1. Go to a storytelling party where you only know one person, the host. Follow his lead, and literally follow him around, discovering how he wants to do things, who his friends are and why he likes them, and tell as many stories as he does. Do not hide behind your relative anonymity, revel in it. Do not try to make friends. Eat and drink and smoke at will. Go home and clean up dog shit and know it was all totally worth it.
  2. Tell yourself this story: Others like me have done this before; it’s normal. This is a better story than: I’ve never done this before, so it must be that people like me don’t normally do it. Show up for the audition prepared to recite a poem you’ve had in your head for 20 years. Study everything that happens backstage and mimic the behaviors that help move the process along most effectively.
  3. Sign up for softball though you’ve never played the sport before. One time you were hit in the face with a softball, when your mother played. Pretend you’re an investigative reporter or an anthropologist, and try to blend in with the others on your team. This means smoking and drinking on the field, but there’s no reason to stick to lights 100’s or lite beer. Get a little tired of midweek drinking and stay off the beer, but join in for fellowship when a partner shows up and buys a tray of shots. Swallow 4-7 shots and take the El home. Go to the local watering hole and drink orange juice until closing.
  4. Call up the nice guy from work / the new student potluck. Ask him to go for a walk / take the train cross-country with you and your mother. Agree to accompany him to Astoria, Oregon / Astoria, Queens. Listen to Bob Dylan / the Grateful Dead all summer. Try Manhattans / single malt scotch / Tanqueray and tonic. Go see a heavy metal concert with him and learn that the lines for the women’s room are shorter than for the men’s room.
  5. Go to the workshop by yourself and sit at the emptiest table closest to the wall. As others show up at your table, introduce yourself and ask a couple questions. If they ask back, have a conversation. If they don’t, try to find someone who does. Take breaks as your body requires, which may mean standing against the wall. Don’t be surprised 5 years later if you’re remembered for being a jack-in-the-box. Next time, bring your bouncy ball.
  6. Tell everyone you meet about your projects. Don’t apologize. Scare yourself. Speak before you’re ready. Use your on-the-spot answers to guide your next steps.
  7. Cry in public. Sit on the sidewalk at the bus stop. Sing and dance along to the music in the grocery store. Have a conversation with the bus driver. Have a conversation with the waiter. Have a conversation with whoever is bored and staffing the table. Write a letter to someone you’re not sure will open it.