One of the things I have tried to do during this crisis is support small and indie businesses and creatives. Despite what our Government wants us to think, this crisis doesn’t seem to be going anywhere anytime soon, and the hard truth is some people and businesses will struggle to weather it, especially in the absence of any meaningful Government support. It doesn’t help that most people, even if not struggling financially, are finding themselves in a mental fog: bogged down by the demands of home schooling, worries over work / health / family / money, feeling lonely or isolated or fearful or anxious. Most people I know also feel enormously, paralyzingly helpless: in the face of a crisis of such scale, it can feel like there’s nothing you can do.
But in my own life I have found that doing something – even something small – for other people helps shift my mind off my own problems and makes me feel like I have a modicum of control in a crazy world. Why not try some and see how you feel (and feel free to add your own suggestions!)
Reach out to your ‘strong’ friend: We all have that person in our lives; the problem solver, the super capable one who seems to have life figured out. But the truth is, a crisis like this – which removes so much of our control – hits everyone hard, and it may be the people who seem to be coping best are actually struggling most, but scared to admit it as it makes them feel like a failure. Of course, check in with those in your circle who are most vulnerable, but a few nice texts or DMs to the people you think need it least might actually do more good than you would expect.
Use social media for good: The online world can be toxic, and obviously don’t contribute to that – don’t share disinformation or amplify those voices who are using this crisis to further a negative agenda. But it can also be used for enormous good – and can be a lifeline to small businesses, indie creatives and organisations during this time. I’m not saying turn your feeds into non-stop adverts for other people’s products, but some strategic sharing can really help people who are struggling to stay afloat.
I’ve bought food, coffee and face masks from indie sellers I first came across on my friends’ social media pages; I’ve been made aware of artists I didn’t know about, and local companies where I can spend money. You might not be in a position to financially support such businesses / creatives right now, but you never know when that Retweet or Instagram post will reach someone who can. (You’ll have seen I have been trying to blog about local sellers as much as I can).
Get specific with your spending support: There are a million organisations and charities out there in desperate need of money, and unless you are Jeff Bezos, there’s no way you can reasonably support all of them – which can make you feel even more helpless. So pick one or two you really care about, and just support them, even if only with a few quid. I’d suggest something small and locally focused, so you feel like your support actually makes a difference, rather than some behemoth charity.
And don’t feel that you just have to contribute to life or death charities: yes, it’s good to support your local foodbank (please, if you can, support your local foodbank): but you might also feel better contributing a tenner to keeping your local theatre or arthouse cinema going, if for no other reason than you want them to be open when life returns to normal and this feels like a positive investment in that future. Find something that really resonates with you and do what you can to support it, rather than trying to solve a million different problems at once. (I have supported the Tyneside Cinema appeal, and donated tickets back to Live and Alphabetti: if my income picks up, I hope to be able to support them (and Northern Stage) more, because I want all those venues to be there when this is over).
Also consider supporting artists or companies where doing so gives you a feeling of connection and agency. Does your favourite band have a Patreon? Your favourite artist have a Ko-fi account? Is that theatre company you love running a Kickstarter? You can usually contribute to these for as little as a couple of quid but in doing so you are a) helping the creatives whose work you enjoy keep creating, b) giving them an enormous boost (I speak from experience here – getting a Ko-fi makes my day, and I used a spurt of donations last month to pay for groceries in a month when I had virtually no other income). But also this fosters a sense of connection to the creatives you support. I threw a tenner in a Kickstarter for a book by working class writers a few months back and admit I get a bit of a buzz every time I get an update because I feel somehow invested in the project. It might be a bit ridiculous – I’m just one of a bunch of randoms who contributed to something that I thought was worthwhile – but hell, I’ll take it.
Use your talents! I am useless at many, many things, and was feeling like this whole crisis was just emphasising my ineptitude. But I have found that applying the one talent I do have (writing) to help others has made me feel better. So far I’ve helped 2 friends spruce up website content, helped others with everything from rejogging their CVs for a post-COVID world to writing letters to MPs lobbying for more industry support. It’s not much – but it’s something. I have other friends who are making scrubs for nurses, or sewing masks. Even if all you can do is some shopping for a vulnerable neighbour, that’s something that can make a difference to someone’s life and will make you feel a little less helpless. (Having a homemade veggie lasagne delivered by a friend who is a great cook made my week!)
Be nice to a specific someone – yourself! While I am a true believer in the benefits of getting out of your own head by focusing on others, it’s important to recognise that these are unprecedented times, and many of us are not only struggling, but then feeling bad about struggling (“Other people have it so much worse! How dare I feel bad!”). Beating yourself up won’t do anyone – least of all you – any good. Give yourself permission to feel how you feel, ask for help if you need it (including professional help – there’s no shame in seeking support from experts) and make sure that of all the people you are being kind to, you include yourself on that list.
(You can contact the Samaritans here or call 116 123 if you need to).
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Newcastle-based rom-com with a dash of Northern charm: The Bridesmaid Blues
Paranormal adventure with snark and sexiness: Dark Dates: Cassandra Bick Chronicles: Volume 1
If you want to read something a bit darker, I just re-released by earlier novel Doll and my short stories No Love is This.