creativity

Dissonance Collaborates with "Passenger Recovery" in Detroit

The two nonprofits look to help build a national network of artist-support organizations

One of our dreams at Dissonance is to establish a national network of like-minded organizations committed to helping artists maintain wellness, share their experiences with mental health and addiction recovery, and advocate for others. 

We are doing that work in the Minneapolis-St. Paul area and, to some degree, in greater Minnesota. Now, we are looking to collaborate with other individuals and organizations pursuing similar missions.

One such organization is Passenger Recovery, a nonprofit founded by Christopher Tait, keyboardist for indie rock vets Electric Six. We met with Chris when his band's tour brought him to St. Paul for a recent show (opened by our friend Mark Mallman) at the venerable Turf Club. 

Sober Green Room Now Available in Twin Cities, Detroit

We whisked Chris away from the venue for a sober green room experience at the home of Jordan Hansen, a Dissonance supporter and blogger. We were actually testing out Chris's own idea. Passenger Recovery has a dedicated green-room space in downtown Detroit, available to any sober touring artist. After talking to Chris, we have decided to begin offering the same to artists traveling through Minneapolis-St. Paul, using a variety of spaces available through our local network. Chris had been on the road for a couple of weeks when we met, and he noted -- as others have to him -- how wonderful it was to get away from the van and the venue for a refreshing wellness break. 

New Tool to Find Support Meetings on the Road

For us, the time with Chris also provided an opportunity to discuss Passenger Recovery's new support-meeting finder called Compass. It's an innovative, GPS-enabled tool to help traveling artists locate Alcoholics Anonymous, Narcotics Anonymous, National Alliance on Mental Illness, and Refuge Recovery (Buddhist-inspired) support meetings. The Compass database includes thousands of individual meetings, is growing every day, and likely will be expanded to include other types of mutual aid meetings as well. We’re grateful that Chris and his partner -- Electric Six bassist Matthew Tompkins -- did us the favor of making Minneapolis-St. Paul the second metro area to get populated, after Detroit. Check out the beta version of the tool and find a meeting near you, wherever you are.

On our Resources-Tools web page, we now have a link to Compass. The page also includes links for artists to request sober green rooms through us for Minneapolis-St. Paul and through Passenger Recovery for Detroit.

As we think about our dream of establishing a national network of organizations like ours, the immediate aim is to work with Passenger Recovery to create a northern corridor of artist support from Detroit to Minneapolis. We are now seeking like-minded organizations in Milwaukee and Chicago to fill in the major gaps. 

We are also beginning to establish relationships with other more far-flung organizations like the SIMS Foundation in Austin, Texas, and the BTD Foundation in New Orleans. If you are involved in such an organization, or know others who are, please contact us.  Let's build this national network/collective/community together.

Busting Creative Blocks in Sobriety

By Kate Kennedy Spindler

I sit down. I stare at the blinking cursor. ‘Creativity and addiction often go hand in hand…’

Nope. That’s stupid, delete.

‘The creative life requires bravery…’

UGH.

I get up, put some change in the soda machine, pace while taking a few swigs of caffeine. I write a few more clunky sentences full of boring words and the syntax of a third grader. Every word is painfully, muddily wrenched from my sludgy brain onto the screen. Why do I keep trying to write? What is the point of all this? I have no talent! I’m a Midwestern mom of average intelligence and mediocre abilities. Who cares what I have to say about anything?

Ten years ago, this would have been the perfect opportunity for me to use alcohol, drugs, or food. Creative blocks are uncomfortable, and as a person with addiction, I had zero tolerance for uncomfortable feelings. I, like many I know, became convinced somewhere along the road to happy destiny that uncomfortable feelings were intolerable and would probably kill me. I know there are many more uncomfortable feelings than writer’s block, but in the moment, I can’t think of one.

Back home in my writing corner, I throw a pillow and flounce into a couch. I stomp around the house, cranky as hell. And because I am a bleeding pile of needy emotions (one of my best qualities!), I post on Facebook, “Hahahahha, writing a blog post about creative blocks and I can’t get one word down. I hate irony sometimes.”

So here’s your first lesson, if you needed a lesson: tell your friends when you are stuck. My inability to sit in silence with any emotion whatsoever often surprises me in how well it serves me. Thanks to my social media emotional plea, I suddenly had a list of things to read (How to Write A Lot, by Paul Silvia, “The Unsuccessful Self-Treatment of A Case Of Writer’s Block,” from the Journal of Applied Behavior Analysis), several suggestions for breaking through blocks (write as if to a friend, or an enemy) and jokes (“just take a selfie and post it!”). Oh hey! Here I am, writing through a block! (*high-fives a million angels!*)

And these suggestions were just the new-to-me ones! I do other things besides use alcohol, food, or drugs when confronted with a creative block, now. I like to think I’ve become sort of an expert at busting through, but that’s only because I desperately want to be good at something, and I like procrastinating by purchasing books on Kindle. Still, I’ve learned a lot over the years! Reading The Artist’s Way by Julia Cameron changed my life through her introduction of Morning Pages. They are hard, but worth it: upon waking, before you do anything else (ok, I get my coffee), get your favorite pen and notebook and write three longhand pages of stream-of-consciousness drivel. Don’t think, don’t edit. It’s not for publication. It’s for cleaning out the dross at the bottom of your brain. It’s tedious, but that’s why it works, and yes, you must do it in the morning because you need to get it done before you can think too hard about it. Don’t question the Morning Pages! Just try them! Cameron refers them them as “spiritual chiropractic,” and that’s pretty accurate.

Pick up Bird by Bird by Anne Lamott. Read anything by Natalie Goldberg you can get your hands on. Natalie will give you writing exercises, and you will suddenly be able to create again.

Text your artist friends. (I’m lucky; my inner circle includes at least three writers.) They will assure you that you will get through this, and you probably can even do so without picking up any of your drugs of choice.

When stymied creatively, your work now becomes finding the next “in.” You need a crowbar, or maybe just a Slim Jim -- just enough to make a crack. Because here’s the honest truth: when you avoid your work, and you’re a person in recovery, you may be in danger of using again. That block sits there, and your mind starts layering all kinds of silly things on top of it. Time passes, and your brain convinces you that this block is now a boulder. Then a mountain. Then that huge black demon thing that comes out of a mountain from Disney’s Fantasia. But it isn’t; it’s just a pause. It’s just a pause.

How do I know when I’m avoiding and when I really do need to take a short break from writing? I don’t have a definitive answer, but I do know that when I’m having a block and I still pick up a pen or open my laptop and get 300 words down a day (thanks, Anne Lamott!), I’m still holding the string. If I’m not writing 300 words, maybe I’m researching, or taking care of my creative life in some other way. Hell, maybe I’m sitting down to color with my kids. If I am engaging my creativity instead of numbing out, I’m not avoiding. (I think. I will still probably numb out at some point in the day. After all, Netflix ain’t gonna watch itself!)

I’m grateful to be sober. Of course I am. This life is a thousand times better than those dark days of sickness, lies and self-hatred. I will admit though, I’m annoyed that I’m not a zen master yet. I really thought recovery would make me more impressive. I had grand visions, at the start of this journey out of hell, that I’d be in high demand as a motivational speaker, or maybe a modern creativity guru. I assumed I’d have several memoirs written by now, filled with pearls of wisdom and beautifully crafted sentences, and I’d float along with a bemused smile on my face at the folly and beauty of the world and its inhabitants. The reality is, mostly I just need to wear yoga pants more often and take a lot of naps.

Sobriety didn’t uncover a brilliant talent, but it did uncover a deep tenacity to keep doing my work, even if it’s terrible. Especially if it’s terrible. And while that doesn’t bring in speaking fees or my own line of scented candles, it is the gift that keeps on giving me a quiet, determined satisfaction that was never available when I was drunk, high, or using food. So today I do the next right thing, as often as possible, and it is good. The next right thing usually means sitting with icky feelings like inadequacy, fear and annoyance in order to get to the “good” stuff. (Maybe it’s all good stuff?) Life is difficult, sometimes thrilling, but ultimately peace-giving and satisfying - two things I never would have had without sobriety.

 

Kate Kennedy Spindler is a writer, actor and storyteller living in Saint Paul, Minn. She has three kids, one husband and two cats. She is an NYC Moth StorySlam winner, and you can find her wherever stories are told. Read some of her work at www.jizomom.typepad.com, and listen to her podcast Love from New York, We Did Saturdays Right on iTunes. She is in recovery from lots of stuff.

Getting Back to Where it All Began

From the beginning, Dissonance has been about convening community and sharing experiences, in the hopes of smashing stigmas and bringing to light the all-too-common struggles and challenges many of us face in trying to live healthy, happy, and productive lives. As Dissonance has grown and evolved we've concentrated on building a network, crafting our mission and vision, and launching as a non-profit entity. We are so thrilled with the community that has developed around us and the connections we've made during this time. And now, we are ready to get back to our first love: hosting creative people in conversation with each other.

Everywhere we look, starting the day after Halloween(!), we are inundated with images of happy families, celebratory friendship groups, and romantic couples frolicking in winter wonderlands of merriment and joy. We are invited to countless parties in our work and home lives, and exposed to thousands of images of various types of overindulgence. It can be suffocating and oppressive for those who are lonely, who are dealing with loss or illness, who don't drink or have eating disorders, or who can't navigate a stress-free family situation.

Good news! You're not alone. Please join us for our next event, "Unhappy Holidays", on December 15th at Open Book in Minneapolis, as we look at the challenges presented by the holiday season. We'll get real about how hard this time of year can be, we'll hear from some very creative people about how they cope with the stressors, and we'll be treated to their creative output in the form of song and storytelling.

We'll gather together in a stress-free, supportive environment with people who aren't related, but who can relate.

Our guests include Nora McInerny Purmort, Katy Vernon, and Davina Sowers (of the Vagabonds). Nora is the author of "It's Okay to Laugh (Crying Is Cool Too)" and host of "Terrible, Thanks for Asking". Katy is a Minneapolis-based British singer-songwriter and Dissonance blogger who calls herself a "singer of sad songs on a happy instrument" (the ukelele!). Davina heads up the internationally acclaimed and high energy jazz-blues group Davina and the Vagabonds. The conversation will be facilitated by longtime friend-of-Dissonance and interviewer, David Campbell along with Dissonance board member and psychotherapist, Sarah Souder Johnson. 

It's important to us at Dissonance that anyone who wants to attend our events can do so, so we don't charge an admission fee; however, we are a non-profit organization that believes in paying the artists we work with. If you can chip in to attend the event, or make a contribution to Dissonance so we can continue to host events like this, please select that option on the reservation page and pay any amount you can. Every contribution makes a difference and goes directly to overhead costs.

Here is the direct link to the event and ticket page: http://tinyurl.com/UnhappyHolidays

We hope you can join us, and we want to thank our hosts Open Book Minneapolis and Milkweed Books for making this event possible. What better space for an event like this than a bookstore? You can browse their shelves and find inspiration or do some holiday shopping while you're there. NO PRESSURE THOUGH.

I'm so proud to be part of this great community, and I hope you join me and this fantastic group of people in this new format of Dissonance events, and we look forward to many more events in the near future. Stay tuned.

 

Ali Lozoff is a board member and the marketing chair for Dissonance. Now the Director of the 50th Anniversary at Minnesota Public Radio, Ali has twenty years of experience in the fields of branding and identity, strategic planning, vision and mission work, event and project management, idea development, writing, social networking, partnerships and sponsorships with strong ties to the local arts and culture community. She also enjoys long walks by the lake.