I have been thinking about what to write in this blog post since I left work yesterday afternoon. In the time between then and now, I was preparing myself to sit down and write.
I also went for a long hike around Mt. Tabor, enjoyed a game night with my housemates, baked a pie, had a bit too much whiskey, slept in, ate breakfast, went for a run, meditated, showered, gamed a bit, and fixed myself a cup of tea.
All of it has been in service to writing this, because if you want to write about Life and Food and Joy and Good Things, a big part of it is getting those things in your life. The bigger part is actually sitting down and writing the thing. Far from being the sole difficulty of creatives, dreamers and nutcases like me, you can find difficulty in Doing the Thing in just about any human pursuit. I think it’s something to do with being sentient robots made of meat and untanned leather, stuck on a speck of dirt rocketing through the void.
So let’s go through my Five Simple Steps to Do The Thing together!
What’s the Hold-up?
There’s a quote by John Green that I love and never stops being true:
“I really think that reading is just as important as writing when you’re trying to be a writer because it’s the only apprenticeship we have, it’s the only way of learning how to write a story.”
— John Green
I fancy myself a food writer, ergo I must consume a lot of food writing. Since I rarely have the patience for magazines, books and audiobooks are my go-to resources. Most writers, even if they never write a book themselves, usually wind up having their articles or other works compiled by their publishers into anthologies which make for interesting reading.
On the plus side, thanks to bookstores, libraries, and the internet, getting access to quality food writing and placing it in its historical context has never been easier. The downside, however, is that Impostor Syndrome is a bitch. It’s easy to be told (and to say yourself) that “Comparison is the thief of joy,” that we’re all running our own races and that we’re all on our own paths and schedules. Living those truths is a little tougher- especially when what you are consuming is directly relevant to what you want to do, hope, or be.
My latest read, Ruth Reichl’s Save Me The Plums, was excellent. A successful food writer and editor with career spanning four decades, Reichl’s work can make even the most stubborn, well-done-burger-eating stick in the mud excited for what she’s eating- but for me, what came through (and hurt) the most was her love of food and the craft of food writing. “This is what happens when someone truly loves what they do and has spent decades perfecting it.” I thought to myself as the book wound to a close.
Then, “Here is yet another amazing talent. She has already given voice to everything I want to say, and done it eloquently. There! She just summed up the entire thesis of the book I’m sweating over writing!“
“This amazing person had the skill and got there first. Who gives a flying fuck what some baker from New Jersey has to say? I should just drop it. Stop staring at what the adults are doing, Matt- you are 100% at the kiddie table, and there is no room for you.”
So, from the depths of this self-imposed anguish and shame, what’s to be done?
1. Decide What the Thing Is
What are you trying to do here? You’re not gonna get anything done if you’re trying to fly in a hundred directions at once. Pick one Thing, do that Thing, then move on to the Next Thing. If there’s a way another Thing can be done while you’re not looking at it, great! Good time management! If not, pick the Thing you want to Do most, or first.
“Should I work on articles to send to magazines the way Ruth did when she started? Should I build up the blog more? Should I try and do more videos?
No, you should chill out and finish the book you are working on first- the one that started you listening to Reichl in the first place
2. Get Everything You Need to Do the Thing
Not everything you wish you had, not everything you think you should have- everything you need. Strictly speaking, all I need in order to write this blog post is a typing machine, an internet connection, and place to work. Same with the book. Figure out what you need to Do the Thing right now, and get your hands on it as soon as possible.
3. Say The Magic Words
This is the most important bit, so make sure you get these words exactly right. Sit down in the place you need to do the Thing, with all the stuff you need to do the Thing, look at all of it, and say these Extremely Important and Magical Words:
No, I’m not kidding. Just say these words, then get to work, because it doesn’t matter what anyone else thinks of it. It doesn’t matter if it goes nowhere. “What if it goes wrong?” Then you fix it. You can’t fix something that doesn’t exist.
“It’ll be terrible!” Probably! Then you’ll fix it and it’ll be less terrible, or you’ll learn and the next Thing will be less terrible. Whatever it is, disconnect yourself from the idea that the Thing needs to be absolutely perfect and the Best Thing Ever the moment it’s created, because it won’t. Stop setting yourself up for disappointment.
Someone’s done it before? So what- you haven’t done it before. You might even be better than them at it with time. Why? You clearly know enough and have good enough taste to recognize good work, and that yours isn’t there yet.
Wish you had this kind of confidence? You can, and you can’t. Confidence isn’t something that can be gained or lost. Confidence is what we can equanimity in others. Equanimity is the decision to act the same regardless of circumstances- to remain calm and serene. Once you decide that life will go on whether you succeed or fail, you can do what you like and deal with it later. You can just go on about your work and say the Magic Words: “fuck it.“
4. DO THE THING!!!
Stop reading this right now and go Do The Thing. Come back when you’re done.
I mean it. GO DO THE THING. NOW. While the Magic Words are working!
5. Celebrate Doing the Thing!
What did you do? Finish a project? Do the laundry? Edit another chapter in your upcoming awesome book on food philosophy?! Good! Celebrate! It doesn’t matter how big or small the Thing was, pick a way to reward yourself for doing the Thing, and remind yourself that Doing Things can be tough, but that you are worthy and able to do them!
So I’m gonna have a little whiskey, take a break, and head out for a walk while I prepare for another Thing to Do.