J a n u a r y   2 0 0 4

The CoreSource was a shell of a gathering place before co-creating transformed it.
Guest Writer

Co-creating as living theater
An artist's diary, part 3
by Carolyn Campbell

ear diary,

Oh, mercy. I've been pondering this article for days – the last of a three-part series on co-creating.

In Part 1, I wrote about building the CoreSource Center – and shared the joys of creating a tangible "thing" along with the sorrow I felt upon completion. Part 2 focused on the key elements for successful co-creative partnerships.

Now it's Part 3: co-creating with strangers.

I've written and deleted this article three times. Each felt too systemized, not expressing the real juice I feel when I co-create. So, instead of trying to explain, I'll simply say that, for me, there's nothing as exhilarating. Nothing as unsettling. And nothing that truly engages all of me ... my creative, emotional, physical and cognitive selves.

I think the reason is that I'm not a very good solo creator.

I tried to be, thinking that I should be a solo creator if I was a real artist. But the truth is, I don't enjoy working alone for hours on end. I feel lonely and isolated. Instead, I love melding different voices into a unifying focus. Creating with others gives me a framework, a sounding board and, more often than not, people who have more skill than me in their particular area of expertise.

I simply come with an idea and choreograph the process.

What intrigues me, though, is that co-creating continues to be one of my greatest challenges. You'd think that after 20 years, I'd have it figured out. Yet, with each encounter I continue to learn, stumble, succeed and fail.

When I'm not co-creating, I yearn for it. When I'm in the midst of it, I vacillate between loving it and hating it – wanting to embrace the inevitable conflicts, awkward moments and personal edges, while at the same time, wanting things to just be easy and to just do the job. At times, these opposing feelings butt against each other in the same moment.

The CoreSource, after co-creation.

I guess it's like relationships. We get so much from these unions while we struggle to assert our own voice, reclaim our Self, join with another and detach from expectations.

As I look back over the last four months I'm struck by the contrast between the joy I felt in creating the space and the alone-ness that I felt once it was complete. It makes me realize how vital community is.

How important it is to remember these things as we struggle in our relationships. Perhaps that's what I like most about creating with others. A group of people, strangers or not, comes together to shape life in a new way, however temporary it all might be.

Last night I was invited to speak about melding spirituality and art as a way to find one's voice. I had a rough idea of how I wanted the evening to go. Well, that's not even true. I had three words: Faith. Soul. Voice.

I simply wanted to explore the power and impact these words had on creating and connecting from your core knowing.

I had no idea how many people to expect. I had no idea what they each wanted. I simply brought the three words, along with paper, pastels and a poem by Martha Graham. I wanted to let the evening take its own shape and allow the stories to evolve.

I arrived early to hear the first presenter. She was quite professional. She had notes, a booklet, definitions; all those things my inner critic believed I should have. As I sat listening, I felt my stomach tightening while thinking: Oh my God, I didn't plan every moment! What the heck am I doing?

Instead of listening to her, I started trying to re-plan my presentation, making it more of a "lesson."

My mind became a whir of thoughts, all a-jumble.

And then, I stopped. Breathed. And remembered the words of a speaker/healer I had heard a few months back. He reminded us that, as healers, each time we have a new patient or client we ought to be nervous. As we begin this new relationship, it's natural to wonder if we'll be able to truly connect and, through the connection, heal.

I took another breath slowly into my belly and remembered my intentions: To bring questions. To allow people to discover and express their voice through art. To explore the form of their soul voice.

I would trust. Even with my inner critics screaming.

The CoreSource, 5513 NE 30th Ave., Portland

After a break, I started by sharing my intention for the evening ... letting the audience know that there was no set structure, that we would use those three words as a place of exploration.

Within minutes people were on the floor, coloring. Others were writing. There was laughter. There were tears. People began to shape their stories, to have faith in the power of their voices, to share the deeper calling of their souls.

It was another lesson for me to take note of and remember. I was there to co-create with these women. And though they were strangers, we could create together by setting a simple framework to guide us.

When I succeed – uniting people and their visions in new and unexpected ways – there's absolutely nothing like it. I can literally feel the room shift and the space transform. People step into a new way of being. It truly is living theater. The challenge is remembering to let go of my own critics and honor the co-creative process.

When I do, amazing things happen. When I don't ... well, that's another article.

Carolyn Campbell is a life vision and leadership coach in Portland. Read her previous series in our archives, check out her profile in Sketch Pad, visit her Web site, e-mail carolyn@thecoresource.com, or give her a call at 503-493-9497.

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