I learn a lot talking with musicians, visual artists and dancers, perhaps more than talking with other writers, playwrights and theater people. When I talk with people who do what I do, no matter how much I can't stand expert syndromes ("I've done this for __ years, what more is there to know?"), I still don't want to sound like a novice. Neither do they, I imagine.
When I talk with artists who have more experience in other fields than writing or theater, I'm more open with my questions. It's easier for me to remember that I don't need to prove myself. I feel less like, "Oh I should already know this (famous artist/process/art piece), so I'll pretend I know and then look up the (trivia/advice/history) later. Instead, I allow myself to say, "Who/what/why's that?"
With the right people, vulnerability combined with curiosity and interest adds up to fabulous conversations that connect us across disciplines. This cultivates empathy and helps both sides navigate new territory and ideas. Sure, some people are more willing to dish out shame than nonjudgmental answers, but a lot fewer than I fear.
These thoughts occurred to me after brunching with musicians last weekend. I learned about their recent recording processes. I discovered how many ways their experiences aligned with what I know about submissions, publications and play productions. I asked a lot of questions. I uncovered new ways of doing things. The musicians enjoyed opening up and telling me what they knew. I enjoyed doing the same. We had a great conversation.
This all served as a great reminder to embrace an interdisciplinary, transdisciplinary and multidisciplinary approach in my own art.
Our brunch talk also prodded me to ask other writers and theater makers more questions. Why assume I know how others do what they do because they do what I do? Why try to be smart around other people who write every day, instead of beginning again each moment? When I allow myself to ask questions that show I don't know something, I create an opportunity for learning and better conversations.
Maybe it's just me shutting up so I look like I know what I'm talking about, but if everyone wants to look cool as though, "Of course I've seen that play/read that anthology/heard that speaker/trained in that practice/learned that technique," then what are we talking about? What are we learning?
I have a lot to learn about bravery, vulnerability and honest communication.
Outside of talking with artists about their craft and process, these simple thoughts remind me that though time spent with people who share my experiences and perspectives leads to cushy delight in the form of nods and knowing laughter, it's important to cross bridges and sit with people whose views oppose my own. Talking with people who hold contrasting ideologies can feel uncomfortable and difficult, but they teach me where people come from, which makes it easier for us all to learn something.
After I go outside my comfort zone into a difficult conversation about Donald Trump, let's say, or rampant racism in our culture, it's important for me to return to an cozier environment where I'm surrounded by people who share my beliefs -- even if it's me alone in a room with my books. This strengthens me with self-care, so I can go out again later and determine where we all stand without attitudes of judgment or defensiveness further dividing us.
So get out of your room (I'm telling myself). Ask more questions. Eat all the berries.
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Process notes on a work in progress (me). This mostly contains raw rough content pulled out of practice notebooks. Occasional posts also invite you into the way I work, with intermittent notes on the hows and whys on the whats I make. Less often you may also find prompts and processes I've brought to workshops, as well as surveys that help me gather material for projects. Similar earlier posts from years ago can be found on: