So while the world comes crashing down around our ears, unintentionally I appear to have fallen down a self-help/ creative inspiration rabbit hole. I think subconsciously my brain has decided that is the world is going down, I need to start working on being my best self. Also as I march towards the end of my university degree, my worries over what the hell I am going to do after have peaked as I struggle with the choice between doing a Masters, pursuing my creative ambitions, or getting any job that will take me.
This journey started at the beginning of the year with The Art of Asking by Amanda Palmer, a manifesto-memoir exulting the virtues of creativity and community. Recommended on Jen Campbell’s Youtube channel (if you like books and are not subscribed I don’t know what to do with you), I only vaguely knew who Amanda Palmerwas before reading. However it didn’t take long to be swept up into her weird and wonderful life and by the end living statues seem like a perfectly reasonable mode of employment. The main premise which I got from the book is that asking for help, especially in the creative sphere, shouldn’t feel bad if you are actively creating a community and giving back to them as much as they are putting in. All creation is communal. Now oddly, I think a group who understand this best is dog walkers. Hear me out. A dog walker knows that if you take a tennis ball on that walk, then likelihood is that you will not return with that ball. The ball that gets left behind is then picked up by another dog and the cycle repeats. It becomes a communal tennis ball with no definitive ownership and everyone is pretty happy with the arrangement. Replace ball with Art and you have yourselves an artist. The rest of it was about not being scared to create the tennis ball in the first place.
On a more practical note, I then went on to read both of Sarah Knight’s books: The Life Changing Magic of Not Giving a Fuck and Get Your Shit Together (these are both the short titles). This was all about doing, something Shonda Rhimes talks about in Year of Yes (which we are getting onto soon). Called the anti-guru, Sarah Knight has created some self-help guides for people who recoil at the flowery language and ever-present calm of an imagined self-help leader which makes you want to shake them until they realise that you are freaking out and they are not helping and neither is their jasmine-infused tea. You want to do the thing? Alright, let’s do this. She doesn’t promise it will be easy, but it will work. Now, like the other books, I enjoyed reading these just for readings sake as it felt like chatting to a friend, setting the world to rights. The first was about not caring about stuff simply because other people want you to or because you feel obligated to care, but also about treading that fine line between not caring and being an asshole. It’s a difficult road to walk but we’ll get there eventually. I think overall I am pretty good about not expending energy on caring when I don’t need to but it may come in useful soon as I end up with more and more responsibility. The second one was a lot more relevant to my now situation. I am a university student. I have been a student for 2 and half years now. I went to a different bloody country for six months. Yet still, every other week, I feel like my life is a steam train about to run off the tracks. Using the Chipmunks as a great analogy (you are either an Alvin, Simon, or Theodore in this world and it’s amusing to try and match your friends and relatives up with their chipmunk equivalent), she guides you through where you’ve been going wrong and how to start and put things right. I think I’m part Alvin-part Theodore, which is a bit damning but with the Key-Phone-Wallet technique I think I’m getting there. If you want to know more about the system buy the book. Even if you don’t, buy the book anyway. It’s funny and witty and will help even if you feel like your shit is collectively together, so to speak.
Finally, I have just finished reading Year of Yes by Shonda Rhimes. I had seen the TED talk and knew instantly I needed the book but it’s taken me a while to actually get round to downloading it. (Small aside to let you know downloading the Kindle App onto my phone was the best thing for my reading habits but TERRIBLE for my bank balance). Now we all know Shonda Rhimes can tell a good story. Even Shonda Rhimes knows Shonda Rhimes can write a good story: she tells you so in the book. But this feels like so much more than that. As someone who is coming to realise she spends way too much time in her own head, reading a book about someone like that who discovered how great it is to go and do things felt very close to home. Included are the transcript of some speeches she did in the Year of Yes, which follows a year and half of saying yes to anything that scared her, and the one to graduates about how important it is to go and DO something, rather than just dream it, was very inspiring. I can definitely see myself sliding into the just dreaming stage and it felt a bit like being called out and told to stop that and actually create.
What unifies these books for me is they all link somehow into opportunity and making the most of them. If you don’t take opportunities to talk to a crowd, to create that music, to build that community, to choose what you care about, then you are wasting energy and wasting time. Opportunity is born from other opportunities and by agreeing to do things you often find that soon there is another opportunity to say yes to something, and so the cycle continues. None of these women said it was going to be easy. They aren’t giving anyone a key to the promised land of happiness and fulfilment and all your dreams coming true. They are saying that it is possible to live a life you are happy to live and to create things which make you feel proud. To me, that seems like it’s worth a shot. But first, let me say Yes to napping. That seems like a good place to start.