Thursday, October 15, 2009

How does this thing work?

"When you haven't done this kind of group project before, it's kind of uncomfortable and you don't know how to be. So everyone tries on different behaviours and styles. Those of us who have done lots of it know it will all swirl around and then settle eventually, as we work into our roles in the group. And you can't pick your role so much as it is given to you, taken away, changed and on and on. I like it, but i like adventures into the unknown and have done enough of it to trust process over product, while others drive the process with anxieties over product - that usually happens too, and it's all good, in my book, and what makes the project happen. Anyway, a blog on this would be interesting - not enough people reflect on HOW things happen - they just focus on what happens or what results. I think the "how" is the most interesting..."

this was the first thing i read this morning, after a well deserved lie-in following a very successful evening of collaboration with my four cohorts. my closed-eye coffee-drinking-in-bed thoughts had included "i should write a blog post today on how the project is going". not that i knew. i write to find these things out. but it's lovely to have one of said cohorts ask the pertinent questions to get me on track, and in such a timely manner.

it's an example of the upside of this collaboration we've begun. it's mostly upside, by the way, but, like life, it's the struggle that makes things interesting.

last night, my struggle was with my anxiety to get to the product, while the process was happening right there, offerring all kinds of fun. and i managed to keep it at bay, mostly, while also fulfilling my role, which i both chose and had chosen for me, to clarify some things, mostly for my own sake, but for the group as well.

there was such a great vibe happening, ideas upon ideas, folks free to follow tangential stories about and around the work we're doing. as much as i wanted to get to MY things, i knew that all these off roads were important and necessary, and the more i let it happen, the more obvious it became.

my struggles in getting to that point were something like a nation's collective vision of democracy, the trap of thinking that our equality makes us the same. i started this project, inspired by Susan. i asked her to join me in it. then Deb told me about her latest book project, putting it together with the aspiring designers under her wing, and i thought "Yes!" and we decided Carol and Roy would be a likely pair to bring on board. Suse thought it an excellent idea, and Deb agreed to come along as well, adding that "big picture" thing she sometimes sees so well. she and Susan both love Process.

and then we were five. a democracy, right? i had trouble at our first meeting, as i tried to step back and be just one of the Five, all equal and the same, on the road to something that would be a collective experience, a Pie of Five Equal Pieces.

Pie in the sky. life isn't like that, nor democracy, nor groups of artists making art.

Carol was part of my last project, but not 'til the writing was done - she sang one of the songs written from a woman's perspective in the show and on the cd for me. she is a lovely friend, and so passionate - especially when she gets on stage. Roy i've collaborated with on a couple of fun things for our DIY getaway weekends, and his songwriting, painting and sculpture have all amazed me. he is also the nicest guy in the world. Susan is a master of group work and the written word, knows me inside and out, and is so generous with it that it hardly scares me at all. Deb is my butt-kicker, mistress of the well-timed nudge, wink, or when necessary, kick. she is a brilliant sideways-thinker and regularly produces pieces of beauty while making it as easy as possible for others to also make them for themselves.

Bob's yer uncle, right? put these five people in a room together and wonderful things will occur, effortlessly and immediately.

strenuously and eventually, more like. i have no doubt that this thing we're doing is going to be great. but i have been surprised, in my naiivete, how difficult it has been to find my way.

while i tried to immediately make it "Our Project", others were seeing it as being a part of "paul's project". so while they were looking for a measure of leadership, i wasn't giving it. and i was expecting instant equal ownership, and of course not getting it.

so last night was a giant step, roles becoming clearer, a structure (which some of us need more than others) making it's way through the fog. and such creative ideas to riff on - not just songs and their writing, but arrangements, visuals, lighting, stories, and the audience experience.

so what's my role? i just had a vision of a cowboy out on the range, sat on a horse, holding a lariat, enjoying the dogies' play, but makin' dang sure they don't fall off that cliff. but i want to be a dogie too.

how 'bout the designated driver? then we're all the same species anyway. i drive us from one fun spot to another, taking it all in, enjoying and joining their forays into mirth and wonder, taking notes and getting us home in the end, where i can let loose if i want. the end of the road will be the performance of Tiny Rehearsals, and i will then more than make up for a few months of DDing.

there's probably a thousand better metaphors for it. i bet one of my collaborators could help me with that.

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