Recipe for Doing Something

Pre-prepare a crispy base of tiredness, low self-esteem [we’ll discuss why hairdressers and shop assistants terrify me another time] and standard work week.

Take two busy weeks and no free days. Sprinkle a healthy pinch of hard work at a personal project on top. Add one middle-of-the-night-written, first-draft story, and gradually drop in 11 other stories by other people. Give it a good stir. Divide into emails and pass along the results so that other members of project can add their secret ingredients. Hold back some for yourself to rest and fester, and worry that the story you have written is the weak link in the project.

Take that bit of worry, add the yeast of self-doubt and watch it grow into a giant spongy dough that eats up quite a lot of your confidence, self-esteem and, by extension, ability to act. If you’ve done this correctly, you should now be paralysed by anxiety and worrying that you cannot do the project OR your job OR indeed, anything else at all very well. After a day or so of this, add a splash of realisation regarding PMS and what time of the month it is, and watch the dough shrink back to a more manageable size.

Keep the bottle of Realisation handy – you’ll need it again.

Anything goes! --  Quentin Blake illustration from George's Marvellous Medicine (Roald Dahl).
Anything goes! —
Quentin Blake illustration from George’s Marvellous Medicine (Roald Dahl).

When the dough is at a more manageable size, swallow your distaste for self-help books, and read Amanda Palmer’s The Art of Asking.  In strict order:

  1. Realise you’re a dick, because it’s not a self-help book and is actually really good reading so you’ve been putting it off for no reason.
  2. Take a load of mental notes and resolve to a) take things bit by bit, but just do it and b) ask for help on things where they’re needed.
  3. Fixate, gently, on the concept that ‘the gift must keep moving’.

Take that fixation and use it to baste the organisation Arts Emergency. Put the organisation and its concepts in your brainpan on a low heat and let it cook slowly. Keep returning until this vague idea has cooked to a shiny glaze, crack it open and inside you’ll see a perfectly soft and malleable Suggestion that you should join the Arts Emergency Network.

Return to your Dough of Self-Doubt, pick it up and pack it around the little Suggestion. Do it tightly. The Suggestion should be entirely covered and should be oozing gravy flavoured with You Have Nothing to Offer and a just smidgeon of Don’t Be an Idiot. At this point, the pan should be full.

Pre-heat the oven to Conservative Government, and cook the dough until it has browned to George Osborne’s Emergency Budget. Cracks should start to appear.

Remove the Bread of Self-Doubt from the oven, pick up your bottle of Realisation and tip quite a lot of it on to the bread. Stand well back when you do this. The bread should explode into pieces of Privilege, Luck, Loan-free education and Support. Gather those pieces and put them in the blender to create the sauce.

The sauce should taste strongly of the understanding that if someone with your background can feel this disconcerted and unsure about negotiating a career in arts and humanities, how very much worse must it feel for someone who hasn’t had all the advantages you have had?

Take this sauce and tip it over the Suggestion – which will, through the magic of baking, have hardened into a perfect solid piece of Resolve.

Serve on a plate of You Should Have Done This Years Ago, with a side of Filling Out the Form and Getting Involved.


Bonus suggestion: why not use any leftovers to garnish your day job and other projects?

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