Thursday, May 31, 2012

How To Be Tolerated

It’s Tuesday, it’s 11am, and you’re at your desk. That bender who sits opposite you is powering through her workload like a Chinese hamster, and you still haven’t managed to ‘fire off’ that email you’ve had the intention of firing since nine thirty. Your finger has been on the trigger, but you know, are you more of a ‘best regards’ or a ‘yours sincerely’ kind of person? The truth of the matter is, you don’t really care.

You don’t care, because in six months – a year, tops – you’re going to blow this proverbial popsicle stand. Because your band, blog, stand-up routine or Harry Potter slash fiction website is about to go global, and when it does, your colleagues are going to rue the day they ever asked you to file an invoice. That extra tab you have perpetually open on your work browser is your ticket out of here.

As someone who continuously has to ask themselves "Do my endeavours make everyone wish I was dead?" and "Am I an actual dickhead?", the issue of being a smug 'creative' type lies very close to home with me. It's basically my dream to be recognised for my *cough* artistic struggle, and while that has yet to happen, I feel like I have a good idea about how that's supposed to go. The following is a list of pointers on how to make a legitimate claim to creativity, without everyone hating you and the metaphorical horse you rode in on.

DO: Self Advertise

If Facebook, Twitter  and whatever the most relevant social network is by the time this hits press has taught us anything, it’s that if you’re not self-advertising, you might as well not exist. If your project has a name, then it needs a Twitter account. If it has a fan, then it needs a Facebook fan page.  Not only does this let everyone know that you’re there, churning out brilliance, hour after hour and year, but it also lets you form connections with those you would otherwise consider your rivals. Although many mistake Twitter as an outlet exclusively for logging the quality and consistency of your stools, it actually gives you unique access to the world’s most prominent creative geniuses. And their stools.

DON’T: Spam Your Friends

At the same time, there is no need to be a dick about this. Oh wow, you’ve made a new blog post? Yeah, you mentioned. An HOUR ago.  Your band has a gig this Saturday? I think somewhere between the e-vite and the Facebook group you involuntary registered me in, I heard.

Do not be the reason somebody receives a Linked-In Reminder. Try not to use the word ‘reminder’ at all. Don’t update just to tell everybody you thought of a really cool t-shirt design today. Try to post tangible, informative updates. Don’t be a dick.

DO: Attend Open Mic Nights

Open Mic Nights, while famously wanky in nature, are the perfect place to foster a fan base for yourself, not to mention a perfect platform to try out new material. Every open mic night also has at least one semi-successful artist that shows up for an ego boost, and it is your job to pick this person for contacts. It won’t be hard to figure out who this is. He or she will have a disproportionate head-to-face hair ratio.

DON’T: Leave Once You’re Finished

Seriously dude? Come on. This is not why you came here. You are not going to get five minutes at the Edinburgh Fringe Festival by doing the same routine every week and then pissing off. You will get those five minutes by getting pissed with a guy-who-knows-a-guy, who then introduces you to that guy.

DO: Expand Your Operation

You’re one talented son-of-a-bitch, so it stands to reason that you’ve got a few friends that are equally as talented. This is where you need to start calling in favours. Your flatmate does web design, and his girlfriend has a decent camera. No matter what you’re pursuing, both of these people are invaluable to you. Think of everyone you know with well-worded status updates. Would they like to write for your website? Of course they would! They’re flattered you even asked.

DON’T: Make Empty Promises

If you can’t pay someone now, don’t imply you ever will be able to. Buy them a drink, grab them around the shoulders, and say “Hey kiddo,  wanna see your name up in internet lights?” To this, they will say “Why mister, I don’t know.” To this, you will respond: “You and me kid! You and me will take on the world!” If it feels appropriate, break into a song and dance number. If it doesn’t, then don’t.
Either way, let your friend know that you are willing to give them all the credit for the work they put in. Make them as excited about your project as you are. But make it clear from the beginning: you may never have the money to physically pay them back.

DO: Be Self-Deprecating

You’re not the first person to write a short story about a thinly veiled ex-girlfriend masquerading as a heinous sea creature, and you won’t be the last. Why not laugh about it? That shit is funny. If you think something you’re doing is even remotely cliché, either change it, or acknowledge it. Cliché’s exist because they serve a function, and just because you’re using one doesn’t mean you can’t have fun with it.

DON’T: Undermine Your Work

“I wrote this in like, ten minutes. And I had a cold. And a fidgety arse. It’s a bit shit.” Yeah, now I really want to hear you talk about it.

DO: Take Advice

The person who sold their internet start-up within a year of creating it is worth listening to. The person who earns their entire income from their t-shirt business is worth listening to. Even if they’re product is CLEARLY inferior to yours, they have done something you are not doing, and they need to be listened to.

DON’T: Take it Too Seriously

Like absolutely everything (unless you’re feeling particularly religious) success is just a well-timed accident. The people who have it can’t guarantee it, and the people who deserve it may never see a shred of it. So relax, work hard, and most importantly: don’t be a dick about it.

Saturday, May 19, 2012

A Brief History of My Friend-Making Skills

Every now and then, to shield myself from the lonely nights and my own crippling ego, I like to pretend that Work in Prowess is a much bigger deal than it actually is.

The thing that is extremely helpful in this endeavor is the nice comments, emails, facebook messages and tweets I sometimes get from the people I loosely refer to (mostly in my own head, and seldom out loud) as my 'fans'. In this context, the term 'fan' means 'people who click a link when I ask them to'.

I don't respond to most of the feedback I get from people, but only because it feels awkward to. In case you've never attempted to, it's extremely difficult to respond to a compliment in writing without sounding like an utter douchebag.

Dear Reader,

Hey Reader!


Thank you so much for your feedback on Work in Prowess. It's very rewarding for me to see that other people are enjoying my work. 

What the hell is that? It reads like a bank statement, or a reminder about an impending enema.  


Awesome, thank you! That's so nice of you to say! I hope my blog encourages you to start your own!

And I hope this doesn't sound like I'm a child molester trying to groom you. 

What I'm trying to get across here is: it's difficult. There's nothing in the world I enjoy more than nice feedback, but unfortunately I get incredibly sheepish when it comes to replying to it. That's why my favorite kind of feedback - and this might happen once or twice every couple of months - always looks a bit like this.

Hey, Work in Prowess Lady!

Your blog is funny. We should hang out.

Yes! We should hang out! We should always hang out. I love hanging out, and I am always in the market for new friends who are willing to give me compliments. Here are some things I can offer you as a friend.

Unconditional affection. Company on long car rides. Licks on the face.

I will keep you company while you do your thing. I will sit on your couch and make passing commentary on how well you're doing on your video game. I will be hungry when you are hungry. Not hours before, or minutes after.

Here are some things you need to offer me as a friend, in return: All of my needs.

And when I say all of my needs, I really mean all of them. As my friend, you will be responsible for feeding me, driving me to my appointments, and constantly reassuring me that I'm an OK human.

This won't even be the first time this has happened.

Friend: Some old lady that lived on my street.
Time of Friendship: Ages 4-7
Need fulfilled: Shoelaces, occasional snacks

There are some things that, as a kid, took me longer to figure out than others. One of these things was my shoelaces.  I don't know what about them I found so puzzling, but I sense that it was because I lacked the dexterity to handle what is essentially two pieces of string, and the wherewithal to bend down. Was I going to let that stop me from having lone, sad little adventures around my estate? Of course not.

This was where the old lady came in. I would roam the streets like a rabid terrier, notice my shoes were untied and ring this lady's doorbell. She would answer, I would wordlessly stick my shoe through the door. She would tie my shoe, and I would invite myself in for a biscuit and some juice.

I don't know how the old lady felt about my visits, but I like to think that she enjoyed the company.

And now she follows me on Twitter!

Friend: Every person within a four mile radius of our trailer park
Time of Friendship: Ages 6-9
Need fulfilled: Cereal

I grew up in the nineties, when holidays abroad were no longer a luxury, but a given. Eeee-very-mutha-fucka got to go to Spain or France on their holidays. Not us, though. The O'Donoghue version of a holiday was six people in a three bedroom mobile home for three weeks. In Kerry. For my English readers, Kerry is kind of like the Irish version of Cornwall. In that, three days a year, you get this:

The rest of the time, however, you get this:

With age, I have learned to appreciate the beauty of Kerry. But back then, I hated it more than I can possibly hope to convey. The rain kept us inside most of the time, where we brewed a feverish hatred for one another. I dealt with this by wandering into the mobile homes of others, and asking them if they had any children who were about my age. When they said no, I just hung around anyway, and asked if they had any good cereal. A couple of hours later, there would be a knock on the door, and inevitably my mum or dad would be there, apologizing for  me. By now, I would be sitting cross-legged on a strangers floor, eating cereal and watching cartoons.

Friend: Every housemate I've ever had
Time of Friendship: Ages 19-21
Needs Fulfilled: Food, clothing, company.

By now, it has become quite obvious that my life so far is nothing more than me hanging around different peoples houses, patiently awaiting their charity. However, I have also managed to do this in my own home.

I was nineteen when I moved out for the first time, and it was a beautiful time. I was the poorest I've ever been, but that doesn't matter in Cork the same way it matters in London. You can walk everywhere, you could get a bottle of wine for four quid, and you can basically spend your every waking moment drifting from one pleather student sofa to the next. I made some terrible mistakes in that year, and I wouldn't take back a single one of them.

I'd like to say that I 'grew up' in that year, but that would be a lie. I didn't learn to cook. I didn't learn to 'clean' in the real sense, I just learned how to make things look absent of dirt. However, I did learn to utilize the pity of others for my own material gain. I would gaze at Billy as he tried to eat his dinner, until eventually he shoved the plate on to my lap. I would wander into Ryan's room, try on his jumpers and balefully declare that he had 'all the nice things' until his nice things were my nice things. By the end of our year together, I was waking up Billy in the middle of the night because I was bored and wanted to watch puppy movies.

By the time I moved to London, I had utilized the pity of others so much that I managed to stay 'temporarily' in my friend Danny O'Dwyers house for SIX MONTHS.

Friend: Chris Thomas 
Time of Friendship: Ages 21-22
Needs Fulfilled: Misc

I think it's important to note that as I've been writing this, Chris has brought me a pain au chocolat, a cup of tea, and a packet of crisps.

Saturday, May 12, 2012

Salad Bar

Near my office, there is a very large Sainsbury's. And in this very large Sainsbury's, there is an incredibly well-stocked salad bar.

I don't know if this is the only salad bar in the area, but the mystique around this particular salad bar implies that it is the only one of its kind, ever. Truly, it is the one salad bar to rule us all. Around 11.30 every morning, people from the neighbouring offices start whispering about the Sainsbury's salad bar. They shiftily begin putting on their blazers and remind one another that "We better get there early, if we're going to beat the queue."

They divide into packs of three and four. But wait, Pete is still on a call. Pete wanted us to wait, because he wanted to go to salad bar, too. Pete has been talking about the salad bar's Coronation Chicken all morning.

But wait, the pack responds. Pete knew what he was getting into, when he took that call.

It was Pete's decision to make that call.

Pete can just go to the salad bar later. Fuck Pete.

And so, like a wounded soldier, Pete is left behind. The pack carries on. At this point, with all the procrastinating about whether the pack will wait for Pete or not, it is now 11.55. The salad bar is in full swing. There is a queue looping around Sainsbury's. One member of the pack wonders aloud if the salad bar is worth waiting for. And couldn't we just go to Subway?

Her lack of faith in salad bar is snarled at by the alpha members of the salad pack. She breaks off. The pack is now down to two.

There is now a queue of sixty people waiting for the salad bar,  standing with plastic bowls, ready to scoop Moroccan cous cous, stuffed red peppers and goats cheese into them. There is no talking in the salad bar queue. There is only hunters, ready to pounce. Irritated, they tap lethargically on their iPhones, absurdly well dressed and bored. Then their time comes, and they move through the ladles of salad swiftly, balancing different flavours together in accordance with the diagrams they have been drawing all morning. They pay their £2.99, and they bring their bowl back to their office, where they will eat it at their desks.

I have observed this trend for several weeks now, and have always found it to be particularly bizarre. I couldn't figure out if people were militantly planning their day around cherry tomatoes and croutons because they enjoyed the structure of the routine or because the croutons were really that good. So on Friday, I decided that I had been working in the area long enough to finally succumb to the charms of the salad bar.

I stood in line. I tapped on my iPhone. I adjusted my blazer, now clammy from standing too near the sausage roll heating tray. I slammed different kinds of salad into my plastic bowl, with an amateurish lack of skill on how well the tastes went together. People behind me sighed at my indecision. I paid, went back to my office, and ate my salad bowl at my desk.

It was absolutely delicious, and completely worth it.

Drawing: Natalie Dee