The Thing-A-Week Project Plan

You know, I’ve done an awful lot of talking about making fun since I re-branded my web log to Step One: Make Fun!

Yet in that time I’ve not actually made all that much.

It’s high time I turned that trend around.

It’s time to start Making Fun, Finishing Fun… and Shipping Fun.

For the next fifty-two weeks, I intend to create a new Thing for this web log, starting on Wednesday and finishing and posting on Tuesday. I hope you’ll not just follow along, but tell me how I can Do Better Next Time!

What is Thing-A-Week?

The album cover of Thing-a-Week One, by Jonathan Coulton

The concept behind Thing-A-Week comes not from the photo project web site. No, it’s directly and unashamedly (but maybe not unabashedly) ripped off of a project that Internet troubador Jonathan Coulton conducted seven years ago.

Having just quit his job to go into musicianship full time, Coulton took up a former colleague’s suggestion that he put a new tune up on his web log every week:

The objectives were:

  • (a) to push the artist’s creative envelope by adopting what Coulton describes as a “forced-march approach to writing and recording”;
  • (b) to prove to himself that he was capable of producing creative output to a deadline; and
  • (c) to test the viability of the internet and Creative Commons as a platform capable of supporting a professional artist financially.

– From JoCoPaedia

The result was the Thing A Week Podcast, four CDs-worth of music that gave the Internet such hits as “Big Bad World One,” “Skullcrusher Mountain,” “Not About You,” “SkyMall” and the drop-dead awesome “Re: Your Brains” (some of which even made it into the Rock Band video game).

What’s My Thing-A-Week?

While I’m not quitting my day job, I want to achieve some things with this project:

  • Re-engage some of the passions I left behind a while back because I decided not believing in myself was easier.
  • Overcome my innate resistance to creating by sticking to a schedule and holding myself publicly accountable.
  • Short-circuit my self-evaluation of my work (which leads me to not do anything because I’ll never put it out) by giving each thing the best quality I can in the time I have, but shipping no matter what.

Candidates for Thing-A-Week

As I’m not producing musical works (well, not yet, anyway – I do have a guitar lurking behind my computer chair, whispering “Learn how to play me!”), what will I be doing?

Categories of Thing-A-Week project include (but are not limited to):

  • Comfort Zone:
    • Drawings.
    • Short stories.
    • Painted miniatures (yes, I have a few languishing un-done).
    • Podcasts (counting the Paid to Play Podcast, but not Business Web Integrations, which is a separate commitment and also a shared endeavour).
    • Manuals, processes and other aids, whether a manual for our stereo system or a one-sheet summary for a roleplaying game.
  • Out of Zone:
    • Recipes. We’re growing vegetables out the back; it’s high time I started working out how to turn them into meals!
    • Music. I might still be working out how to move my fingers around a fret board, but I love the warm sound that comes out of a guitar when you strum it. Who knows where to from there?

Blog posts definitely don’t count; I’d like to use this project as a way of increasing my blogging frequency.

Guest posts elsewhere, though…

Rules of Thing-A-Week

There are a few things I want to make sure I do while making things.

Finish and Publish

One rule I’m only going to adhere to loosely is the rule that I have to start an absolute blank-slate project each week. The overall aim of this project is to get each thing done and shipped, and there are lots of bits and pieces I’ve started over the years that likely only need another week’s work before they’re ready to put in front of you.

I will make sure to note in each project’s posting whether it’s a start from cold (as #1 was – although you can argue that Slamdance has been knocking around in my head for over a decade) or whether I’m picking up from where I left off.

Regardless, I’ll only choose my project on each Wednesday and not commence work beforehand.

Manage My Time

The second rule of this project is one I intend to adhere to a bit more:

To work in fifteen-minute chunks.

Not long ago, I endeavoured to start a fitness program based on Mark Lauren’s You Are Your Own Gym, which required me to perform a half-hour workout each day, four days a week. I think I went in at the deep end instead of starting slow and building a habit; two weeks in and I ditched the exercise plan in favour of writing in the morning.

I don’t want to grind my enthusiasm into the ground like that again. If I ration my thing-making, I can do a little work every morning, a little more at lunch (if it’s a weekday and a writing or drawing thing) and a little more at night, so Vickie doesn’t become a writer’s widow.

It also lets me handle other priorities, like the BWI Podcast and any freelancing work I pick up.

Fun Anyone Can Make

An overall criterion is that each should be something that I can do with a zero (or very minimal) cash expenditure. I may sort-of cheat on this in some regards by working on things I bought earlier, like some miniatures I want to finish painting.

But by and large I want to do stuff that doesn’t need much in the way of paraphernalia, that you can do too with the time and passion.

How We Learn To Stop Worrying And Love The Challenge?

The overriding point of this exercise is to start moving. Not all of these things will have all the rough edges filed off prior to publishing; not all of them will catch on with everyone (or anyone).

But I’m sick of using those ideas as excuses for not doing anything. It’s time to start moving and not let anything stop me.

I’ll be doing my best to tweet my progress as I go (which can be a bit tricky if I’m doing stuff on my lunch break at work – no handy Internet access), so please follow along at http://twitter.com/ByRobF or subscribe to the site!

Who’s with me?