How To Do Anything
(A Call to Action)

Sarah Wang


  1. Go from city to city, inspired by the monks in the Middle Ages who carried knowledge from one monastery to the next.
  2. Befriend someone who scares you. (You see yourself in her.)
  3. Recall your father’s absence, and his almost generic unknowability.
  4. When you can’t communicate in words, orchestrate dramas to communicate. The social situations in which these dramas unfold are themselves communicative.
  5. In order to make your work sound appealing, tell people: It’s a lurid fable of wronged innocence, irrational cruelty, and wild coincidence set in a landscape of betrayal, brutality, and corruption.
  6. Take into account the notion that spaces cling to their pasts, and sometimes the present finds a way of accommodating this past and sometimes it doesn’t. At best, a peaceful coexistence is struck up between temporal planes; but most of the time it is a constant struggle for domination.
  7. Unashamedly wear thrift store shoes with preexisting foot odor.
  8. Once he’s dead, crowd source ideas about what to do with the body.
  9. Insert long gaps of silence in conversation, not because you don’t have enough to say, but rather too much.
  10. Locate, at the heart of your desire, your very own lack, the materiality of the Real staring back at you.
  11. Notice the blank spaces between frames.
  12. Question why you settle for the depersonalized, apolitical reading.
  13. When people call you a loser, tell them that every day you feel like giving up, and staying alive for one more day is an achievement in itself.
  14. Situate yourself between repulsion and fascination.
  15. Eat shit and carry around a skull for a bowl because everything is holy; shit is holy.
  16. Do not forget the degree to which what doesn’t happen is also caught up in your experience. This is the negative element of experience. You can write, in this way, autobiographically, from experiences you didn’t have, because the experiences you don’t have are experienced negatively in the experiences you do.
  17. Get lost in order to invent some way out.
  18. Occupy a place where error and accomplishment are close kin.
  19. Buy things and return them so you have something to do.
  20. Cry as soon as you enter the room because you are alone.
  21. Do nothing as a form of protest against the idea that humans are units of energy in an industrialized society.
  22. Go to seven parties in one night because only the thrill of velocity will keep you entertained.
  23. Multi-task. Watch a documentary on castes in India while doing crunches in your office, wondering if anyone has a crush on you, eating an eggplant sandwich, researching the history of artificial organs, talking on speakerphone with your psychoanalyst, deciding what to wear tonight, debating if you should say yes or no, and responding to an email with the subject: ARE YOU OK?
  24. Go to a dance performance and think about movement as a kind of corporeal writing.
  25. Teeter on the edge of humiliation.

Sarah Wang has written for BOMBThe New Republicn+1PEN AmericaThe Los Angeles Review of Books, and American Short Fiction, among other publications. She is a Tin House Scholar, a Kundiman Mentorship Lab Fellow, the winner of a Nelson Algren prize for fiction, and was a fellow at the Center for Fiction and the Asian American Writers’ Workshop’s Witness Program. She has received support from PEN America, Poets & Writers, Author’s League, and the Foundation for Contemporary Arts. See more of her writing at

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