Monday, January 16, 2012

Coworking, Groupthink, Collaboration, TPR

Have you heard of the co-working movement?

There actually was a New York Times article about how groupthink is a possibly harmful trend in society away from solitude and creativity.

There is a trend. I created TPR as a collaborative space. I host writing classes in my studio where we group write. I love Downton Abbey because of the whole ant-as-worker idea. The situation of those servants is enviable, all working together to cook, clean and serve, that sounds like my kind of dream. Many hands make light work. That is why people with kids have playdates. That is why GenX parents are paying so much attention to our children, in our own childhood we spent too much time alone. Or something. Don't get me started.

So I disagree some with that article. All I have to do is experience a totally packed yoga class and feel how much power there is in the combination of focused attention. When there is group focus, so much that is non-measurable gets done. The world is changing to accommodate that. I predict we are seeing a paradigm shift and we are moving away from old ideas of success and individualism to something so much more collaborative.

 So the challenge therefore is discipline. A way to work on our individual projects, and at the same time pool our resources. Find ways to support each other, but collaborate on energy and attention. Attention = Power. I am dangerously close to being new-age-y here. But you will know what I am talking about when you think about those moments at a concert or a ballgame. You have experienced it. Think about a party with a good host and the way talk and enjoyment flow. You have experienced it raising your kids and running marathons. Hell you have experienced it watching marathons. There is energy in crowds. It is learning how to manage the work along side the interaction. It's learning how to manage our creative process. It's learning how to use our intuition and apply solitude and concentration to get something done. It is learning to trust the creative process and knowing when to join the group and just get the dishes done and when to do butt-in-chair. Or perhaps the discipline is in making the work the ordinary, the everyday, the norm. It doesn't have to be brilliant. But that is better explored in a different post.

So I hadn't articulated the idea of groupthink when I started TPR, I just knew that it was something I wanted to explore. But now I know what The Practice Room is. It's a virtual coworking model. Maybe not the best one, just the first one that I have come up with. But it's the way of the future and it is only with experimentation and practice that we will get better at it.

 Dianne has an excellent post describing what we do over there. She is a marvelous host every Monday evening 8 pm eastern time zone. Write with her tonight. Try out the energy for yourself.

In other news, I have updated my class page with the first class listing of 2012. Click through here to read about it. We have begun experimenting with using our time together towards developing individual projects using the-crockpot-of-awesomeness model as described by the lovely TPRer, Marisa. We use directed exercises and conversation to supply images as ingredients, then let time simmer them into something complex and nourishing and hot. The final part is what you do on your own. Write, write, write.

Thursday, January 12, 2012

We had an alt mitzvah here last month.

Our alternative, very different and personal event recognizing my son's foray into age 13 and beyond grew organically. Initially influenced by a group of friends we have met with for the last few years that also negotiate a double cultural heritage. They have become a spiritual family of sorts, really proving that it takes many hands to make light work.

This spiritual process of making meaning is hard work.

It is much easier to SHARE prayer, candles, eating, feeding and wrangling of children when you are practicing rituals that you didn't grow up with. One thing that has become crystal clear is that although we all come to the process with this half-Jewish and half-Christian heritage, each of our paths are different and distinctive. And that is part of what I love about this group and my own family.

I come from a family that is large and extended and blended in so many ways and it is from that intricacy of input that I have learned that it is what we bring to the common that creates our life as art. I love how my family celebrates our mainstream holiday. It is with our own particular take on food, wine and family. And it is the thing that is different and particularly ours that is most meaningful to me and what I hope we are passing on to our children.

I wanted this event to illustrate my son's difference, to show what is personal, what is distinctive, how life, coming of age, and alt mitzvahs are art projects.

And if there was any doubt that we were headed in the right direction, it was put to rest when we sorted photos to make the slideshow I have pasted below. You will see in the resulting retrospective what is distinctive and special about my son's interests and how they kept coming back to this moment, his care of creatures of all sorts. You will see photos of movement and dance and performance and art and performance art. Which culminate in a few pictures of food.

My son has been feeding us what seems like forever: pancakes, baking, serving homeless men at St. Stephen's Shelter, and lately combining his knack for beauty and interest in things Japanese with Bento box lunches.

Some of the food related photos involve a recent class project where he made homemade root beer. He had corked the mixture in empty wine bottles and was to take one to school to share with his class. In my husband's instructional and helpful way, he got out a wine bottle and said you will need to know how to open one of these. But this is a boy who has grown up in a bottle-opening household. Needless to say, it was more of an education for hubby than it was of son.

So with the pictures I have tried to locate my son someplace in particular, to say this is where you are, this is what we see, and there is so much more to come. Thanks to all everyone who has called on him with new responsibilities. Those of you that have taught him things in your woodshop, had him stirring an enormous pot in your driveway, raking leaves, building a sukkah, and most of all calling on him to watch your children and teach your children to dance. I am incredibly grateful to those of you that he will call on when he needs. Most of all I am grateful for him and what he's shown me.

We have been learning from him for a long long time. We have these photos from a trip to the Canadian Rockies and whenever any of the adults held the camera we looked UP at the enormous mountains with their snowfields and rock faces. But when my son took the pictures he captured the teeming ferns and flowers that grew around the running melt from the snow. The pictures he took were incredible, these tiny views that we all had just stepped over and moved on. I can't wait to see all the other perspectives he will school me on.


 Thanks, young man, for showing me those things and thank you for every other thing you have yet to teach me. I promise that I will be open and willing to learn. I am excited to learn.