Try 101

Practice — Process — Projects

Category: Riffs + Spiels

Instinct or Intuition?

by tjbeitelman

Is it instinct or intuition?

My instincts are sometimes right. Sometimes they’re wrong, though. Instinct is fight-or-flight. For me. For me, fear is usually in the room. Fear is wrong a lot. For me. Maybe most of the time.

Intuition is something else. A slower burn. Something else is in the room. Something larger and nameless. Something that can last. Something that isn’t me. Something that’s never been wrong.

To Do List

by mark neely

If you keep a “things to do” list, you know there is no magic moment when everything is checked off and you no longer have “things to do.”

If you ever have achieved this magic moment you are 1) unemployed, 2) childless, and 3) have a live-in chef/housekeeper. Or maybe you are just incredibly efficient and organized. If so, I don’t like you.

“Things to do” can get in the way of the things you want to do. These things are always an excellent excuse. Answering email or going to the grocery store are both easier and require less thought than writing chapter three. I have a friend who calls this (substituting one task for a harder task) “virtuous procrastination.”


Usually “things to do” come first–they are pressing, urgent, affect the lives of family and colleagues.

But if I let my to-do list stop me from writing for very long I become listless, angry, despairing, impossible, or some combination of the four.

Although it isn’t always possible, there are times when I put writing first, and the to-do list second, knowing I will pay for it later.

Here is a different kind of list. Things I do when I want to get my writing blood cells moving towards the brain. Read the rest of this entry »

When you line up the dots, and the path they make isn’t where you meant them to lead you…

by kathrinewright

It’s time to move the dots.

Or change the dots.

Or get rid of dots altogether and use another analogy.

Like this. I have made a lovely life filled with stars. They are not dots, though they appear to be, by naked eye.

When life hands you a telescope, you better go out in the dark and see more.

When you know (know) how it should be, you are obligated to make it so.

Tomorrow (today) you could be almost 50 and realize how short the distance is until your end of the road. How long the distance is to where you need to go.

And it’s time now to get there, go there, make do, make it happen, move the metaphor, mix the message, mind the gap, build the bridge, bind the wheat, do the work to find the way.

Kalo Mina!

by ajanefountas

Καλο μηνα, pronounced kalo mina, literally means “good month.” It is a Greek wish expressed to others on the first day of the month. Like today, the first day of October. I wish you a good month!

“Good,” I often think, gets short shrift. The word “great” has come to overshadow “good.” But I like “good.” It’s meaningful. “Great” easily becomes overrated, but to be good at something, to do good, well, that’s something solid.

So when I wish you a good month, or kalo mina, or καλο μηνα, I really do hope you have a solidly good month. You might even want to make a list right now. What would make this month a good month for you?

My list: (1) write many new words toward a certain project, (2) better understand product management, (3) enjoy a trip east. Your list, like mine, doesn’t have to be long. Not many things have to happen to make a month good. Just do good things for yourself and others.

Magnets Know Something, or A Few Things I Learned About What’s Positive About Knowing When to Be Negative

by sophiakartsonis


So I just got married.  A wedding is a funny and rather unique activity in that there is so much time and money aimed towards a party that must be fully-imagined but never pre-staged.  At least for a certain kind of reception-hall where one plans and plans and hopes for the best, there is only months of envisioning, spending and sending things along to a group of people who will set up this elaborate stage for a largely-scriptless play.  It is, at best, mild madness, at worst, a runaway train of money and expectations. There is an abundance of information designed to make the planning easier, but often, only encourages more excess that makes it necessary to question just whose side these “helpful planners” are on. (The terms: welcome basket, groom’s cake, bridal post-wedding brunch were quickly banished in our home.)

To note:  I am not your twenty-something first-time bride. Though this is a first (and last) wedding for both of us, we are both old-enough to be a few weddings in by now.  For him, this meant going along with church and hoopla that had never been his style. He did it for me and my family.  For me, this meant I knew about perfect. Where it counted and how little I cared for it. If I could have something perfect, it would be my husband’s health.  Nearly fours years together has us realistic about what this means or can mean.  A perfect wedding? Really? I could not care less.

I cared about never acting frazzled, bitchy or imperious. I gave glowing reviews every chance I got. In fact, aside from one theft involving an artist collecting my money and never sending anything for it, followed by suddenly disappearing, I had never left a negative review. I guess the notion of “say something nice or nothing at all” informed this, followed by a bit of “I barely write what I wish to write why waste my time texting out my displeasure?”

As I write this,  I have thirty-two dollars and seventy-seven cents in my checking account. The wedding was ten days ago and I am still recovering. It was a wonderful evening but it was not without glitches. No matter. I expected some.  Why then, have I written no fewer than six negative reviews for the reception hall venue nestled in Millcreek canyon and providing all of the pricey ambiance that any Utah wedding might?

Because it is such a ridiculous industry. Because to be human and humane during this process is not easy. It’s even more difficult to do while avoiding such things as “The Run of the Bride” or the bridal shop where I walked into to get measured, newly engaged and all lit-up who told me that “we will not measure you if you are ordering your dress online, it is out of respect to all of the brick and mortar bridal shops.”

Hey, I’m liberal, academic, all about some bricks and mortar, but my dress, I fell in love with it and the quality was astounding and the price?  Less than a fraction of what you’d imagine. I am no princess, and I like fashion more than a little, but a good dress can be had and I am not sorry that I shopped wisely for mine. I left with a sinking-feeling. I had not yet found dresses for my line and had walked into the shop hoping to get measured and find some possible bridesmaids frocks as well. I went home and found their dresses online, too. I had no desire to be spoken to that way again only because I chose to go hundreds instead of thousands of dollars for a dress to be worn for one day. (A trick: most dresses for bridesmaids come in white and ivory, many are full-length and as lovely as many astronomical “wedding gowns.”)

But back to the reviews, my cruel-to-be-kind attitude and the wedding industry, here’s what I’ve learned. Venues make or break the lives of florists, bakers and even the sites designed to help out the bride with good information (The Knot, Wedding Channel/Wire etc.)  The problems with my venue were not unique to me (missing appetizers, rude wait staff, an oddly arrogant owner, and issues on the bills again and again that work in the venue’s favor) and had been listed in many reviews. Where were these reviews when I looked? They were tucked behind the great reviews (many of which are fake, and in response to poor reviews that get stuck at the end of the reviews or worse, on another link entirely, only viewable if one clicks through to them).  I researched, but I didn’t know how hard places like The Knot work to keep the venues happy and to keep the bad reviews from ever being seen. It makes sense, I am one bride with one wedding. The reception hall is a fountain of weddings and thus, bridal business.

For me then, the only fair thing to do was try to warn the next bride.  My venue would be workable if you had the money for it (plan to have that $36 dollar a person bill end up closer to double-it or even nearly triple, if your guests like mine, are mammals and might crave any sort of liquid with their meals–not just alcohol which is wildly-overpriced and impossible to track as they use kegs and one cannot ever tell how much of keg was really consumed–but coffee or tea, there will be an extra charge. In fact, there are extra charges for nearly everything and  you will want to track them all:  any tablecloth at all, let alone color which only a king could afford, candles, and gratuity, enormous gratuity for a wait staff even if you go with a buffet instead of sit-down service). But the money for the venue will not be adequate. You will require a very savvy, top-notch wedding-planner.  Not one with the venue, someone on your side. They are there to protect you. (I splurged on the venue as I thought that their wedding coordinator would fulfill this role.) If you find an independent wedding planner, as I noted from some of the reviews, you will also find that some wedding planners will refuse to work with your venue, so hard it is to secure a good experience from it. (I wish I had known.) If you have all of this money, you could go almost anywhere and have any menu and need not fuss with such a venue at all.

None of this is really interesting to anyone but those zombified-souls wandering in the land of Pre or Post Weddings. But to me the issue of being negative without ruining something crucial that is tied to the negativity was interesting.

Upon finding my reviews, the wedding coordinator (whom I had written again and again asking for answers, assistance, reimbursement and received none of them) said “but you seemed so happy that night, I don’t understand.”

I was happy and I am happy and part of what made me so happy was knowing that I was presenting myself as I had wished to, despite so many mishaps.

The truth is:  I found a character and wrote the reviews from that perspective.

I gave the stories away and kept for myself the photos, the great moments and left those to rest outside the bitterness.

I was pleased to see myself stand up for myself and for my family who had felt more than a bit embarrassed and ripped-off.

I thought of the next bride and that my reviews might help lead her to do more research and to be able to fully enjoy something so wildly extravagant in its promise, its emotional weight, the gathering of people there only to celebrate love and remind you of theirs. And I am thrilled to have done it, to be beyond it and to have had with me that night and always, the most amazing someone that I get to call “husband” a word that I still stumble over but in a good punch-drunk-tripping sort of way.  I am digging marriage, and as for the wedding, you won’t find a more toothy, dorky-joyful looking bride in any hundred photos anywhere.

All Ye Need To Know

by mark neely

“Make art. Make art!”

Glen Hansard yelled out these words at the end of his acceptance speech at the Academy Awards, as the “let’s move this thing along” music began to blare and just before the microphone went dead.

When I start to worry whether the work I’m doing is good, bad, worthwhile, publishable, award-worthy, smart, horrible, ignorant, etc. I let these words run through my head like a kind of medicine.

“Make art.”

What’s New?

by tjbeitelman

The only thing new is you finding out about something. Like nothing’s really new, but you reinvent it for yourself and find your inner voice.

Mike Watt, punk rock bassist, most notably of the Minutemen

I’m a late bloomer. Always feels like what’s new to me is old hat to most of the rest of the world. Here of late, it’s been that way with the Minutemen for me, and Eighties-era American punk rock in general. Is it even possible to have a nostalgia response to something you didn’t experience the first time around? Maybe. But honestly, when I was a kid, punk rock scared me. Anything loud and dissonant scared me.

Now, pushing 42, “loud and dissonant” doesn’t scare me. Not always, anyway. It often makes me feel more alive. (Another great Watt quote, c. 1985: “We’re trying to show people we’re alive and that’s about it. I wish that was enough.”) Read the rest of this entry »

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.

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.