Dishwasher Syndrome

Every planner I know has a 'side hustle': something too serious for a hobby, but not quite solid enough to qualify as a second job.

I'm an editor, obviously (Have you not noticed? BUY MY BOOK.) But that's pretty tame. I've worked alongside DJs, gardeners, football managers, competitive baking, rave historians, radio hosts, photographers, breakfast obsessives, and, for a few memorable years, someone that ran a lucrative quasi-bootleg t-shirt business. 

There may be some respectable strategists that claim they don't hustle, but I'll bet you anything they still find a way to spend some time lecturing, writing books, judging awards, podcasting their wisdom, or doing something else that is both industry respectable. IPA-sponsored side-hustling, but side-hustling nonetheless.

As planners, we write the briefs, we craft the strategy, but, ultimately, what we create is often (literally) out of our hands. It would take a purer soul than mine to write a brief and not have a vision of the creative execution. A vision that I try - generally with mixed success - to keep to myself, because that's what creative teams are for. And, to be fair: that's right. That's how the process works, and it generally works well. 

...but that can still pretty frustrating. The Generic Agency Planning Process doesn't help, in which we're involved heavily at the beginning, placed gently back into our box, and then lifted out again at the end of a campaign to lead its evaluation. Visually, a diagram of the planner's involvement can look a lot like this: O____o. We start with a pretty heady sense of ownership, before we are politely excused from further meddling. It doesn't seem like much, and - caveat - this is still the greatest job in the world - but it can add up to an odd sense of estrangement.

So if you see a planner side-hustling because they're a 'frustrated creative', there's some truth there. But beyond that, I firmly believe every planner should have a side-hustle.

Anthony Bourdain says it perfectly, when he talks about 'dishwasher syndrome':

I know a number of accomplished chefs and sauciers who suffer from what we call 'dishwasher syndrome', meaning that at every available moment between delicately spooning foamy sauces over pan-seared scallops and foie gras, or bullying waiters, they sneak over to the dish station and spend a few happy, carefree moments washing dishes... 

Similarly, I have seen owners of multiunit restaurant empires blissfully sweeping the kitchen floor, temporarily enjoying a Zen-like state of calm, of focused, quantifiable toil far from the multitasking and responsibility of management hell.

If you want to seem cool at the Stop the War rally, you can also phrase this in Marxist terms: the alienation of the worker from the product of their labor, and the ensuing existential crisis. In the traditional O____o model, we get the worst of both worlds: a sense of ownership at the beginning, then we step out of the picture. Side-hustles give planners a chance to 'own' the product of our labor from start to finish.

As we get more and more into our planning and our strategy and our hand-waving, we become less involved in the end-to-end creation. We spend our days decoding how best to 'do' without ever getting a chance to do it ourself. Side-hustles are forms of dishwashing: tangible, defined - often very simple - tasks that we can start and complete solely under our own steam. Side-hustles are finish-able. We spend our careers in a Zeigarnik fugue state; so typing 'The End.' can be a rare satisfaction.

Having a side-hustle also has practical benefits. Our hustles give us sandboxes in which to practice what we preach - whether that's identifying an audience need, selling a product, or simply the role of foxy typography. It is a chance to test and play and learn, in a situation in which we (not the client) control all the parameters. 

Again, Bourdain:

We may be glorified servants, catering to the whims of those usually wealthier than us... but we are tougher, meaner, stronger, more reliable, and well aware of the fact that we can do something with our hands, our senses, the accumulated wisdom of thousands of meals served that they can't.

Putting our 'accumulated wisdom' from thousands of campaigns to use for ourselves is an immensely gratifying experience. It is a safe space for failure, and, just as importantly, a chance to really celebrate - and completely own - our own successes. Our work, under our control, proving to ourselves what we are capable of doing. 

Of course, there's the simplest reason of all: there's are specific, relevant, professional benefits to specific side-hustles: knowing the latest musical trends, understanding how printing works, whatever. But, fundamentally, we're planners - our job is to be curious. It doesn't matter what our hustle is - that we're hustling at all is the key thing.

Get: Young planners
To: Stick with their hobbies and passions
By: Showing the personal and professional value of the 'side hustle'

Last week was themed (loosely) around world-building. Rob adds a few more links to the list, including Ezra Klein's interview with NK Jemisin in which "she modestly shows off her encyclopaedic knowledge of the physical and political world. It’s a joy." He also points out the Imaginary Worlds podcast about world building: most recently about food and the the creation of artificial languages. 

Following on from the Forza 4 review and 'world-building' of Britain, it is also worth reading Rob's comments on 'hard borders' and how they relate to Paul Watson's idea of 'Deep England' (and Hugh Thomson's idea of the 'Sherwood Syndrome'). Thinking introspectively about Best of British Fantasy, it is a form of British world-building. But world-building using a collection of individual worlds as the building 'blocks'. Like a Jonathan Hickman cross-over. 

The Cultural Impact Development fund is now providing affordable unsecured loans of £25k-£150k to mission-driven arts, culture and creative organisations. Details here.

Carlos Adama is an amazing photographer who does (free) (gorgeous) photos of cosplayers at conventions: at the time of writing this, he's still taking appointments for MCMFind joy in the everyday (also free). Volunteers needed to help with monster supplies. The Jameel Prize looks gorgeous (and is, you guessed it, free). This Sunday is the Pulp and Paperback Book Fair (not free, but £1.50 entry and the books are cheap). 

Again, any creative, accessible opportunities or events, let me know. If you call your trade event a "sparkling rocket of creativity and courage" yet still charge £400 to attend, you can do your own PR.

Stuff happening: I will be at Museum of London supporting the NIGHT LONDON COUNCIL tomorrow night, alongside Will Hill and Karen Onojaife and THE OUTCAST HOURS. (Did you know I edited books? I do. Buy one.) I'll also be juggling panels at MCM ComicCon this weekend, alongside folks like the wonderful Claire North, Steven Erikson and Laini Taylor.  

I'm also lurking on panels and participating in (free!) pitch sessions at the (free!) upcoming Self-Publishing Exchange. More on that to come. Whew.