Favorite Posts

March 9, 2016

Update: The links have been fixed!

Here are a few posts I especially like: 
+ identifying stuck-ness
+ thoughts on choosing, decisions (and more decisions- the concrete version)
+ so many, many posts on things I read/listened to/fell in love with
+ bits of the story of finding my own creative work: here, here and here
+ all of the artist interviews

Bringing the Party

December 15, 2015

Calling the lonely, the disappointed, the heartbroken: we're throwing a party for you!

If you are feeling down and out & 2015 has kicked you in the shins a bit, we want you to celebrate your fragile condition with us. My newest project is You Bring the Party, a collaboration between myself, Emily Gastineau, Billy MullaneyTaylor Baldry, dancers Erika Hansen, Charles Campbell & Blake Nellis, and playwright Rachel Jendrzejewski.

Come eat cake, listen to Morrissey & exorcise your demons....with friends!

Save the dates: February 11-14, 2016 at Fresh Oysters Performance Research in Minneapolis.

We're selling just 30 tickets per performance. Sign up here to be the first to find out when tickets go on sale!

What's True Today

December 4, 2015

Not writing regularly is a recipe for creative constipation. Every word starts to feel SO IMPORTANT. Lower the stakes, yes?

The state of the world is a recipe for creative constipation. Everything from the book I'm reading to my recent quest for financial organization feel irrelevant in a world where the police get to be judge and jury for young black men, and mass violence is happening regularly. Put it together with the newly dropping temperatures, grey sky, and my sometimes still very sleep deprived state and why bother? Let's just be sad together and call it a day.

But coming to a standstill doesn't do anyone any favors. (Nor does inaction, so please write your legislators.) I spent a lot of time expecting and fearing that life would come to a halt after having a baby. That December would come and I'd still be on the couch trying to figure out how to breastfeed, worried about how tiny and vulnerable the neck of an infant looks. How can that be safe? But sleeping upstairs right now is evidence that time has passed and change is constant. The newborn days are over! I leave the house and rehearse and work, we juggle the 2 freelancers and a baby thing semi-gracefully, and said baby laughs and gives sloppy kisses and sits up by himself (except for when he falls down in a pile). Ben and I have hit our stride with this parenting collaboration. There is movement, and I am grateful. 

On August 30, my 33rd birthday, I got to chat with Laura who lives in Austin now. She asked me what I want for my new year. It's a question that I love, because I am guilty of too much analysis (something I'm thankful to have less time for these days). I told her that I didn't want more this year, but I wanted to get better at a lot of things; to dig deeper with a lot of things; to get clearer. I'm excited about how this is starting to manifest itself. 

For starters, we've been getting rid of a lot of shit. Literally. There's nothing like a lot of baby gear, even that which is kindly loaned to you, to fill up a tiny 913 square foot house that 2 people also work out of. So we've been purging. And Ben and I had a lightbulb moment and realized that we no longer want to force a business collaboration, and are enthusiastically working on separate endeavors (Ben's website is here, mine is on the way). It felt instantly good

Right now I don't want to make loads of work, but I want to make better work. And to feel like the work brings me closer to people, because that's the whole reason I make my creative work in the first place. I've been reading Sarah J. Bray's book Gather the People- the most bullshit-free marketing book I've ever read (worth every one of the 35 dollars I paid for it and more). Sarah advocates for integrating the making process with the sharing process, and I love this; building your creative work and sharing the process along the way. This is what I've hoped to do here, but a lot of the time it feels like a very impersonal way to share something that feels pretty personal to me. You know?

I'm craving a way of sharing in a smaller space. And so I'm writing a bi-monthly-ish letters that will go straight to your inbox. Letters about building creative work with brains and heart and empathy; thoughts on things I'm learning from the people around me; strategies for lightening the load while we make the work. You can subscribe over here. And I hope this offers up more of an opportunity for me to hear from you. (And yes, I will still occasionally blog. Ideally more frequently than I've been.)

What else? I'm hopeful about a lot of things. This is a strange thing to feel when I also know that the world is going to shit. Some of my enthusiasm belongs to the seemingly shallow and irrelevant: my morning cup of coffee; knowing that I'm ditching my big bank at the end of the year in favor of a credit union; the episode of Rectify I watched with Ben last night. And some of it is downright profound, like the incredibly vulnerable talk Jamie Millard and Meaghan Murphy gave for Creative Mornings Minneapolis 2 weeks ago (which I'll share more about once the video is posted). It is mostly a lot of little things. My baby threw his butt up in the air, pushed his feet off and moved towards a toy. And that felt like magic. He is feeling very pleased to be alive, and I want to find more moments of this same satisfaction.

Thank you for reading.

How to Choose Ideas

November 16, 2015

Hi! BLUEPRINT closed Saturday, and I'm jumping into new projects and feeling the pull of new ideas, and the push back of reality and time limits and budgets. The result: lots of decision making, which is necessary. And a little painful. I thought I'd share an old blog post I wrote a couple years ago for the McGinley Motion blog. And after posting this I'll work on taking my own advice. Wishing you a week of taking things bird by bird!


How to Choose the Ideas That Push You Forward

I’ve decided that the greatest challenge facing artists and creative entrepreneurs is having too many ideas. When I meet with clients about projects, or talk to artist buddies over a beer, their brains are spinning! In some ways this is a great thing. It’s because you have big ideas that you do what you do in the first place. It’s a gift to be an ideas person. Except for when they’re getting in your way...

All too often I hear ideas that are actually huge distractions from the business endeavor or progressing career of the artist. They end up diffusing the energy of the creative person into a million directions, until their most important endeavor is taking a back seat.

They are ideas like:

+ Going back to school
+ Signing onto a project that’s not in line with your goals (or giving you something you need)
+ Changing jobs
+ Changing the direction of your business (or adding new services or products)
+ Learning a new skill/art form that distracts from becoming an expert at your current one
+ Creating a new project just so that you’re eligible for a grant

For the right person at the right time with the right motivation, any of these ideas could be good ones. I’ve had most of these ideas myself at some point. Luckily, I also have a strong inner pragmatist and a couple of accountability buddies who tell me when to shut off the ideas and get down to work. The challenge is pinpointing what ideas will move you and your creative endeavor forward, and which ones are only getting in your way, and sucking up valuable time and energy.

Here's What I've Found Helpful:

+ Write It All Down: Sometimes it just feels good to put your ideas in a safe place and get everything out of your head. Find a notebook or computer file to put them in. Decide which ones to shelve, and which ones actually need to be dealt with now.

+ Make a Mission Statement: Use your personal strengths, past experiences, and training to come up with a paragraph or two about who you are, what you do, and what you\'re working towards. I call these your Suitcase Contents.

+ Craft a 5-year Plan: Create some long-term goals that are driven by your mission statement.

+ Do Not Change Course: Well, try to avoid huge changes, or scratching your plan without giving it a decent chance. Challenge yourself to make micro-adjustments (small changes) or to refine your plan and the steps towards your goals.

+ Get An Accountability Partner: This person should be familiar with your Mission Statement and your Mega Plan. Their job is to help you get as objective as possible, and help you ask The Big Questions.

+ Ask The Big Questions: Your Accountability Partner can help you get honest: Is this idea moving you down the path of your Mega Plan or distracting you? If it's not moving you forward, do you have enough energy to give to it AND your Mega Plan? Or, if not, is it going to eventually give you something that will help further you towards your goals? Does it make you insanely happy, give you a lot of money, or teach you a skill directly applicable to your plan? These things are worth considering.

+ Set An Indecision Limit: I have lost days to indecision. So have a lot of creative people I know. Give yourself a set amount of time to decide whether or not you\'re going to go through with something. Your Accountability Partner can help you with this. Now, go read Steven Pressfield's The War of Art. I'm pretty sure he'd claim that a great deal of our Idea Overload is actually resistance-- a way of self-sabotaging and preventing ourselves from Doing The Work. Our ideas can make things complicated; keep it simple. Keep moving!

I Like You | 2

November 12, 2015

I've read (and listened to) a lot of gritty, beautiful, inspiring, smart things lately

+ Let's make our work, even when it isn't convenient. Let's talk about it mid-process, even when the process gets messy- it's How the Sausage Gets Made.

+ Jess Lively interviews Elizabeth Gilbert, and Gilbert makes some interesting points about making money from our art & being tortured by our creative process. Thoughts?

+ This Terry Gross interview (as in Terry herself being interviewed!) made me feel lots of feels. It turns out that everyone and their mother wants to be interviewed by Terry. Me, too.

+ "I love the thing that I most wish had not happened....What punishments of God are not gifts?" Oh Stephen Colbert, you are an awesome human.

+ It's gritty and inspiring in a different way: Food 52's Smokey & Spicy Paloma, my first cocktail creation in over a year!  

And a couple of personal plugs:
+ BLUEPRINT, the show I've been collaborating with the talented Candy Simmons on for the past 3 years, has 3 more performances. Tonight tickets are name-your-price! 

+ Ben and I chat with Levi Weinhagen for his podcast Pratfalls of Parenting.

+ Small Art is part of Minnesota's big day of charitable giving, raising funds for our new project You Give the Party, featuring an all-star group of collaborators. Even $5 or $10 go far, especially since our awesome fiscal sponsor, Springboard for the Arts, has offered to give us $10 for each of our first $25 donors. You can give here! (Also, a big shout out to three of my favorite arts organizations, Red Eye Theater, Open Eye Figure Theatre, and 9x22 Dance/Lab, who are oh-so-deserving of loads of support in whatever way you can give it.)

Life and Art: Bigger, Smaller, Funnier

October 13, 2015

(Image from Scott Patt's Bigger, Smaller, Funnier)
I love hearing about how artists choose projects for themselves and create parameters around those projects. Artist Scott Patt made a painting a day out of a desire to "sketch, ideate and work more consistently." The result is a huge and awesome body of work-- which you can affordably purchase!

Scott was recently interviewed by Lisa Congdon, and I was particularly taken by a couple things he said about how he chose this huge commitment of a project- a project that forced him to pay attention to "the everyday thoughts, ironies, emotions, and experiences that I often ignored because I was too busy." I love that this project forced Scott to become better acquainted with his everyday life, something that I think a lot about in my approach to making small art. A bit more from Scott on that:

"A little less than half way through the year on piece #144 I had a revelation. Because of the project’s appetite for content, I was forced to source the material closest to me; my own everyday experiences, stories and happenings. I mined years of life-changing personal adventures, photographs, collected ephemera and alliterations that have filled my head, shelves and storage containers for years. Without being conscious of it I had achieved one of the things I had set out to discover. Through the velocity and pressure of the project, my work was being directly informed in real-time by every day life. I was listening better and observing more. The little moments that make life great were the moments that were creating the art."

It's a reminder that I want the line between art-making and life to be a smudged one. It's a reminder that I want to choose projects that will feed me and push me. It's a reminder that our artistic practices (and approaches to life!) can and should evolve and help us to take new risks.

+ Elise Blaha Cripe's Make 29 project (more great parameters)
+ Miranda July and Harold Fletcher's Learning to Love You More project
+ On Decisions (thinking about how we choose projects in the first place)


September 21, 2015

what a difference 4 months makes.

I had a really good day yesterday!

The details aren't super important- or even that remarkable. I've had a string of challenging days coordinating parenthood and work (especially while Ben has been traveling for work), but yesterday a lot of things happened that felt like wins. 

This brings to mind 2 things:

#1- For the love of everything, celebrate your wins. Stop being humble about it, stop spending your energy anticipating that things are going to get worse again. CELEBRATE. Give yourself a high five and drink some wine. Do a happy dance. Tell someone about it that isn't Facebook. We actually could all use being surrounded by more people that are celebrating the good stuff. (Let's also have the common sense to know that this doesn't mean that their lives are peachy easy 100% of the time.)

#2- Change happens. Though at times it's really challenging to remember, it's literally impossible for change not to happen (sometimes for the better, sometimes for the worse). If you're feeling stuck, hang tight. Also: it's not 100% on us to force a change to happen. Sometimes all we have to do is show up fully- that's our job. Sometimes the things around us change: babies get older and trade one crazy phase for another, opportunities open up, transitions get more comfortable, the universe throws us a bone. Life happens in cycles, and these are always fluctuating. We can have fresh starts and do-overs and make tweaks to the things that are driving us crazy. THANK GOODNESS. I've been realizing that it's not healthy to feel so responsible for making things work perfectly (says the person who obsessively googles advice for babies who won't nap). Let go. It will happen. There are more good days in store.

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