Hot tears spilled onto our diva’s pillow as she contorted her mouth into the shape of a cry, but no sound came out. The pain in her stomach had gotten progressively persistent all week, but this was really unmistakeable. It was a good thing she didn’t have to do anything on this Saturday. Perhaps she would just stay in bed all day. Probably a good idea, she thought, since she had slept fitfully throughout the night. Hunched over at the shoulders, she felt the sensation lighting up her belly. It made her core muscles contract and she could feel herself just holding them there. This near-constant state of holding these muscles to try to subdue the pain was becoming exhausting.
The chiming notifications on her phone had been harassing her all morning. She was in no state to deal with newsfeeds at the moment. But as she leaned over to silence her phone, vehemently clearing her throat as she did, she noticed one of the notifications was from her inbox. Her mouth went dry as she further noticed that it was a reply from Nick at Hail House.
The Day 11 challenge on your journey is to brainstorm your project statement.
She scrambled to open it; having to enter her passcode at least twice since sleepy fingers and burning pain in one’s stomach doesn’t seem to equal accurate dexterity. Finally opening the email, she forgot about her pain for a moment and did a little happy dance in bed. “He’s into it!” she rasped. Nick had responded positively to her email. He wasn’t kidding or just trying to put her on when he said the other night that she should get in touch.
Biting her lip, our diva felt a bit of shame as she realized how vague she was in that first email. He was wondering, understandably, when she wanted to perform it. He tossed out early May since she had mentioned that the project was still being built. That sounded good to our diva. Just enough time to get herself in gear but not too much that she would lose steam on the project. He also wanted to know if she had collaborators or an ensemble. Finally, he was wondering if she had any media to start promoting it. “Of course, I should have all that stuff” she chastised into the morning light around her. “Okay, well, time to get at it.”
I made this happen…
Assuming that this pain in her stomach was not going away on its own today, she popped a number of Prevacid and started her coffee-making ritual. As she ground the beans and heated the water, she felt a bit impressed with herself. “I made this happen,” she said with a slight grin. She continued, “My career hasn’t passed me by without me even knowing it. My career hasn’t completely passed me by while I thought I had been planning it. I’m not just one of those lilies clogging up the lake. This career is still open to me; heck, it’s even still in the making.” This was her quick win. It just took that little bit of outside reinforcement to motivate her work. She was still feeling exhausted and looking forward to a lazy Saturday, but she thought, “I’m just gonna work on this for a little bit.”
The copy of Beyond Talent by Angela Myles Beeching was still lying open on her coffee table where she left it a week ago. She grabbed her laptop as she flipped through the pages and the “Mapping Your Project” list caught her eye. As usual, she started creating an outline. Beeching’s list helped her start her own:
Brainstorm Your Project Statement
- What would be the ideal accomplishment of this project?
- How can I create a call to action around this goal?
- What is my “why”?
- Who am I?
- What do I have to do with this project?
- Why is this project important to me both personally and professionally?
- How does this fit into my long-term plans as a singer?
- What are the specific elements of this process?
Our diva started tackling the different prompts in this list. On the surface, it always seemed easy to answer things like, “who am I?” and “Why is this project important to me?” but she quickly realized that she wanted to get deeper than surface level answers. She pushed herself to really think about it and come up with some positive answers as well as what she may be hiding from herself. There were answers like, “This project is important to me because I want to be seen by other people in my field as creative, organized, and accomplished.” that made her feel vain. But, it was honest. That’s what she needed. She wasn’t planning on sharing this document with other people. This was for her. This was for her to figure out what would help her stay focused and motivated to create this performance when she only had her meager resources with which to work.
What are the specific elements of this process?
As she was pondering the third point, “What are the specific elements of this process?”, she started to acknowledge that she saw this project as more than a one-night performance. She began to see it as a residency project. This opened up a whole new line of questioning.
- What are the specific elements of this process?
- Who is my audience?
- How long should this project last?
- The specific idea is ‘mental health’. How can I get clearer on how I want to address that?
- What is the goal for my audience? Do I want them to learn something? Do I want them to just experience the music? Do I want them to interact with each other? With me?
- What specific repertoire am I going to use for this? Why those pieces?
- What kinds of activities can I create that will get everyone to participate? Can I make the performances and activities all work together? How can I fully make use of the venue space with these activities?
- Why am I doing this through music?
Outlines and mind-maps, oh my!
She had a lot of questions to mull over. Under “who is my audience” she just started writing specific names of people that she thought would like this type of residency (just typing that words “residency” gave her chills.) She noticed that each one of those people would be more interested in different aspects of mental health to be addressed. Nerves started to kick in. She despaired over the fact that there was no way she could plan a performance that addressed all of those things in a cohesive way. Calming herself down, she flipped to a new page on her scratch pad on the coffee table and began mind-mapping the correlations between each one of those mental health topics and the corresponding repertoire in her imagination. It felt better to get it all out on paper.
Coming back to her main list, she began again:
- What is your “track record” of success so far?
“Ugh, thanks, Angela.” she thought. “Okay, okay, not very much. But, I have these other performances to draw on for the singing part. I have the volunteering experience to help me craft the participatory experiences. I also have a ton of scheduling and organizational skill from my job. Maybe I can mix all of that together here. Does that seem like a successful track record?” She pressed on.
Who are my collaborators?
- Who is on my collaborative team?
- Who do I know really well that has the talent, task-understanding, and time to come onboard to this project?
- Who do I know that would be really committed to the mission of this project?
- What kind of skills do they need?
Our diva knew that for this type of residency to work she needed to have a collaborative team that went beyond musicians and artists. She wanted to partner with mental health professionals too. She figured that because she could think of one group outside of the musician skill set that there were probably other types of people that might be helpful to her collaborative team. It wasn’t easy to think of more but she took the time to do it before she started filling out her list again.
Deadlines, metrics, and money…
- How long do you anticipate this will take?
- What is the greatest barrier to this taking place by this scheduled time?
- What kind of measurements can you put in place to define results?
- How will I be able to provide convincing data to show that this project was a smash-hit?
- Can you measure process, outcomes, objective indicators of change relative to goals, or more subjective indicators?
- How much money will you need?
She hit the question mark key, then promptly closed her laptop with a satisfying snap, and got up. “Nope, not ready for that part. Need more coffee. Definitely more coffee.” She strolled off to the kitchen. A combination of exhaustion from poor sleep and pain was mixing with the adrenaline of working on an exciting project. It was like enthusiasm fatigue or something in that vein. She thought that this must be what entrepreneurs feel like all the time.
Could I change the game?
Pouring more coffee into her favorite oversized snowman mug, she remembered this story she read while researching effectuation the other day.
“Imagine a game where you win if you pick a red ball. There are three jars in front of you. One has an equal number of red balls and green balls. The second contains balls but you do not know how many are red. And you have no idea what the third jar contains. Which jar do you choose?”
The book went on to describe different types of responses that entrepreneurs have. But, later, it had a little anecdote that knocking around in her brain.
“Whatever the initial distribution of balls in the jar, I will continue to acquire red balls and put them in the jar. I will look for other people who own red balls and induce them to become partners and add to the red balls in the jar. As time goes by, there will be so many red balls in the jar that almost every draw will obtain one. On the other hand, if I and my acquaintances have only green balls, we will put them in the jar, and when there are enough, we will create a new game where green balls win.”
This story sprang to her mind because she realized that those good feelings and this quick win came about when she started to rethink how she would play the game. She didn’t have to worry so much or pray to pick the one red ball that might be hiding in a vast sea. She started realizing that she had the ability to acquire more red balls and she started to day dream a bit about what it would be like to change the game or even create a new game.
29 Days to Diva: The Worksheets
Want some help completing your Day 11 challenge? 29 Days to Diva is all about tackling the big issues of our careers through micro-actions. What can you do today to move yourself closer to unlocking your artistic integrity or achieving your biggest goals and dreams? Here is a handy checklist that you can download to help you get your project statement together.
Hey divas! I could really use your help. If you liked today’s post or any of the 29 Days to Diva posts so far in this series, will you please share it on your favorite social media channels? It would really help me out. Thanks! You can find me @mezzoihnen or feel free to use the hashtag #29DTD or #29DaystoDiva.