Tuesday, December 17, 2013

"to fail and fail big" In Action: Getting Lost in the Loss?

by Jennifer Wright Cook

The Field hosted a free public panel in July for our National Network Conference with Octavio Campos (dance theater artist and queer activist), previous long-term Field director Dr. Steve Gross, Melanie Cohn (Executive Director of Staten Island Arts) and Sacha Yanow (Director of Art Matters Foundation).  The panel was focused on resilience and building artists’ capacity for resilience, and thus, building their capacity for risk!

The astute Melanie Cohn (whose Sandy and post-Sandy work in the arts is deep and strong) reflected on how artists deal with devastation and their resilience in light of this: "Some people get lost in the loss... and other people are able to envision where they go next."

As artists (and as people) we experience loss all the time, small losses and big losses: the loss of a grant or a gig; a bad review (or no review at all!); insufficient recognition and visibility; seeing our peers succeed where we feel invisible; or deciding to stop making work because we are just too darn tired of feeling rejected or invisible or broke.

It’s no joke that artists speak about having postpartum depression after they close a show.  The show’s end, (or any ending) can be devastating.

The list of losses is not short. 
So our question to you, dear reader, is how do you grapple with loss?
Tell us on Facebook if you like.

One of our answers and our aha moment: reflection and goal-setting are key to our capacities to hold loss (and to hold “gain” too!).  Reflection on failure (or success, or even stagnation) is key to our growth and our sense of contentment.  Reflection and goal-setting build our awareness of who we are, what we want and how we can try to get it. 

Reflection builds our resilience.

But one of my failures as Executive Director at The Field is that I convince myself that I am too busy to reflect, to analyze, to set goals.  I gotta get things done! Now!  I prioritize action and product over process. 

Many of us do this in our art-making too: the show is somehow more important than the process of making of the show. 

The rub?  The creative product often reflects this rushed, unclear, unreflected creative process.

So here are some questions for you to provoke your reflection and goal setting:
What do you want to achieve with your art-making?
What’s realistic? Really realistic?
What is essential to your vision and its implementation?
Why was something successful for you?
Why was another thing not successful?
What can you change or work on?
Do you have a trusted colleague with whom you can speak honestly about your work, goals, process and product?

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