Try 101: The Manifesto (or How to Say Yes to a Life of Effort + Experimentation)
I wrote Try 101: The Manifesto as an open-source treatise on “creativity.” It’s designed to help you (1) make more of the things you want to make but, just as important, I want to help you (2) feel a little bit better about your specific way of making things.
So equal parts Anne Lamott, Twyla Tharp, and maybe some Pema Chödrön. With a pinch of Howard Gardner, a little Malcolm Gladwell. Maybe, if we’re lucky, some John Prine. Anyway, that’s the aspiration/inspiration.
Click here for the full PDF — all 101 pages worth. (It’s free! Print it out, share it, give it away!)
You can also click the PDF link in the TOC below to access the Try 101 syllabus, which comes complete with: a course reading list; a set of accessible and interdisciplinary creative practices; well over fifty prompts for writing journal entries, personal essays, stories, and poems; a slew of revision prompts for poetry and fiction; and a bonus list of “30 Things to Do If You’re Bored or Stuck.”
A quick synopsis, by way of a table of contents:
- Part I — Opening Salvo: Who I Am and How I Got Here
- Part II — Why Try?
- Chapter 1: What It Means to Try (and Why It’s Sometimes Hard)
- Chapter 2: Care + Feeding of the Creative Mind + Body
- Chapter 3: The Creative Spirit Is a Highly Sensitive Teenager
- Part III — The Three P’s: Practice, Process, Projects
- Chapter 1: What It Means to Practice
- Chapter 2: A Kinder, Gentler Idea of Creative Process + Creative Projects
- Part IV — Try 101: The Syllabus [PDF]
Then again, if you just want the Reader’s Digest version, keep scrolling down.
Why Try (101)?
- “Try” implies both effort and experimentation. It can reflect both how and why we work. And it is an emphatic means of saying “yes” to our better, more creative selves. It isn’t always easy, but it’s a challenge worth taking on.
- “101” implies an introductory course — which underscores how valuable it is for any creative person to maintain the spirit of the perpetual beginner.
Try 101: The Three P’s (Practice | Process | Projects)
The Try 101 mindset is geared toward balancing these three aspects of a creative life:
- Practice. Yes, “practice” can mean, like, soccer practice or piano practice, etc. Something you do regularly with the ultimate aim of getting better at it. Getting better at something can be fun (as long as you really want to get better at it). But there’s also the “labor of love” angle of the word “practice,” the spiritual pursuit it can suggest. The two kinds of practice aren’t mutually exclusive. The best kind of practice helps us to do both: to get better at something we want to do well and to feel closer to something larger and more numinous than ourselves. (Pro Tip: one essential tool of my creative practice is writing down a list of 30 Things I Love Right Now.)
- Process. Not all creative processes are the same. In fact, individual creative processes are subject to change over time. Process can be hard to define, hard to talk about, because it’s not always tangible. It’s a set of conditions, a climate, an ecosystem. It’s not the swimming fish; it’s not really the act of swimming; it’s, more or less, the ocean the fish are swimming in.
- Projects. To keep the metaphor going, projects are the swimming fish. The ocean can exist without the fish, but the fish can’t exist without the ocean. If you want healthy fish, it stands to reason you better have a healthy ocean. But, oddly enough, the metaphor only goes so far: not all successful projects are the result of a healthy, sustainable creative process, and even a healthy, sustainable creative process can produce an awful lot of sick-fish projects bobbing (sadly lifeless) on its undulating surface.
Balancing all of that isn’t always as easy as we’d like it to be, so if (like me) you want to:
- Maintain a kinder, gentler, more expansive definition of your creative Practice.
- Identify and honor your own idiosyncratic creative Process(es).
- Bear Projects — wide-eyed, pink, bleating — into the world. (Or not.)
For More Information
Stay tuned to this space for a Try 101 workshop overview and a calendar of upcoming workshop dates and locations.