Super Shitty Art is extremely similar to my 80% Manifesto, but so much more fun to say. Check out my friend/hero Eri's Instagram feed, supershittyart, to experience the drawings that started a world-wide wide movement. Well, a Durham movement, that's sure to break out soon. My attempts to comprehend/explore my relatively new passion, astrophysics, through super shitty paintings, were featured in the Mercury Studio Instagram feed. I'm so proud. And so grateful to be a part of a community of such an amazing group of people. Best-coworking space, ever.
a quick tip: click on an image to make it larger and easier to see/read
The first morning of the Au Contraire film festival, I attended their youth program (along with a couple hundred high school students). The organization Art With Impact (AWI) screened a selection of short films that presented different perspectives on mental illness, that (see above image) I found really moving and powerful. The other thing that impressed me so much was the way that Cary McQueen (executive director of AWI) structured the presentation in order to allow sufficient space for the audience members to observe their response to each film.
I feel very grateful that as an adult, I've been able to practice close listening to my body and learned to trust my body as a highly reliable source of information. I don't always remember to pay attention, but I've gotten much better at it over time.
But as a teenager, I don't think I ever had an adult guide me through an exercise that encouraged me to pay attention to my response to an experience such a holistic way. Not just what I thought about something, but what I felt. And not just what I felt, but where in my body I felt it.
After the presentation, Bebe (my dear friend and a consulting producer on Bipolar Girl Rules the World who joined me on this adventure) and I went to find the river. And we did. And the sun was warm and the air was cold and I could really, really breathe. And the river was beautiful.
I've done pretty well this week at remembering to listen. And my entire experience has been that much richer for it.
Also, total bonus: both Cary and her colleague Natalie Daley are awesome and generally speaking, kick butt. As does Art with Impact. Go see for yourself!
October is ADHD month!
Last week, I sat down with Bebe Smith and Jaki Shelton Green to explore ideas and come up with a structure for "Listen| Speak: Listen with Compassion | Speak with Vulnerability," our talk at UNC-CH tomorrow!
Jaki hosted us at her kitchen table and provided sustenance to keep our conversation flowing. I'd come prepared with my usual note-taking tools:
What's NOT listed here is what each of you who attend will bring to the conversation. Please join us!
See you soon!
When I tried to type this blog post on my computer, I got stuck. I kept deleting everything I wrote, and starting over again. Sometimes, I spend hours writing and rewriting the same sentence, even though I've taught students in my writing classes that it's much more effective just to keep writing and edit later. I KNOW it's true. Why is it so hard to do?
I'm very excited to be a part of Carolina Partners' initiative to combat the stigma around mental illness. Welcome to my new readers! Here's a bit about me and why I'm committed to the work that I do here on this blog and out in the community.
I BELIEVE STORIES SAVE LIVES. Stories create opportunities for individual and collective transformation. Stories push back hard against discrimination and replace ideology with empathy. One individual’s willingness to be vulnerable can open up a whole world for countless people who are otherwise convinced they are completely alone in their desperation and fear.
An occasional series in which Dawn considers the impact of fear in her creative process, most recently in the context of the acceptance and soon-to-be-screening of her animated short documentary "Fear" (with Andrea Love, who produced this wonderful bit of animation).
A little more than a year ago, I attended the Creative Capital "Strategic Planning for Artists" workshop in Cary, NC, sponsored by the NC Arts Council. (Artists/Makers: if you don't yet know about Creative Capital, you MUST. It's an incredible resource, and I'll happily talk about my experience if you want to learn more. Plus, the other participants you'll meet are amazing and inspiring.)
I’m not exaggerating when I say that I have thought about what I learned almost every day since. The most powerful moment for me came about when Colleen Keegan, the workshop leader, responded to my question about my concerns about applying for funding to support my animated documentary, Bipolar Girl Rules the World and Other Stories (Fear, the film premiering at Tribeca, is both a stand-alone short doc and part of Bipolar Girl.)
I'm dedicating this blog post to my dad, Paul Dreyer. Have fun watching basketball with the rest of the Dreyer guys! And get some sleep.
I've had some wildly exciting moments since I received the call notifying me of Tribeca's selection of Fear for this year's festival. That the film is part of a screening curated by Whoopi Goldberg adds a hefty dose of surreal to everything. As my dear friend/superhero associate producer Jasmine would say, it's definitely extra.
And at times, extremely intense. I have not been able to avoid the irony of debuting a film called Fear while being gripped by intense fear, plus the hundreds of times I've written the word "fear" as I write and revise our press materials.
Late last night, after very little sleep the night before, several hours of fruitless work, and a midnight deadline approaching, I may have have started to weep while talking on the phone with my Dad.
It was like what I've seen with toddlers who are resisting taking their nap, or going to bed at night. There's a collapse that happens at the cellular level. It's like watching a human being suddenly turn into pixels and then all of the tiny colored squares fall to the ground.
My Dad stuck with me through this particular incident, even though it was (eventually) after midnight and he had to be at the airport the next morning by 5 AM. (I don't know that it would have made a difference in what happened, but I did not have this piece of information at the time.)
This isn't the first time my Dad's been there for me with a deadline fast approaching. There was that time in 1984 when my ninth grade science fair project was due, for example. And a few times since then.
One of the many pieces of content requested by Tribeca was the "Filmmaker Interview." My response to one particular question seemed particularly relevant when I woke up this morning. Both are below.
Tell us about an obstacle you had to overcome in the process of making this film and how you overcame it.
It’s Friday, December 4, 2015, and the Tribeca Film Festival’s submission deadline for short films is at 6 PM. I’ve got everything ready to go except for one single empty box. I am possessed. I have lost my sense of time.
I move around sentence fragments, trade out compound phrases for single words, cut adjectives.
I must find the exact 50 words that will perfectly describe my film.
At 5:20 I stop. I realize that the number of ideas I’m trying to squish into the required word count will not fit, maybe ever, but definitely not by the submission deadline. I give myself an ultimatum: whatever I’ve written at 5:30 will be what goes into the box.
I tell myself: these 50 words will not be the deciding factor about whether FEAR is accepted or rejected by the festival.
At 5:30, I paste my description into the form and by 5:40 it’s out of my hands and heading north.
Twenty minutes. There they were, those beautiful minutes, relaxed and inhabiting the shiny gap between potential and failure. That day, I took my ultimatum seriously. It might have been because I was holding myself accountable to my co-director, Andrea, or that I didn’t have anything riding on whether or not Fear was accepted into the Tribeca Film Festival. It was kind of a “why the hell not, you never know” decision.
Twenty minutes might not seem like a lot (no chiming in about submitting the day before the deadline — whatever). But it is to me, because perfectionism has cost me so many incredible opportunities, or made them much more difficult than they needed to be, leaving me too worn out to look forward to building on my achievements. The hardest thing has been missing out on opportunities for collaboration, which requires letting go of work before it’s perfect so other people can join me in the creative process.
I’ve gotten much better about identifying and resisting the siren’s call of perfectionism. As I’ve approached Tribeca and other opportunities for my work to find a wider audience, I feel like my perfectionism has responded by growing larger, as if this is its last chance to protect me from such foolish and dangerous escapades. Right now, I feel like I am dragging around the Stay-Puff Marshmallow Man of Perfectionism. And it’s very human for me to be experiencing fear. I cannot predict the future and new experiences are heading my way. The fear isn’t the issue. It’s the brain freeze and how useless I’ve become as an evaluator of the content I produce. I write and rewrite until the writing process closely resembles several painful and simultaneous acts of plastic surgery.
The irony of fear stalling a publicity campaign for a film called Fear is not lost on me.
Fear’s tagline — “Sometimes, the only thing to fear is fear itself” — approximates my current situation. The big difference between now and years past, when a painful combination of depression, shame, and perfectionism formed an insurmountable entity of evil, is that now I have a last ditch strategy. I ask for help, a lot of help. I tell the same people (shout out to Mercury Studio, Durham, my awesome co-working community) I celebrated with when Fear was accepted into Tribeca that I am now sucking all the joy out of the experience. Just telling them helped. Learning I was not alone in taking this particular approach to success was a bonus.
I don’t expect every act of imperfection to result in an event on par with participation in the Tribeca Film Festival in a program guest curated by Whoopi Goldberg. That would be unrealistic. But I can only keep moving forward as a documentary maker — and as a human being — by strengthening my capacity for imperfection. I truly believe that “good enough” + collaboration paves the way to pretty damn great.
In response to Mel's query (her original post is definitely worth a read): "Where do you find your footing?"
I find my footing walking in the woods, and most deeply, walking (and running) in the woods with an unruly four and a half year old boy named Roan. Who moves with lightning speed from ponderous thoughts about nature and its beauty to ignoring my instructions to stop scraping tree bark with his digging rock (minor disruption, rock goes in my backpack), and refusing to leave the forest at dusk (because he really does have night vision). Or pretending that all the other people hiking the trails are dragons (with one woman obliging growling whenever she drew close). And hearing my manner and words of encouragement reflected back to me as he asks me to to climb "our" tree "exactly like me," in spite of our slightly different size and centers of gravity. Watching the riverbed we explored in the summer growing deeper in the fall. "Accidentally" stumbling off the rocks and into the chilly water on an unseasonably warm day. Roan's rapidly shifting attention and moods, the state of curiosity he inspires, and my observation of my emotional response (surprise, delight, frustration, anger, joy, love) inspire many of my most "in the moment" moments.
I wrote the above post a few hours ago on Facebook, and liked it enough that I decided to post it here, on my blog. Then I kept writing, and a few hours later, realized I'd done a lot of good work, but nothing that was ready to post. And that I was hungry, had missed my opportunity to spend time with friends, and hadn't made any progress on my A1 priority (which was the reason I'd skipped the evening with friends in the first place).
I went back to the original post and read it. I still liked it. I challenged myself to post it without changing anything. That's what you just read.
Revision is tricky for me lately. What I'm about to say isn't about the value of the writing I produced in those hours. It's about how the more I call perfectionism's bluff and experience the joy of connection, the pleasure of my flawed and wonderful work being joyfully received, the more sinister and sneaky perfectionism becomes.
I hate not being able to trust myself. Did I keep writing because I had more to say, or because I couldn't let the original just be?
Perfectionism promises that my fears will disapear once I/my work is perfect. Now I call bullshit.
Just now, I was about to do it again. I closed my eyes and I felt the beginning of another story, a connected story, an important story to tell. I was there, in the right place, at the right time. I felt its intensity. I knew how to start, the words were right there at my finger tips.
As a writer/maker, I've learned to value that moment, that feeling, and right now I'm pissed off that I have to question it.
Because perfectionism has poisoned everything. Every creative pleasure is suspect.
My therapist called my recent revisions to my work plastic surgery. I sobbed (I'd already been crying in frustration) and told her it was a mean thing to say. I knew she hadn't meant to be mean. The intensity of my response had everything to do with her being right.
I'm infuriated that I can't trust myself right now. Am I deepening and enriching my my work, clarifying my meaning, so I can better communicate with my readers? Or am I pressing the knife through the skin to cut away what is most authentic and true about myself, about my work?
Collecting and analyzing data helps:
When I spent those hours writing something new, do you know what didn't get done? The work I'm doing to get my existing good enough projects supported and seen. Coincidence? Hell no.
I'm building a case against you, perfectionism. I'm staring you down. And it's not just me. I've got reinforcements. I know you're only doing your job. But I'm done.
Dawn Dreyer + special guests
Project Updates, Musings, Manifestos, Queries + Conversations
Forget your perfect offering
There is a crack, a crack in everything
That's how the light gets in.
— Leonard Cohen
Thank you, Carolina Partners, for supporting CRACKED [the blog] and Bipolar Girl Rules the World.
For over two decades, Dawn Dreyer has worked as a writer, mixed-media documentary maker, and teacher. Since 2005, Dawn has been an outspoken advocate for herself and others with the lived experience of mental illness. Her current project is the animated documentary Bipolar Girl Rules the World.