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Making a Folk Night: DIY Edition

Two nights ago, I hosted a beautiful, magical event. With some help from a couple STAMP members, we pulled off an evening of new work written and performed by our peers, in an atmosphere of calm and ease so often unfamiliar in our stressful, work-inundated environment.

We drank hot cocoa, we listened to poetry and music and scenes – all original work written by the students of the SOT. It was inspiring, and I have heard only positive responses from those who came out.

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This idea was my baby. Was I precious about it? Sure, maybe. But it was my firstborn child, the first event here at the SOT that I thought up and proposed and advocated and planned and set up and hosted. I put a whole hell of a lot of work into it, with the help of a few wonderful and crucial peers.

 

And of course I made mistakes. I learned a LOT from the process. Here are just a few lessons I’ll take away from this event:

  • Twinkly lights make or break an atmosphere.
  • Go slow, do the work thoroughly – even if you have no help. I was rushed in the few hours before, frantically setting things up and doing things quickly rather than intentionally. Much of this was due to only having two people there to help, but I could have stopped, taken a breath, and been more deliberate about using my energy.
  • It is your responsibility as the event host to make the event as accessible as possible. One stumbling block we ran into was that people were afraid to sign up ahead of time, and felt perhaps intimidated by the structure of emailing ahead of time to confirm their participation. Of course – that was sort of the point. I wanted to create an event that would be a little bit of a risk for people, to push people out of their comfort zone and take a chance with sharing their work. As usual, there were a couple of brave souls who led the charge, and then after they went and people saw how low-key and fulfilling it was to share, tons of people approached me to sign up.
  • Take hold of the room, for better or worse. Acknowledge what is happening. Are the lights falling off the walls? Okay. Acknowledge it. Is someone prefacing their work in a way that is detrimental? Acknowledge it, and support them in being bold. Is someone sharing something highly personal with a large group of people? Acknowledge it, and throw your positivity and compassion behind them. It was my responsibility to lead by example at this event, which was a challenge and also a very useful learning experience for me in cultivating optimism and joy.

 

I did a f*ck ton of work for this event – physical work, mental work, emotional work. And it was a tremendous success. I am proud of that work, and I will hold that effort, that success, and these lessons with me as I continue to produce other events in the future.

 

But here’s the kicker:

A lot of people didn’t show up. A few people really let me down. Some of my peers acknowledged the work I had put into making this thing a reality but many didn’t, either because they didn’t know or because they didn’t care. I have to be okay with that. I have to remind myself that almost all of the work we do in this field is behind the scenes, goes unnoticed or unappreciated, is fundamentally thankless, and will never see the light of day. Okay. I can handle that. At least, I’m learning how.

But it did make me think twice about the kind of collaborators I want to work with in the future. I want to surround myself with people who will show up – no matter what. I want to be in a room with people who will do the work, regardless of whether or not anyone will notice or thank them for it. I want to lead by example and support other people who are taking risks and being bold and I want to DIY the sh*t out of my career.

I’m grateful for this experience, regardless of how hurt I might be that I didn’t receive the support and encouragement I thought that I would. Maybe that was for the better. Maybe I needed to be reminded, before I leave the cocoon of the SOT and enter the real world, that I’m going to have to fight for the work I want to make and I will mostly be fighting alone.

 

Well. Okay. Bring it on.

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