Cult of Done Manifesto: a name for my disease

Bre Pettis and Kio Stark's "Cult of Done" manifesto is basically how I live my life -- fail fast and often, get stuff done, get more stuff done, fail some more, learn, blow something up, fail, learn, do more stuff, do more stuff, do more stuff.

Seriously: reading these 13 bullet points are like discovering the name for my disease. Or my religion.

1. There are three states of being. Not knowing, action and completion.
2. Accept that everything is a draft. It helps to get it done.
3. There is no editing stage.
4. Pretending you know what you're doing is almost the same as knowing what you are doing, so just accept that you know what you're doing even if you don't and do it.
5. Banish procrastination. If you wait more than a week to get an idea done, abandon it.
6. The point of being done is not to finish but to get other things done.
7. Once you're done you can throw it away.
8. Laugh at perfection. It's boring and keeps you from being done.
9. People without dirty hands are wrong. Doing something makes you right.
10. Failure counts as done. So do mistakes.
11. Destruction is a variant of done.
12. If you have an idea and publish it on the internet, that counts as a ghost of done.
13. Done is the engine of more.
The Cult of Done Manifesto (via Boogah)


  1. This doesn’t really apply to software development as imperfection with a processer which expects perfection will get you nowhere. It will also make your application unusable, buggy, hackable, etc etc.

    I think the more complex the issue, the more complex the process to solve the issue. And this process is more of a ‘think of something and plow forward without planning’ sot of point of view which can cause disastrous results when handling electricity, chemicals or other things which require a more sophisticated development process.

    But for simplistic projects, it most likely could work. Just don’t think it is a universal bandaid approach for everything.

  2. Xeno, this is like the nerdy version of that “NO FEAR” crap. It’s for people whodon’t do things that are really THAT important and just want to impress people with their slap-together junk.

    *chugs a can of Surge and builds the fuck out of a VCR powered cat feeder* WHOOOOOOO!

  3. And for those of us who do not suffer from some degree of ADHD or suffer instead from a bit of OCD or are maybe just old?

    I realize that the future belongs to those who will inhabit it after I have shuffled off, but the endless neophilism of the young makes me want to take a nap. Some things in the world really are new, and some are just the old stuff with a fresh paint job and the serial numbers filed off. When you find parts of your old wardrobe coming (almost) back into fashion you will recognize the wisdom of my words. (The second time it happens, you’ll be too jaded [or feeble] to even bother to post a reply.)

  4. Reminds me of Bruce Mau’s “Incomplete Manifesto of Growth” —

    My favorite was always #18: “STAY UP LATE. Strange things happen when you’ve gone too far, been up too long, worked too hard, and you’re separated from the rest of the world.”

    Fear is the mind-killer,

  5. Well, it’s easy to criticize the items on the list if you haven’t had the benefit of reading them in the original Ukrainian language. But I don’t blame anyone for that; who the heck can find an original Chernobyl employee handbook these days?

  6. I am guessing there are more bloggers subscribing to this philosphy than say software engineers or medical technicians.

    Done is only useful if your goal is doing, not accomplishing any particular thing. Passion for the doing rather than passion for the thing being done.

    So, a brief mental inventory of things in the world created out of passion for the thing being created versus things in the world created out of passion for just doing as many things as possible, leads me to believe that I’d rather associate myself with the former.

    The later certainly has its charm though, at least when found outside of an operating theater or manager’s office – in writing and other forms of art, it can hone skills and keep creativity flowing – but at some point I would think I’d want to put those skills and creativity into something more than just doing for the sake of doing.

  7. Surgeon: “ok, next patient!”

    Scrub Nurse: “But doctor, you haven’t closed this patient.”

    Surgeon: “The point of being done is not to finish but to get other things done. Now where is that brain tumor patient?”

    Anesthesiologist: “Doctor, you’re only board certified as a cosmetic surgeon!”

    Surgeon: “Pretending you know what you’re doing is almost the same as knowing what you are doing!”

    Scrub nurse: “DOCTOR! You haven’t even repaired your current patient’s problem!”

    Surgeon: “Laugh at perfection. It’s boring and keeps you from being done!”

    Attending surgeon: “I’m really learning a lot from this.”

    Anesthesiologist: “Oh, God, we’re losing the patient!”

    Surgeon: “Failure counts as done. So do mistakes.”

  8. For writers, this is great stuff. I think it does not apply to every field, as is true with most advise. But for those instances where I procrastinate, or areas where I am learning something new, this advice is great.

  9. 7. Once you’re done you can throw it away.

    Isn’t that how we ended up with this problem of a “throw away” culture and huge piles of waste everywhere?

  10. Heart Transplant! DONE! OH YEAH! WOOT!

    Mental note: Never let someone like that near me. Also ask my home builder/contractor if he ascribes to this philosophy, if so fire them.

    Also don’t let them near any code I ever want to use.

    …or anything actually important or worthwhile.

  11. I get it; I appreciate the sentiment and I am grateful that we have such people in the world. They at least make things interesting.

    But for each who lives by this list, there are legion who must pick up the pieces, put out the fires, rebuild the infrastructure, comfort the sorrowful, heal the wounded and bury the many, many dead.

    Also, number four perfectly describes autocracy.

    I’ll stick with the “enlightened self-interest” of Ayn Rand, myself. It’s sort of an atheist’s Pascal’s Wager.

  12. I think that this manifesto is most useful for perfectionists and procrastinators. They are often paralyzed by fear and just need to chant the mantra, “Just get it done.” For them, its better to just do something than to do nothing.

  13. Several words came to my mind immediately upon reading this list: Wasteful. Narcissistic. Arrogant. Solipsistic. It reads like a collection of shortcuts for people with short attention spans who can’t be bothered thinking through details or doing quality work.

    People like this are often the overly self-confident, self-promoting and self-congratulatory type, with item #4 being a particularly annoying shared character trait. Perhaps more annoying is how many people fall for such shuck and jive in the social arena and in the workplace, especially those in groups. Style over substance… feh.

    They missed including “git ‘r done” on their list, which I think of as a code phrase for slapdash, half-assed work blown through by someone with more attitude than actual ability.

    Yes, it is important to complete your work, to avoid procrastination, to not be afraid of failure, to keep moving, to not let perfect be the enemy of progress. But waste, impatience and failure isn’t “done”… it’s just waste, impatience and failure.

  14. This is a good philosophy for artists, writers, and hobbyists. I can’t see it as practical outside of that.

  15. The ‘Doing’ creed – disease or religion? At least Cory remains in doubt. Give him credit.

    Coming up with lists is such fun. Especially with a friend, over cocktails. And then publishing them and getting your friends to link up!

    Invigorating your daily routine by anonymously blasting them into the poorly-thought-out, self-important shards of ego flotsam they are is even more entertaining, more enlightening and a sign that electronic connectivity is serving its higher purpose: keeping everyone humble. And amused.

    Do people actually read lists and decide to follow them, if their behavior isn’t already list-compliant?

    To do so with this list would be particularly tragic.

    Unless you’re a speculative fiction writer. Then this all could make eerie sense, if you hadn’t thought of it already.

    Or a performance artist.

    Or manage a hedge fund.

    Or are homeless or about to be. (Wait, already covered that one. Three times.)

    I’d love to read a counterlist prepared by brain surgeons, trauma nurses, electrical and chemical engineers, nuclear technicians and snipers.

    But only if they didn’t take themselves seriously.

    Don’t think it’s going to happen.

  16. I was surprised by so much of the venom in the comments. I thought the list was instructive and in many ways validated a huge chunk of how I (try to) spend my days.

    But then again, I’m a writer.

    Obviously, this isn’t a list that would make for a very well-constructed world if most people subscribed to it. But for artists, designers and other people whose occupations require a certain amount of stargazing or, it is valuable to know when it is time to move on. Especially considering western culture thinks the words “good enough” are derogatory and inculcates workaholics with rewards of gold stars for never taking a sick day.

    Cult of Done isn’t for everyone but it works for me.

  17. I’ve known people like this. They are often inventive, usually amusing, occasionally inspiring, and invariably exhausting.

  18. As a creative writing student, I’m going to give this list a thumbs up. I don’t understand why this is pissing people off so much. Okay, sure, you don’t want someone with this philosophy as your heart surgeon. Most people aren’t heart surgeons.

    “2. Accept that everything is a draft. It helps to get it done.” That is the philosophy I keep striving toward, and I can’t quite reach it.

  19. Ok, so this manifesto doesn’t seem to work for most of the people who are commenting right now, but I think this is fantastic. Being more of a perfectionist (and OCD-type), this is a better strategy for me to get things done. There is a lot that I let go simply because I hold onto it too long and over think the original idea. And since I am always learning more, I tend to feel as though I have nothing new to add, so I just don’t do anything. And intellectually I know that I would gain so much more if I just tried something than if I let it go.
    Thanks for sharing this, Cory! I’m definitely adding it to the manifestos my writing class will be reading in a couple of weeks. Because there are so many assumptions on personality and work built into these 13 points, I think it will make for an interesting discussion.

  20. What if I’ve tried, and everything I do quickly to ‘get it done’ ends up being rather crap when I look at it later, whereas the things I do at my more natural, excruciatingly slow pace (writing a short story takes me two years on average; don’t ask me how long it takes me to finish a piece of jewellery; and when I still painted, there were paintings that would take years) generally makes me happy and proud?

    I eventually decided to trust my instincts. I really *am* better when I allow myself to be slow. Maybe people with massive talent can afford to be fast. But the more average of us *need* the editing stage.

  21. To clarify, I see The List as a symptom of the overclocked, overhyped, world we live in (eg, and you have to consider the idea that you would be happier if there simply were not so many distractions that you found such a manifesto hopeful. Meanwhile, I will consider getting something done today besides commenting on blogs.

  22. Ok, I’m a coder. I’ll bite. The list can easily be adapted to a sort of pragmatic agilism:

    1. There are 3 stages to development: test writing, test passing, and refactoring.
    2. All code can be refactored.
    3. All code is production code.
    4. It doesn’t matter what the code does if the tests pass.
    5. Fast feedback wins.
    6. Nothing is ever complete, so don’t wait for it to be.
    7. Don’t be afraid to rip out and re-write, the tests will save you.
    8. Working beats pretty.
    9. Code beats documentation.
    10. Fail fast.
    11. If it’s not worth solving the problem, move on.
    12. Publish your code, read other peoples’.
    13. The more you read and write, the better your writing will become.

  23. I’ve had my nap, but the list still irks. And as a writer and a reviewer, I find that “good enough” generally means “should have been proofread one more time” more often than it does “deadline’s here–save and transmit.” The get-it-done-and-rush-off-to-the-next-project mindset might promote a kind of productivity, but “easy writing’s vile hard reading.” Ask any composition teacher. Jolting oneself out of a rut or a block or neurotic perfectionism is one thing. Slapdash is something else altogether.

  24. This is the suckage I encounter too often. It’s what passes for journalism.

    “Well, I did it. What do you expect?!?!?”

    There really is more to life than instant gratification.

  25. Love the people who say this doesn’t apply and then over-analyze it, like the clowns who say this doesn’t apply to the medical profession. That must be why there are no wrongful death or malpractice suits in medicine at all right? oh yeah dinosaurs didn’t exist either.

  26. I think it proposes some interesting ideas, and may be useful to different types of people in different phases of a project.

    But to answer Liberal Artist, I’m an electrical engineer, and here are a few ideas for a list…

    Safety is not an afterthought. Built it in.

    You own the design from prototype, through manufacturing, and on to disposal. Think about the consequences of that.

    Design something you’d be proud to own.

    Play nice. Don’t be affected by external interference, and don’t generate interference. (Besides, that’s the law.)

    ALL signals are analog. Digital is RF. High speed digital is microwaves.

    Understand what the customer wants, and why they want it. Also understand what the customer NEEDS.

    Just because you CAN do something doesn’t mean you SHOULD.

  27. “Seriously: reading these 13 bullet points are like discovering the name for my disease.”

    Should be “is like discovering”.

  28. people who get pissed at this list will probably get pissed at any zen koan thrown their way. The sound of one hand clapping?? What the frak does that even mean? Gawdamnit!

  29. @RegularFry

    Gotta agree with you on most of it but 8 and 9. Those are mostly just bad developer habits than they are hard rules.

    Readable code that is easily understandablec and well documented can be reused by a number of different people. You are guaranteeing the product is usable only once like a dirty tissue (or used toilet paper).

    Good code needs to be reusable so throw out 8 and 9 and that should be fairly good.

    Of course… there is no silver bullet. ;)

  30. Oh another one…

    You own the power consumption.

    (If you can get the standby power to go from 5 watts to half a watt and you sell a million of them, you’ve just saved 40 GW-h per year.)

  31. Interesting. There are some people here saying this is awful (and it’s interesting that they take this to be universally applicable – a manifesto isn’t usually intended to apply to everyone), there are some people saying it’s great, but what there don’t seem to be are many people saying “Hmm – well, I agree with some of it…”

    Here I go being different.

    (Warning – I fear this might get a bit long)

    1. There are three states of being. Not knowing, action and completion.

    What about visualisation? Add that in and I’d completely agree, but action without some kind of visualisation and planning takes five times as long, and often you’ve not visualised what you’re trying to do clearly enough to know what you want out of it. GTD, etc.

    2. Accept that everything is a draft. It helps to get it done.

    Hell, yes. And this applies to just about everything ever created. Those people saying “I hope people following this don’t make automobiles” – do you seriously think that the lead designer at Aston Martin didn’t finish the DB9, sit down, have a cup of tea, and say “bugger, I really wish we’d had a bit more time to fix that spoiler/improve the braking/improve the flow on the left wheelarch…”

    Nothing is ever completed, just abandoned.

    3. There is no editing stage.

    Applies to about 50% of projects, particularly the ones where you can release a 2.0 version. Otherwise, projects come in two types, in my experience – the ones that you don’t edit, and then ones that you edit, edit again, edit some more, release, then realise you probably should have edited again.

    Type B projects are often benefitted by leaving them in a drawer for a month, then coming back to the edit.

    4. Pretending you know what you’re doing is almost the same as knowing what you are doing, so just accept that you know what you’re doing even if you don’t and do it.

    Absolutely. If you’re doing anything interesting that doesn’t have an incredibly rigid learning structure behind it, at some point you’re going to be faced with a task you don’t know how to do and you don’t know anyone who knows how to do it either. At that point, you have two choices: a) give up or b) get the best advice you can then bluff it.

    5. Banish procrastination. If you wait more than a week to get an idea done, abandon it.

    Hmm. Not an awful approach, on the principle that the ideas that refuse to be abandoned are the ones that probably should get done. I just started on an idea I’ve had for 10 years or so.

    6. The point of being done is not to finish but to get other things done.

    There is no “done”. There is merely “doing”. If you’re enjoying what you’re doing, you win. Sometimes what you’re doing is getting things done.

    (See, I can be all ambiguous too!)

    7. Once you’re done you can throw it away.

    But why would you? Find someone or some people who might find it useful, explain the upsides and downsides, and give it to them. Those people may then pester you to make more of it. You have a choice whether to say yes or no.

    8. Laugh at perfection. It’s boring and keeps you from being done.

    Absolutely. However, realise that you’re usually capable of much more than you think you are. Learn to detect when you know you can do better than you are. I wish I’d learned that earlier, and I’m still figuring it out.

    9. People without dirty hands are wrong. Doing something makes you right.

    I’m not wild about the phrasing, but – well, who is generally more interesting to talk to?

    10. Failure counts as done. So do mistakes.

    True. However, failure is often a concious choice not an independent state. It’s not always a bad one.

    11. Destruction is a variant of done.

    Erm… Not sure about that one. Actually, I’m not sure what they mean.

    12. If you have an idea and publish it on the internet, that counts as a ghost of done.

    I love this one. Don’t have the time to do it? Don’t just sit on it, Twitter it.

    13. Done is the engine of more.


  32. No, this list does not apply to every situation, but when I read it, I felt a surge of happy inspiration. I am a procrastinator and a perfectionist, a terrible combination, and people like me need to hear some of this shit! I am currently working on a book with a quickly looming deadline, and this definitely applies! Going to do some more work now.

  33. @25 I couldn’t agree more. This is definitely for people who create something out of nothing.

    @26 This is exactly what this list is about. If you are an artist (in a very broad meaning) then probably this list applies to you already and you were following those rules not even knowing about them. The fact that someone wrote this list down can be only inspiring because it makes you think for a moment about your own philosophy of life and the creative process, regardless if you agree or disagree with particulars. I think we can treat that list as an attempt to describe the artistic vis vitalis.

    But if you read the list and think “WTF? This is not going to work – what about the surgeons, nuclear engineers, bridge builders…” – then forget it, the list is not for you. It’s a description of a very particular mindset, not a path to follow.

    And @23 – of course this is narcissistic and arrogant. But isn’t being an artist narcissistic and arrogant? I believe it has to be.

    In my opinion being an artist is a constant battle between:

    1) feeling that what you create is going to be the best EVER (otherwise you won’t be able to create anything – what would be the point?), and

    2) having a healthy dose of self-criticism (that’s what differentiates professionals from amateurs).

  34. A Rebuttal from the Consortium of Procrastination

    1. There are three states of being. Checking your email, feeding the cat, and reading Boing Boing.

    2. Accept that you’ll get to it in a minute. It makes it easier to do something else.

    3. There is no editing stage if you don’t start.

    4. Pretending you know you’ll get it done is almost the same as having it done. Why not simply think about getting it done until you actually think you’ve done it?

    5. Banish procrastination. The greatest procrastinators only realize on their deathbed that they never got anything done.

    6. Sometimes you have to finish something so you can procrastinate more important things.

    7. If you find yourself in a situation where you’ve nearly completed something important … rejoice, while accidentally knocking it over or unplugging it or damaging it in some way which causes you to have to start over with a new found bitterness.

    8. Laugh at people trying to get things done.

    9. Don’t worry if people don’t understand why you haven’t done whatever you said you would; they don’t know how busy you are … see #6, make excuses.

    10. Failure is a preemptive form of procrastination … fail and you’ll never be asked to do it again.

    11. Destruction is the antithesis of procrastination as it requires working up a sweat.

    12. If you have an idea and publish it on the internet … lots of people don’t accomplish anything that way.

    13. Procrastination is the opiate of the masses.

  35. I understand why people don’t like this, but as far as I can see it’s only a lively version of Voltaire’s famous line, “The perfect is the enemy of the good,” plus some practical advice on how to apply it.

    It’s possible to be bold irresponsibly and cluelessly, of course, but for the non-idiotic, the advantage of erring on the side boldness is that the failures are obvious and come soon, so you can learn from them. The people who have the opposite problem, that they are unnecessarily conservative or hesitant, have no idea how much time and energy they waste by over-polishing, over-fussing, and over-worrying. They can’t know, because it’s a hidden cost, an opportunity cost.

    As to software development, I agree with RegularFry. You need to back this advice with practices that support long-term sustainability, but all sorts of startups live this attitude effectively. Take Flickr, for example; at least in the early days, they released new versions every few hours, and the product started life as a massively multiplayer game. If they hadn’t been willing to try boldly and fail frequently. they never would have found the success that they did.

  36. Ode to An OCD

    1. There are three states of being. Reading peoples minds, cutting a sandwich in exactly three pieces, and checking a door five times to make sure you locked it.
    2. Try to accept that paintings in hotels, restaurants, and museums are never straight. It’s ok to straighten them when no one is looking.
    3. The beauty of editing is refining ideas.
    4. Knowing what you’re doing allows you to appreciate the unexpected.
    5. Always build prototypes, at scale. This will allow you to build it better the second time.
    6. The point of being done is to fit a thing with its given purpose.
    7. Once you’re done, calculate how many hours you spent on it. Determine how you could work more efficiently next time.
    8. People may ask you how you make things perfect … that’s because they can’t see the imperfections. Run away!
    9. People with dirty hands work messy, or worse. Organization saves fingers.
    10. Squeeze mistakes by the tail and they’ll show you their pot of gold.
    11. Proper destruction requires the poetry of chemistry.
    12. If you have an idea and publish it on the internet, your mom will probably read it.
    13. There is only a finite amount of time and limitless projects. Choose wisely.

  37. 4. Pretending you know what you’re doing is almost the same as knowing what you are doing, so just accept that you know what you’re doing even if you don’t and do it.

    OK, I understand a lot of the other ones in a creative context, but this one just grates. There’s noone in the world that has ever done something like this, and noone you could talk to that could help? In the entire compendium of knowledge that’s literally at your fingertips, there’s nothing better than the answer that you just pulled out of your ass?

    I’ll bet there’s a whole bunch of stuff that other people have already figured out and that would be really useful to learn, and make you, possibly, a lot better at what you do instead of just doing more of it. Really.

  38. I knew a researcher like this. Didn’t come across as a genius. Was able to get his PhD in field of molecular pharmacology, used computer modeling and x-ray crystallography. Is still doing a lot of high powered work. He expressed his philosophy of life/work/science as “Push the button!”.

  39. @49, that’s really beautiful, a terrific riposte to the original’s blathery swagger. Lovely!

    @6, it’s not so much “neophilism” as philophilism, “love of love,” or “love of loving,” “loveloving,” etc. You know, the endless amplification of one’s selfhood through repeated protestations of intense positive feeling for some person, place, object, etc. I’d agree, that shit gets me tired. At least craft a style to match and justify one’s repeated jerks of self-justification and ego-assertion: “Done is the engine of more” isn’t just sillytalk, it’s corporate neologistic Orwellspeak dressed up in hipster DIY garb., i.e, bad English, and boring to boot.

  40. @Xeno #2, actually, the highest-quality software does take this kind of approach, especially in the beginning; it’s called “release early, release often”. Some planning helps, and some feel for what works and what doesn’t; but there’s no substitute for working code, even if it is version 0.01 and only works a little.

  41. 1. Not being states are knowing action there. And of three, completion.
    2. Get everything that it helps to accept it is a done draft.
    3. Editing, there is no stage.
    4. Know what you’re pretending you’re knowing, don’t just accept almost doing the same as what you know you are doing. What is you, so that even, and if doing, you do it?
    5. Procrastination, if you banish more than a week, abandon an idea, wait to get it done.
    6. To finish is the other point of being done things. But not to get done.
    7. Throw can away once done. You’re it, you!
    8. Perfection keeps you from being. Laugh at boring and it’s done.
    9. Are people without hands dirty, wrong? Right doing makes you something.
    10. As mistakes done, so counts failure. Do.
    11. Variant is a done destruction. Of?
    12. If a ghost publish of an idea on the Internet, and as you done have it, that counts.
    13. More of the engine is done.

  42. I think I’ll apply these rules to House Cleaning and other boring crap I don’t feel like doing in the first place.

    But using these rules for things that actually matter? ha ha ha … it is to laugh.

  43. Obviously, this list isn’t for everyone.

    But really, getting hung up on the meaning of the words getting things done is useless. Getting things done doesn’t automatically mean that you do a bad job of things, and I don’t know why people think it does. I think it just means you finish your projects, and that a finished project, even if it isn’t the greatest thing in the world, is better than a half-finished or never started project.

  44. I kind of wish I had this disease. Nothing’s ever done for me, it’s all a work in progress.

  45. @Xeno #40: I’m going to stick with 8 and 9, I think. “Working beats pretty” doesn’t imply that pretty is unimportant. It just says that working is *more* important. Do one first, then the other (if needed).

    “Code beats documentation” is the complement to that. If your code is readable enough, the amount of documentation you will need drops. Aim for readable code rather than repeating yourself in documentation which will inevitably go out of date and be a maintenance sink all of its own.

    Balance in all things :-)

  46. The point here is that Bre and Kio are not talking about surgeons, or airline pilots, or lawyers, or civil engineers…

    The point is simply that the world is full of people with ideas that never get off the ground because they never actually get to the doing. And, if they get to the doing, they never get to the finishing (AKA done).

    Turns out that this is actually a big problem — in startups, corporations, real estate, school, life in general…

  47. YANNISH said, “Hmmm. This looks like something posted in the executive suite at Lehman brothers.”

    It sure does, and I’ve been “there.” And look what kind of mess we’re in because of it. More logic please.

  48. Never analyze, just act. Sounds like a great manifesto for the next generation.

    I think these ideas are fine for creative projects, but as many commenters pointed out, they don’t seem very productive, or even smart, for some other professions. The writers have kinda screwed up the Buddhist principle of “sit or stand, but don’t wobble,” wherein a person never is in between any action, since there is no such thing as in between. The manifesto seems to abolish the in between, but has forgotten the mindfulness that makes our actions enjoyable.

  49. “I’ve known people like this. They are often inventive, usually amusing, occasionally inspiring, and invariably exhausting. ”


  50. @33 That’s a pretty good list. I’d change #9 to:

    “The code isn’t done until the documentation is done”

  51. 1. May I assume that everyone who’s sneering at that list gets more good work done than Cory does?

    2. I know from direct personal experience that Cory’s fiction has an editing stage, and a pretty darn thorough one, too.


    Every year, I help teach a week-long writing workshop. Every year, the students try to swap their most recently rewritten versions for the original versions of the stories they submitted when they applied. It makes extra work for the workshop organizers and the teaching staff.

    The real objection to the practice, though, is that 95% of the time, the rewrites have the same problems and virtues as the original versions. The instructors’ notes on what to tell the students don’t change. They just get redistributed onto the new pages.

    The goal, we tell them, is not to perfect their workshop story. The goal is to learn to write. If they take the lessons of their workshop story and apply them to writing a new and different story, they’ll learn more and improve faster. Exceptions to this: stories that just need a little tweaking to be excellent. (Very rare.) Also, writers who have a consistent structural problem throughout their writing that can be identified and done away with, in which case rewriting the old story becomes an exercise in spotting this error and avoiding it.

    Students who rewrite the same story over and over and over again are among those least likely to improve. The story doesn’t improve either.

  52. It’s clearly perfectly fine for Cory to be tickled by the manifesto and to see something in it that explains to him how he handles work. But this particular old fart 1) was not directing any comment at Cory and 2)thinks he sees unarticulated and perhaps unexamined assumptions behind the manifesto. (Besides, I came up in the Sixties, and manifestos make me come out in a rash.) It’s amusing but half-baked, and maybe those of us who fuss over getting one thing done right before haring off after the next project found its self-congratulatory, somewhat caffeinated tone just a teensy bit annoying, even if it is about 40% joke.

  53. You’re hiring an engineer to build your bridge. Do you want the guy who’s gonna spend a decade in front of the chalkboard designing God’s gift to bridges? Or do you want the engineer who has built and destroyed thousands of models, who has built hundreds of bridges similar to yours, a person who eats bridges for breakfast, and will have a beautiful bridge up and running in 6 months?

    Same question with brain surgery. I’d pick the guy who’s dissected hundreds of corpses and daily performs the procedure that I need.

    I’m shocked at the negative reactions to this. It seems like nothing more than GTD. And I like it. The world seems to have this naive idea about over-planning a project and somehow achieving perfection. Instead of being realistic, rolling your sleeves up and making it happen. You get good at something by doing lots of it, over and over.

    In the past I’ve worked with Software Engineers who are obsessed with perfection and turn an afternoon’s task into a 6-month project where they generate an obtuse and overly complex solution that probably will be removed in a few years.

    PS “7. Once you’re done you can throw it away.” To me that doesn’t mean the result is necessarily disposable but that the task is done. Move along to the next one.

  54. a friend of mine would like to add #14 to this wonderful list. If it looks done it is done.

  55. I don’t think it’s as simple as “this works for artists but not for nuclear physicists.” I’m an artist, and there are many items here to which I don’t relate at all.

    For example, “There is no editing stage”? For me, editing (ripping out and redoing, rearranging sentences, cutting & pasting, rephrasing, etc.) is where the real art lies. The difference between a shit piece of writing and a good one is often the quality of the editing – the first drafts of *The Waste Land*, for example, were awful. The Rolling Stones’ early recordings sans sound editing? Pretty crappy. If I left garment patterns at the unedited draft stage (I’m a clothing designer), they would be riddled with math errors and unclear directions, which would frustrate the people trying to make my patterns, and would ultimately lose me sales. If I left the actual GARMENTS at the draft stage, nobody would even try to make the patterns, because the modeled clothes would look horrendously unflattering.

    Art is not something that deserves sloppy, disposable, half-assed treatment. It’s a way of expressing the meaning and beauty in our lives, and what could be more important than that? I’m all for a process-based approach, but I’m not for rushing through the artistic process just for the sake of finishing something disposable. Vomiting out raw product has its place; I strongly agree that we should forget ideals of perfection, and let go of expectations that the first draft will be the final draft. But that doesn’t mean we shouldn’t keep working TOWARD a final draft, toward a product that is useful or beautiful, that achieves our vision or communicates our message. We shouldn’t be so hell-bent on finishing something – anything! – that we can’t allow ourselves to enjoy the (sometimes long and meandering) process that gets us there.

  56. This is obviously a list for a very specific audience. Bridge builders & surgeons can ignore; bloggers and college essay writers can tape this over their desks. Chill OUT, commenters.

  57. Bloody literalists, the lot of ‘ya!

    Of course this does not match 1 to 1 with all the steps for performing a heart bypass. We get that.

    …but coming from an environment that requires juggling a large number of projects varying wildly in scope and duration, I read this and immediately thought “I need more of this in my life!”.

    I know there are a lot of people choking on #4, but there are *also* a lot of people in the world who don’t feel confident doing something until someone else has convinced them they can. There have been plenty of times in my life where I was uncertain of something, but I charged forward with confidence and did more/better than I thought I could.

  58. To all those who applied the Done Manifesto to a surgeon’s job: How do you think surgical techniques were originally developed? By doing them right the first time? This manifesto is not about performing established techniques—it is about developing something new. And not even surgery is exempt from mistakes when developing new techniques.

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