: Okay, a question, then: how do I make time for the thing?

A: To once again devolve to semantics, nobody really makes time. You’re not a Time-Shitter, who just prances about, Pooping Temporal Waste everywhere. Time is not feces. It’s a precious resource. You mine it. You steal it. You carve it out of the schist and bedrock.

Q: You just said time was water, and now it’s rock?

A: I’m a writer and therefore I have poetic license. It is a real license for which I applied at a local DMP, aka, the Department of Metaphor and Poetry. The greater point, aside from my poetic deviation, is that time is a thing you must seize for yourself before you die. Because you’re going to die. I’m going to die. The entirety of the Earth is going to die.

Q: This is getting bleak.

A: That is not a question.

Q: Fine, sorry. Why is this getting so bleak?

A: It’s not meant to be bleak, it’s just meant to be a reminder that our lives are a limited resource. We each have an end, and we do not know when that end will be, and so it behooves us to Do The Thing now, not tomorrow, or next week, or next year. Because you may not get tomorrow, or next week, or next year. This may sound bleak, but with a bit of a twist on your perspective, it actually becomes quite empowering. It’s like how a TV show does better when it has a finite number of seasons — Lost versus, say, Breaking Bad. The former had to go on and on as long as ABC kept renewing it, thus forcing the show to streeeeetch its story and parcel out its actual narrative. Breaking Bad was five seasons strong, and that’s because it was able to have a start and an end and know that its narrative had limits. When we recognize that we are expecting an end, we can start to actually make decisions and take actions, which is empowering and freeing rather than floating in some kind of wishy-washy middle limbo.

Q: What is the Thing I should be Doing? Is it writing?

A: It can be. I don’t know, I’m not you. Sure, I sometimes knock you out with ether and dress like you and try to sample your life in fits and starts, but that still doesn’t make me you. Maybe your thing is to write the book, maybe it’s to make a movie, or to tell someone you love them, or to clean your desk or hide a body. I don’t know. Every day we have a whole Menu of Things we can do, and you should do at least one of them, I think, in order of some importance.

Q: Can we go back to the part where you said you ether me and dress like me in order to experience what it is to be me?

A: No, we’re moving on.

Q: Ugh, fine. What if Doing The Thing is hard?

A: Then that’s good.

Q: Why is that good?

A: Because the most difficult things are often the most important. As I’ve said before in this post about Having A Bad Writing Day, it’s supposed to be hard. The most worthwhile things are also, inconveniently, the most challenging things.

Q: What if I’m not ready to Do The Thing?

A: That’s legitimate. Maybe you’re not. I have a book to write and I’m not yet ready to Do The Thing. The last book I had kicking around my head for five years, and I wasn’t ready to write it until I was. But that also doesn’t mean I just sat on my hands and stared at the wall. I found Other Things and Fucking Did Those.

Q: Like what?

A: Well, sometimes it meant writing the book I was ready to write. It also meant devoting supplemental energy to the book in ways — Writing The Book, in my case, is not the sum total of Doing The Thing. The actual authoring of said book is just the visible peak of that iceberg, but a lot of stuff goes into the book. Thinking. Outlining. Researching. More thinking. Stroking my beard. Making hmm sounds, and ahhh and even no, that’s not right. Going to a coffee house and pretending to be an author. You know, shit like that. It’s true of all the Things you must Do that a lot goes into Doing the Thing that isn’t the culmination of the Thing. The trick is not to fall into an oubliette of excuses.

Q: What the hell is an oubliette?

A: Haven’t you ever watched Labyrinth?

Q: I did, but was held rapt by David Bowie’s magic yambag.

A: That’s fair. It was hypnotizing. I wonder if that’s where he gets his crystal balls. Anyway. To answer the question, an oubliette is a pit, a prison, a trap.

Q: What excuses are you talking about, then? 

A: This is one of those really tricky things where a person has to be fairly, authentically honest with themselves. There is a very thin line between giving yourself a undeserved pass (aka, an excuse) and recognizing when you have a real reason to not yet Do The Thing. It’s also the same kind of hazy interstitial terrain between being hard on yourself and going too easy on yourself. I can’t tell you where that line is, or how to navigate that terrain — you just have to, over time, be self-aware and actualized enough to say, “Hey, I need to practice self-care,” versus, “Wow, I’ve been spending a whole lot of time on self-care and not a lot of time on Doing The Thing.” Sometimes, self-care is Doing The Thing, and sometimes it’s just you avoiding Doing The Thing. That calculus is different for all of us.

Q: Wait, I have to learn fucking calculus?

A: Emotional calculus, yes. Not fucking calculus. Fucking calculus is about angles of entry on a fuck chair and the various calculations behind lube.

Q: This is getting weird.

A: It was weird to begin with, you just didn’t realize it. Also, not a question.

Q: What if I don’t know how to Do The Thing?

A: Then you’re in good company. Nobody really knows how to Do The Thing. We’re all just guessing with varying degrees of instinct, luck, and success. I possibly know less how to Do The Thing than when I started.

Q: Isn’t that counterintuitive? Aren’t you going backwards?

A: Nope. Knowing that I know less frees me up to try more things. Believing you know how to exactly Do The Thing puts a lot of pressure on you when actually Doing The Thing. Being free of that knowledge is liberating. It lets you experiment.

Q: Experimenting? Is this a sex thing again?

A: Not unless you want it to be, I guess.

Q: Okay. So. What if I fail to Do The Thing?

A: The only damaging and dangerous failure is quitting before you Do The Thing. Pre-rejecting yourself and prematurely quitting because you suspect you won’t do the thing well is the worst. Otherwise, failure is the greatest teacher and serves as powerful medicine. It isn’t medicine that tastes good, necessarily, but it can become an acquired taste. The other thing is setting reasonable results for yourself. Let the Thing-Doing be the result. Don’t let the reaction to the Thing-Doing be the result. You can control the former. You ain’t got shit to do with the latter. You just Do The Thing as Best As You God Dang Can.

Q: Real-talk, though, the world is very stupid right now. It’s hard to Do The Thing. How do I Do The Thing in the face of such wanton fuckery?

A: It’s an understandable problem. We are at Stupidity Level 99, and turns out, it doesn’t end at Level 99. Here’s the thing, though: Doing The Thing won’t make the world any worse. And it may actually make it a little bit better, be it for you or for an audience or for someone who needs the Thing you Just Did, whether that thing is a book or a webcomic or a declaration of love or a body you need buried. The fuckery is the fuckery. There is persistent fuckery at varying levels of intensity. But the world is still turning. You’re still you. We still need art and love, we still need to work and create and tell truths. The Thing still needs Doing.

Q: So you’re saying I should Do The Thing?

A: You should, indeed, Do The Thing. Because the Thing Needs Doing.

* * *

THE RAPTOR & THE WREN: Miriam Black, Book Five

Miriam Black, in lockstep with death, continues on her quest to control her own fate!

Having been desperate to rid herself of her psychic powers, Miriam now finds herself armed with the solution — a seemingly impossible one. But Miriam’s past is catching up to her, just as she’s trying to leave it behind. A copy-cat killer has caught the public’s attention. An old nemesis is back from the dead. And Louis, the ex she still loves, will commit an unforgivable act if she doesn’t change the future. 

Miriam knows that only a great sacrifice is enough to counter fate. Can she save Louis, stop the killer, and survive? 

Hunted and haunted, Miriam is coming to a crossroads, and nothing is going to stand in her way, not even the Trespasser.

Indiebound | Amazon | B&N

38 comments

  • April 3, 2018 at 6:38 AM // Reply

    The Thing You Need to Do, like RIGHT NOW, is turn this little gem into a PDF so we words nerds can print it out and refer back to it time and time again for 1) consolation or 2) a kick in the pants, whichever is needed at the time we re-read it.

        • April 3, 2018 at 2:15 PM // Reply

          THIS. Or I can get off my ass and make some weird Photoshop backgrounds and start randomly pasting your quotey goodnesses onto them and tweeting them back at ya. For a given value of weird. And a different value of random. Words are hard.

    • The cool thing is, if you highlight the words above, you can copy and paste and edit The Thing into whatever nifty format you want. Yes, I’m admitting that I heist stuff off the Internet. No, I don’t post if for others to see or claim it as my own. Chuck, please don’t sue me.

  • At the weekend I finally, finally, after years of talking about it, built a shed down the side of our house. It was fucking hard, because I’m no spring chicken anymore. And the aches and pains that followed allowed me to sit on my arse the day after and do a shedload (ha!) of stuff for the writing group that I’m Chair of (new competition launched, further steps taken to generate an anthology & various social media shennanigans – and there’s deadlines involved too).
    Yay! I Did The Things! 🙂
    I just need to Keep Doing Them and not hide in my lovely new shed.

  • So how much does a poetic license from the DMP cost? I feel like I’m probably in some kinda trouble going around unlicensed

  • Yeah. Needed this. Hope you aren’t going to hunt me down and pry my fingernails off (not that they couldn’t use it) if I refer to this in a blog piece, sending the five people who occasionally read my blog off to find yours. Since I’ll be blogging this to my day job blog, which is about fitness and nutrition, they should be totally confused. But then I will be able to send them away threatening burpees and go back to actually “doing the thing.”

  • This post is a prime example of Wendig the Weird and the Wise at his best. Fuckin’ love it!

    Me, I’m a master at the half-assed and never completed Thing. Too many Things. Not enough focused Thingery… But hey, perhaps the experience of Thinging is the Thing that I’m supposed to be Doing? I dunno.

    • Nah – I just came to me (pardon the pre-pun). It’s the difference between masturbation and sex. Incomplete Thinging is and the “experience” is selfish – just like masturbation. Sex is much better than masturbation (or joint masturbation can be, y’know, pretty good too). Equally completed Things shared has got to be better than incomplete Things experienced by only the Doer.

      Whew. I wonder if having my real name related to a post about masturbation, written at a work computer is a good idea? Oh well, it’ll probably never get posted…

  • Dangnabit! I was hoping that someone knew the answer to the “hazy interstitial” issue of what constitutes reasonable expectations of self.
    On the plus side, I have recently become much better at Doing The Thing because I have rearranged my schedule to allow for Doing The Active Thing when I have energy and Doing The Sitting At The Desk Thing when I was going to be sitting down anyway. Turns out it works much better than trying to do The Active Thing when all I want to do is sit down.

  • April 4, 2018 at 5:47 AM // Reply

    Mr. Wendig,

    As a writer, what are your thoughts on the “it was a dream all along” trope, where an entire story turns out to be a figment of a character’s imagination?

  • *outrageous groan* okay fiiiiiiiine, I’ll do it already

    side note, author-man! will you have books for sale at your ravencon table or is this strictly a byob situation? asking for a friend. (no really, I already have my books LOL)

  • April 6, 2018 at 6:41 PM // Reply

    Thanks, Chuck. I heard that essay as: Doing The Work IS “being kind to yourself.”
    And that, I needed to hear.

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