Notice & Adjust: evolving as I go
Everything I teach my clients comes from my own experience as a creative person trying to make work that is honest to who I am, and that supports me as a person.
It certainly hasn't been a neat, linear journey (progress almost never is), but I keep noticing and adjusting— peeling the onion.
Here are a few significant moments that have shaped my work, process, and perspective today:
After graduating from college with a degree in theater, I moved to Wales to nanny for the baby of two artists for seven months. The baby's parents, now my dear friends, insisted that the best way of being an artist was to fake it until I made it— to just give myself permission to be an artist. I think about this often.
The next year, I moved to Minneapolis and started making and showing performance work. I set my dances on anyone who was willing to be in them (thank you, friends). I applied for a lot of grants, and got lots of rejection letters. I paid my bills by teaching dance, choreographing jazz hands for middle school musicals, waiting tables, attempting to bartend, and nannying. I relished that I could work on just a few hours of sleep (sort of). Eventually, I got some acceptance letters! I developed my first evening-length work over two years through the Red Eye's Works in Progress program, which championed the Liz Lerman method of giving feedback. I still use aspects of this method with clients.
Seven years ago, I started developing a lot of anxiety around making. It was the juggle of so many jobs (with so little security) and not enough sleep; it was over-identifying with what I made and thinking that opportunities, grants, and accolades would bring happiness; it was following what my colleagues were doing without considering if it was what I really wanted; it was dealing with creative challenges on my lonely, instead of asking for help or connecting to community. And, of course, it was long-engrained emotional patterns that I didn't yet understand. All of this effects how I understand stuck-ness in myself and my clients today.
Six years ago, I decided to pivot how I made money from directing and teaching to advising creative people. I didn't know what this would look like exactly, but I knew that I was good at making things out of nothing, and helping people see their strengths. I wanted to give people the support I'd longed for while making my own work; I wanted to grow a career that would support me better than my unpredictable dance teaching. I started working on my writing muscle, and got a job writing digital content for a financial printing company. I worked with whatever clients I could find— refining my process as I went.
Six years ago I also started to reimagine my art practice— to make small art. I wanted to make my work more sustainable (instead of paying for expensive venues), and to have more opportunity for connection with my audiences. I began producing other artists' work in my living room, and eventually used this small-scale approach to create and tour my own dances. Around this time I also started a blog. I used it as way to practice writing, articulate ideas around making, and connect to other artists by interviewing them about their work. It also helped me realize that my creative struggles were universal. All of this continually reminds me: don't wait for permission. If something isn't working, create a new way. There are lots of ways to have an art practice.
Five years ago, I met an awesome therapist that helped me better understand the root of my anxiety, and the power of childhood emotional patterning. This therapy work helped me work through a lot of my gunk, informed how I understand my stuck patterns, and allowed me to see how mindset and emotions tie into our creative work.
Four years ago I got hired to curate + coordinate the Walker Art Center's Open Field, and was introduced to art as social practice. It made me think a lot about the fluid line between life and art, and wanting to create more of an overlap between the two for myself.
Almost three years ago, I had a child. My work time became more precious, and I had less space for over-consideration and self-doubt— a true gift. The moment he was born, I had a huge urge to create, and to figure out how work, dance making, and parenting would fit together. It has required more clarity and honesty my needs than I before.
In the past few years, I have worked with more than 20 small businesses and creative clients. Every time I work with someone new, I learn about myself and the process of growing creative work. I have seen that experimentation is the only way towards clarity, because there isn't a recipe for "success" (whatever that might mean). I have learned that lists, consistent action, savvy websites and social media are a part of the equation, but learning to lean into vulnerability, connection, and self-awareness holds the deepest value.
My work keeps evolving, and of course, so do I. I am excited about ease, intentionality, working with what I have, and staying flexible. I am not a traditional choreographer, in that I might only make a dance piece every couple of years, and I'm no longer interested in applying for grants just because I can. And, I am also not excited about traditional marketing— I prefer something that feels more like an art practice in its approach.
I am good at making work that is very 'Laura,' and have embraced with age and experience that trying to be someone else doesn't work very well for me at all. I have always been a bit of an oddball— homeschooled in the woods of rural Ohio without a proper amount of processed sugar, for crying out loud— and hopefully I can continue to come to peace with that. In fact, hopefully I can own all of it: what I want, where I've been, and what I do well (and don't), since that's certainly what I would encourage others to do.