Try 101

Practice — Process — Projects

Month: July, 2013

What Try Means

by tjbeitelman

Back when we first started Try 101, a little over a year ago (BTW, happy belated birthday, Try!), I had grandiose visions of writing a sprawling “manifesto” — a call-to-arms for Creative Types who were looking for a different, more holistic approach to making what they make. An approach that, of course, emphasized process over product but that also incorporated the whole of our lives. Art (or whatever you want to call it) doesn’t happen in a vacuum. It happens within the context of individual lives, shared lives. Body, mind, spirit. Other body-mind-spirits. The culture at large. The interplay matters. Maybe it’s the whole point of creating anything at all.

With those ideas in mind, I posted a few installments of the manifesto as I completed them. Then last week, I decided to scrap the manifesto entirely. Strike it from the record.

Try has become its own thing, and being a part of its creative evolution over the last fifteen months or so has been a gratifying experience for me. I’d much rather honor that than get (and stay) on some soap box.

Try 101 is much simpler than any manifesto. We don’t need thousands of words to explain what we’re up to. We just need one: Try.

Try means effort:

  • Try your best!

Try means experimentation:

  • Give it a try!

That’s it.

Simple. Not always easy. In art (or whatever you want to call it). In life. Trying can be, well, trying. “Failure” is always possible. Perhaps it’s even likely. There’s certainly no guarantee of “success,” especially if you define “success” as “not failing.”

“You play, you win. You play, you lose. You play.” That’s a great quote from a great Jeanette Winterson novel. Appropriately enough, it’s called The Passion.

That’s what Try is all about to me.

I’m happy, lucky, and thankful to be a part of it.

The Twenty Most Important People in the World

by tjbeitelman

“There’s a great line in a Destroyer song: ‘Formative years wasted / In love with our peers, we tasted / life with the stars.’ I couldn’t have found language that was more clear about that whole idea of what we were doing. The twenty people who understand what you’re talking about are the twenty most important people in the world. Maybe that’s the difference between professional culture and outsider culture. Our antennae were tuned very specifically for like minds, as opposed to sending out a signal to convert people. There are some kinds of art that are trying to find their peers, and there are other kinds that are trying to make peers.”

Jenny Toomey, musician, arts activist, and co-founder of Simple Machines records,
Quoted in Our Noise: The Story of Merge Records (The Indie Label that Got Big and Stayed Small) by John Cook with Mac McCaughan and Laura Ballance

Five of who are you looking at/for?

by kathrinewright

  1. The me that is less than four years old, uneven bangs, uneven pigtails, a cotton long sleeve pajama top with pink (what? Stars? Dots? Hard to tell). In front of a collage poster of an astronaut, a rocket launch or three, the solar system, a moon landing. The photo – a Polaroid – is scratched, uncared for.  What did I know then of who I’d become?
  2. The me on the rock, which we’ve painted in honor of a dear friend’s 19th birthday. A thinnest version of myself, and tannest And pitchiest, the high highs, the so-so lows.  The five-dollar shoes, blue-light special. The me escaping from everything I was and little clue of where I’d be going. You don’t see how broken apart love was for me, then. I didn’t wear fly it as large as it felt on the inside, no quiet to be had.
  3. And me, there a new bride, all teeth in the smile, charging right to it, through it, no clue how to make love last. And you, too. Somehow we did, have, will.
  4. The photos and photos, now stored online, in a file, with kids in my lap, in front of me, ready to bolt from the frame. Now they’re taller than me and really stepping out of view. You have no idea how you’ll miss them, from their first step, the nostalgia begins, and they leave, then leave, then leave. It’s what you need them to do, what they need to do. And there they go.
  5. Catch me now, and I’m certain I look as sarcastic as I feel. As good as I need to. And also, as calm, as settled, as content, as comfortable. A little too. This is what I aimed for. Is that luck, a lottery, a lark? A little. 

Learning As I Go

by tjbeitelman

I’m sanding the front door to my house so that I can put a fresh coat of paint on it. Here are ten things I’ve learned in that process:

  • I could keep sanding forever. Just when I think I’m done, a new rough edge presents itself.
  • I’m using the tools I have, which aren’t ideal.
  • I’m not the best in the world at sanding things. I’m not very good at it at all.
  • I avoid doing things I’m not very good at.
  • I spend a lot of time and energy wishing I was good at things I’m not very good at.
  • I’m the one who has to decide when to stop sanding and start painting. This will require guesswork.
  • In the end, the door won’t look perfect. It might not even look good.
  • I’m the one who has to decide what’s good enough.
  • “Good enough” is better than it looked when I started sanding.
  • “Good enough” is probably better than I think it is, but it’s not the end of the world if it isn’t.

Turns out sanding a door feels a lot like writing a novel or teaching a class or doing anything else that really matters to me. I can’t do it perfectly. I don’t even know how to do it well. If I tried to learn how to do it well before I started, I’d never start, much less finish. I know that’s not how it is for everybody, but that’s how it is for me. The best I can hope for is to learn how to become incrementally better at it as I go. I may or may not have a passably sanded and painted door when I’m done. But I’ll probably be less scared to start the process all over again when (not if) that time comes.

Half-Cento Half-Broken-Song

by sophiakartsonis

  1. Driving home from work last spring, I see the day’s windfall includes my beloved patio umbrella, fallen off the roof and crumpled, the skeleton of it broken in three crucial places.
  2. I am crying hard when I walk into the house. Driving up to our home that umbrella’s taut perfection of rich wood bones and the color like the eggs of certain songbirds, muted like beach glass, but opaque like the shells, it was a sight so pleasing, so comforting as to be more than itself, as if the whole house lay on the ground: arched where it shouldn’t be and hollow where it should arc.
  3. I am not saying my grief was wholly rational.
  4. “So broke, I can’t even spend the night.”
  5. Whenever I think of blues, I think of that line, of Buddy Guy, of my old friend who found it for me and of how he broke, then broke with me and how twenty-some years later, a postcard arrives in the mail and it’s him: blues-broken and separated from his wife, job, home.  I am grateful but skeptical. Two months later, three hand-drawn postcards, two photographs he took, one through rain legging down a windshield, and a mixed cd,  he vanishes from my life again.
  6. I am a little wistful, but not broken-up. He was a good friend. He went away. I was very sad, but I thought I would never hear from him again.  Once you lay a thing to rest, it’s hard to mourn too hard when it dies a second time.
  7. You can’t step into the same grief twice, I’m told.
  8. Or is it “After the first death, there is no other.”
  9. I began a villanelle called “Broken Patio Umbrella”
  10. The repeating line is “what is broken can be mended but not unbroken”
  11. I was on the phone with my favorite living poet when I drove up and saw the umbrella.
  12. Before I had a home and a man who loved me despite all my brokenness, that poet was home to me.
  13. He wrote a villanelle about Evil Kneivel.
  14. His repeating line:  Beauty is in the way it is broken.
  15.  I find the bones each spring of animals that didn’t survive the season.
  16. I have two jars of bones in the sunroom. One leathery, dehydrated corpse of a frog that died in the mailbox during a simmering summer. His mouth frozen wide in what looks like it’s trying to be a scream.
  17. Bones bleached white are proof we lived, that something stays until it doesn’t.
  18.  Over dinner on our deck, a neighbor chastises me for feeding the animals out here. “You break their normal cycle. You interfere with their patterns, behavior.:
  19. I break a graham cracker into fours and take it out past the mailbox after she leaves. I imagine the perfect hands holding it like a dainty, fragile thing.
  20. Another friend posts a photograph of all the bones her dog had buried in the yard.
  21.  I don’t bury the birds I find dead on the road outside my house. I used to, but now I leave them for the things that live off remains.
  22. “These fragments I have shored against my ruins.”
  23.  The Humpty-Dumpty year.  My whole life tumbled off its nic nak shelf. It was nearly a decade ago, but I can still recall how sure I was that I had felt my last bearable day.
  24. My fiancé put the umbrella back together, The splintered bones of it propped and sealed with the right glue, patience and a hand that mends so that the break isn’t so much forgotten and inconsequential.
  25.  There were many king’s soldiers and many king’s men and women watching over me that black summer.  Three o’clock agony was the worst. Friends called each day to make sure I had survived it.  I meant never to get over it.
  26. “I have learned to love these crippled hands” is a line my friend Nathan wrote back in the nineties, a couple of years before his death.  Sinead O’Connor sang “I do not want what I haven’t got.” It would take me years to see the truth of that.
  27.  A raccoon’s hands are ballerinas gliding on the music of garbage and decay. Isn’t it funny how remains mean both that which is gone and that which persists?
  28. What is broken can be fixed but not unbroken. I have stopped looking for that moment when I might have gone back or he might have come to me.
  29. We are the most finite thing going. Nothing needs to last that long for our use. Each year I see how umbrella-fragile we are.
  30. If beauty is in the way it is broken, it is also in the repair done with such care that it’s almost worth it to know someone would work that hard just to try to set each fracture into wholeness, and sees to it that  each fracture is fortified until the seam reminds not of the crack but of the mend.


(Photo by Karin Carlson-Muncy)