Oldies: Creative Business Posts

April 23, 2014

Duet with California lights: October, 2010
This blog is aging. In the beginning, Ben and I had just gotten married, and then I'd produced a show and lost my job, and was in a swirl of scintillating depression. This space has now had several names, and I've deleted a few of those first angry/morose posts. There's still plenty of cringe-worthy material, but that's part of the deal. I've been looking through old posts. Unfortunately, it's not quite like watching all of Friday Night Lights again (I'm back to Season 5; it slays me), but here is the first of several themed posts of old posts. Say that five times.

So, You Own A Creative Business...

Trying to Talk About the Work You Make? Start by searching in Your Business Suitcase. Figure out which ideas will push you forwardShare your work by blogging, or explore The Magic of the Micro Share. If you're in search of sanity, try Exercise As A Certainty Anchor . Ask for feedback; throw more resource parties; say 'no'.

You'll inevitably make friends with rejection and jealousy.

Eat your broccoli.

Just do it.

Embrace the Abyss

April 17, 2014

lettering by Lisa Congdon
I know-- I'm a broken record of love for Lisa Congdon. I'm inspired by her art, her story of a later-in-life career, and her honesty when it comes to grappling with demons. Lisa recently spoke at the TYPO International Design Conference, and it's worth a couple of listens.

Also, the above Cheryl Strayed quote is worth a tattoo or two (and I shamelessly named a dance after it). The hardest times in life are those that trigger a fight or flight response-- the ones I want to forget ever happened. They are also the instances that have defined who I am, steered me towards my future self, and taught me empathy and self-love. Claiming the joyful and the difficult is a true opportunity to nurture ourselves; it's ours for the taking.


April 14, 2014

Greetings Monday!

Mad King Thomas performed at our house Saturday night, and it was just the christening our little place needed. Also, having wonderful people in your home is a serious joy enhancer. Feeling sad? You obviously need more streamers and balloons, which our house is now filled with because there was a birthday party in the performance. Now, every time the heat goes off the balloons blow into the air and the cats have instant entertainment. So do I!

It seems like you're all doing pretty fantastic things lately, and I want to take a moment to get stoked about them:
  • My awesome Laura Beth Brown got accepted on a full ride to the University of Texas at Austin to get her Masters in Printmaking! They take one printmaker a year folks, and that fabulous person is it! While I am in mourning for the long-distance course our relationship will take, I can't think of anyone more deserving.
  • The fabulous Jessica Plagens got a new full-time design job, but I'm ever more excited about her new website, and the smart things she's writing there. I love this piece on artistic failure!
  • I'm listening to podcasts while I type away at work. While I haven't yet turned to crafting (I'm sure there's potential for me to get into anything but scrapbooking), I'm enjoying this one.
  • Do you know fabulous my friend Levi (I know, sometimes this blog is just a brag-fest about my friends)? He wants to have coffee dates with awesome creative people. Who should he chat with? Probably you. Ask him to coffee. 
  • Last but not least, a shout-out to Jesse Haas of Jesse Haas Massage and Nutrition. I hadn't had a massage in a loong time (I'm embarrassed to admit, a year), and I was reminded that Jesse is, simply put, amazing. In addition to giving a kickass massage, she's such a fantastic combination of knowledge and compassion and wonderful resources. I can't recommend her enough. We all need more big-hearted, grounded health professionals in our lives. 
Have a grand week!

In Which I Reconsider Crafting

April 8, 2014

On Saturday I luxuriously read in bed. I'm still working my way through Creative Block, which isn't the kind of book I'd want to polish off in just a couple of sittings. I look at the art, I read about the maker, I think about the creative block exercise, and then I gradually meander into thinking about what I might want to make myself. Rinse and repeat for all 50 artists!

At one of our last Small Dances performances, an audience member asked me the inevitable question: what's next? I had just finished explaining how we were in the middle of a move and I was ten days into a new full-time job, but SURELY I SHOULD HAVE BEEN COOKING UP A NEW LITTLE PROJECT BEHIND THE SCENES. The truth is that right now the only thing I want to make is my bed.

Actually, I lie: I want to make a lot of things, just nothing that involves scheduling rehearsals, stress of any kind, or creating something vulnerable based on personal experience. At least for a while.

Last week I was at a Latin Dance class at the Y with the intention of working up a sweat (you'll be so pleased to hear that I did) when I started tearing up because it felt so good to be moving, especially with a room full of other humans. Without my usual handful of weekly rehearsals and creative projects, the class (supposedly just a workout) felt pretty magical. That's when I remembered that the YWCA can sometimes be enough to keep me creatively satisfied.

I make things and/or take on creative projects for different reasons:
  • For career-building purposes.
  • Because I haven't had a project in a while & I'm starting to wonder if I remember how to make things.
  • To work on my craft: to experiment, and hopefully get better at choreographing (or writing).
  • Out of loneliness: as an excuse to see people/bring people together.
  • For self-gratification: I want to make something awesome, and I want people to see it and think I'm awesome (usually in this case I have the sense to END THE PROJECT & call a therapist for council-- this never ends well).
  • For creative therapy: I need to work on something I care deeply about! I need the creative high!
  • Because it brings me JOY.
  • To make sense of the world-- or create a reality I like better than my actual one.
Usually a few of these reasons overlap. Right now I crave creative therapy, but not the kind that involves a big project. You know what sounds nice?
  • Hosting a dinner party.
  • Going on a night time bike ride with a big group of people.
  • Having enough patience to crochet a blanket.
  • Learning to letterpress, and then making a bunch of encouraging signs to mail to strangers.
  • Hosting another Small Art.
  • Continuing my 1-on-1 coaching work with creatives, helping them put the puzzle pieces together.
  • Gardening.
  • Frisbee.
  • Trying all of the Twin Cities restaurants on the list I made two years ago.
What's funny is that my 24-year-old self would just like to PUNCH my current self for not having more ambition, or trying to fill all of my time. Maybe it's that I'm just coming off of several months of crazy, or maybe it's Spring fever. Or, maybe I've just finally stopped trying to prove myself to people who probably don't actually care.

Anyway: maybe I'll learn to letterpress. What would you like to make or do next? How do you pick projects? What has you excited? Do you have Spring fever?

It's What We Make Together

April 3, 2014

One of my first assignments at the Walker was to sit down and read the book written about Open Field in 2012. The truth is that when I got hired, my real knowledge of the program was limited to what I'd read when a Walker staff member told me about the job, and a couple instances years ago where I'd happened to bike by the Walker and meander around the empty Field space. But the book sealed the deal for me that I was in the right place taking on the right project.

Open Field began in 2010, but took a year off in 2013 for outside construction. In those three years, hundreds of projects have taken place on the Walker's outdoor green space. The projects all have something in common: they exhibit a spirit of play, sharing, and social interaction. Open Field asks the question "What would you do with an Open Field?" and community members answered with the following: bullwhipping demonstrations, financial education classes, string game demonstrations, community dance, art exchanges, prompted conversations with strangers, crafting-- and a good amount of picnicing, drawing, lounging, and game playing.

I'm a sucker for art that comes from a place of inclusion-- art that anyone can participate in, and that can be found places other than galleries and traditional performances venues. (Want to read something awesome? Check out this article on buying art from a vending machine that a coworker brought to my attention yesterday.) I make things usually from a desire to bring people together, because I'm pretty familiar with how strangely isolating and lonely being alive can feel, even though we're supposedly having a million universal experiences. And I'm probably more exhausted than ever before with art that feels esoteric, academic, and exclusive; I crave art that connects.

All to say that I'm really excited about this Field thing, and I hope you'll come play. Tuesday the updated Open Field website went live, along with a programming proposal form. You dream up some kind of activity that involves participation, and I'll help you schedule it and invite people to come join you. Anything could happen, and something will happen, and I'm thrilled to discover what it might be. Find out more about what's in store for the summer over here-- including a visit from famed Fluxus artist Alison Knowles, where she will MAKE A GIANT SALAD and we will CALL IT ART!

Hello April!

March 31, 2014

Good morning! I am eating breakfast with the nervous trepidation that only a person who endured a co-spousal weekend stomach flu can understand. What a way to end March! Enough said of that.

It stuck me, while doing my good old taxes, that we are at the end of the first quarter of the year! Financial quarters aside, this means that we are 1/4 way through 2014. Did you make New Years resolutions? Is the year moving along in a hunky dory fashion for you? I didn't make resolutions, but I did choose a yearly word: thrive. How that's going is very subjective: really great in some ways, lots of "room for growth" (so diplomatic) in others. I will say: That woman Susan who writes Astrology Zone is crazily accurate! 

Anyway, today is March 31, and I can't remember March. That can't be a good sign... My goal for April is to be able to remember April! March was pretty much unpacking, adjusting, and doing our taxes. Not particularly exciting stuff to remember?

Here are some loose April hopes:
  • To be outside a lot.
  • To write in this space more often & bring back the 5-with series.
  • To practice yoga regularly, even if that means 10 minute daily chunks.
  • To cook something from this book
  • To plant something.
  • To figure out how to create a little daily quiet (maybe part of the yoga thing).
  • To see more people I love regularly.
Very reasonable hopes, yes?

On the art-front this month, we're thrilled to be hosting a performance by these awesome people at our new place.

On the business front, my Story Mapping exercises will be printed in a nice little booklet in a couple of weeks (and available for purchase!).

On the work front, the updated Open Field website launches tomorrow!

March really is the hardest month in Minnesota. If you can manage that (especially without a vacation to a tropical climate), it's all up from there. Welcome April!

It's Here! It's Now!

March 27, 2014

I've had a long-time bad habit of waiting for all of the pieces to come together before I can rest, relax, enjoy myself, and feel satisfied. I've kept waiting for the perfect moment, which I often say will happen:

-When I get a grant.
-After I quit my job.
-When I find the job.
-When my numerous commitments are over.
-When we move.
-After the show.
-When I have more money.
-When I'm more rested.
-When we get to go on vacation.

Surprise, surprise: this utopian moment of perfection never actually happens. I've rarely found a time when every single factor in my life knits together just right, without finding myself nitpicking at the details and wanting a bit more. Contentment has always been hard for me-- something I'm certainly not proud of. 

I feel very lucky that the circumstances of the last year have been helping me to learn that contentment is an inside process. It can be found in the most jagged, awful moments, when the project is in an uncertain mishmash, and when the house is half-way put together. Contentment isn't black and white, it's way-the-heck-grey; It happens right now.

It's one thing to make a blanket proclamation that YOU'RE GOING TO BE CONTENT! But what does that mean or look like? I've been thinking of three things in particular:

1) Hyper-presence: The last few months have been a great exercise in presence, because so damn much has been going on. Our transition (specifically regarding our living situation, my job, and the Small Dances process) has been going on for months. Realistically, aren't most of us always transitioning a little bit? I've made every effort to stop thinking about to the future and to stop waiting for life to feel more settled. I can enjoy our house when it's half-way through a paint project. I can spent the weekend finishing business taxes and still enjoy myself.

2) Stop the perfectionism: Part of enjoying things right now (and not later when they're perfect) involves letting go of a certain amount of control freak-dom. Transitioning to a new job has meant telling old clients that I'm running a few days behind on their project. I've realized that we can have friends over before our house looks just right, and I can write in this space without coming up with a brilliant idea for a post (or resizing the photos). I've dropped the ball on a lot of plans and on seeing a lot of friends' performances while I've been figuring out how to put daily life together, and I'm pretty sure that it's going to be ok.

3) Make micro-changes: My brain can be frustratingly black and white, and when something in life isn't working, I want to chuck it out the door and try something new. I've been thinking a lot about how most things aren't all or nothing: If I'm too busy to take a class at the YWCA, I still probably have time for a 20 minute walk; maybe I don't have the creative outlet of rehearsal, but I can start the day with morning pages; I don't work with Ben during the day anymore, but we can meet for lunch, etc, etc... Most life elements can wiggle and shift around without requiring a total change. (I think about this a lot for clients and friends who are hoping to transition from 9-5 work to self-employment-- what's the micro-change before you make the big change?)

I posted these photos because they reminded me of the in-between-ness: beautiful flowers from my friend Katie that made me so happy, even when our one-day-moved-into house was a huge mess; a photo of our newly painted teal wall (which I love!), surrounded by unpacked boxes and windex and catnip. Sounds about right. I don't want to wait for everything to lock perfectly into place-- it's unrealistic and exhausting to continually strive for. I'd so much rather teach myself comfort with the grey places, which is probably a skill that will take a lifetime to cultivate. It's a worthy challenge.

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