In this episode, I tell you all about the project that changed my life more than any other. It is my argument for MAKING SOMETHING EVERY DAY, EVEN IF IT SUCKS.
Intro: This is words that move me, the podcast where movers and shakers like you get the information and inspiration you need to navigate your creative career with clarity and confidence. I am your host, master mover, Dana Wilson, and if you’re someone that loves to learn, laugh and is looking to rewrite the starving artist story, then sit tight, but don’t stop moving because you’re in the right place.
Dana: Well, hello and thank you for joining me on episode one. This is a big day. This is a very, very exciting day. If you are listening to this on the day of its release, then it is new year’s day. It is also new decades day. Today is January 1st, 2020 and I can’t think of a better day or a better way for that matter to talk to you. You may be hungover right now. I really hope you’re not. You may already be at the gym working on the new year, new you, idea. Either way. It’s a great day for a podcast, specifically this episode, even if it isn’t new year’s day, when you’re listening to this, today’s topic can be the perfect mile marker for a new year starting right now. Today I want to talk to you about the project that changed my life possibly more than any other, and it’s likely not what you would think. It’s not a big movie or a music video or a TV show or a tour. It’s actually much, much smaller, much, much, much, much smaller and in some ways a whole lot bigger. Today, I’m going to tell you about my 365 consecutive days of Instagram videos. Actually, it was closer to 420 I think, but who’s counting? I’m doing this today on episode one because A. I’ll probably reference this project or something that I learned from it a lot down the road. B. a masterclass and commitment is exactly what I’m looking for as I embark on this new year’s challenge, this weekly podcast and C. because I believe that there is genius and tremendous momentum in doing daily. In my 30 years of training to be a professional dancer, nothing prepared me to make art the way that this did. This project unlocked my creative superpowers and now I want to share the key with you.
So journey back in time with me to March of 2014 Instagram was a very different place at the time. No ads, first of all, and videos were limited to 15 seconds. Do you remember that? Does that sound really short to you? Like does 15 seconds sound impossible? Does it sound stifling? Just as a fun extra credit assignment, go check out 5secondfilms.com you will see five seconds is plenty of time to tell a story. Anyways, 15 seconds might be short to some of you. It might seem terribly long to others, but to other others, 15 seconds was the perfect play place. Adam Carpenter is one of those others. When I found his account, I wasn’t very active on social media. In fact, I was not very active in the digital world period at all. Cameras and film terminology confused me. Computers made me feel like a toddler and occasionally cry like one. Um, and editing software made me want to pull my hair out. Anyhow, Adam S Carpenters on Instagram did a daily dance. Now I wouldn’t call him a dancer per se. He’s much, much, much more, he’s like dancer meets clown meets Gandalf. He is literally a wizard, a dance wizard. I loved his stuff on Instagram. Loved like sometimes I would lead conversations with, “hi, I’m Dana and have you seen Adam carpenters on Instagram? The guy’s a genius. Check it out.” I would be constantly tagging people in his comments. Um, and I think that’s ultimately how we came to connect. We started talking back and forth in the comments and decided that we should meet and that I should guest star in one of his daily dances. True story. I was so nervous about this day because I did not know if I would be funny or cool enough for Adam S Carpenters. Long story short, we met in a really dirty back alley somewhere in the garment district of LA and there were a bunch of mannequins everywhere, specifically the lower portion of mannequins, a lot of butts. Uh, and of course we did a tiny 15 second dance to baby got back because that’s what you do. I digress. We had a ball and it was really cool talking to him actually and hearing about his little tricks of the trade. Actually one I got to witness in person. We were asked to kindly leave the alley by one of the store owners. Um, and I recall Adam just really casually slipping him a 20 and guy just kind of disappearing. I went back to that alley recently and um, there was a sign up that said no photos, no videos. I think Adam might have started a trend if he didn’t start it, at least he was ahead of it. He did. He made this look so cool and so fun and so doable. And then he really encouraged me to try my own daily dance video challenge. The next day I left for uh, the European leg of my second world tour with Justin Timberlake. Perfect timing. On that day I started posting daily videos and I didn’t miss a day for over a year. Thanks hugely to my husband for the occasional tech support, often, the almost constant tech support. Speaking of tech support, one of the greatest rewards for doing this project was the shift in my understanding of cameras, dance on camera and a video editing workflow. Holy 180! before I started the project, my husband tried teaching me premiere pro and I cried hard at the very beginning of my project I used an iPhone and imovie. Then I got tired of the five transitions and the six fonts that I movie offers. I’m exaggerating a little. So while on the road with JT, I taught myself Adobe Premier Pro with the help of a site called lynda.com and that’s with a Y. L- Y- N- D-A hugely recommend, big fan. So thanks to the help of Lynda, I wound up about as comfortable inside of that editing software as I am inside a dance studio. Eventually I formed a relationship with GoPro and a company called Ricoh that has a 360 degree camera called the theta. Whoa real game changer and I found myself seeking even more from premier pro, so I taught myself a little bit of after effects jump to today. I am up to my ears in cameras and I’m producing my own podcast in Adobe audition. See what I mean? This project changed my life, so thank you. Adam Carpenter. Thank you husband. Thank you Adobe suite and thank you Instagram, which we are going to talk about in depth in later podcasts. I’ve got a love hate thing going on with that.
Back to the daily videos. Surely there were days that I didn’t want to do it and I had a plan for that. I had a small backlog that I’d pull from a, yeah, actually that means that there were days when I didn’t make a video and there were also days where I made more than one video. There were also days when I’d wake up stressed and feeling totally awful and completely out of ideas. Then I would go out into the world and see a place that needed to be danced in or a person that needed to be danced with or I’d hear a song that made me want to move and I just plop the camera down, hit record and there you have it. My video of the day, I feel like I should mention by the way, they weren’t all dance videos.
In fact, I feel like many of them were like bogus commercials. I’ve always really liked commercials. Some people fast forward through them, not me. Often I will fast forward straight through the program, especially if it’s a sports type and just watch the commercials. I love them. I am a product of consumer culture, but this project gave me an appetite to produce and that, Ooh, that is such a gift. Now I’m not saying that everything I made was brilliant. In fact, it often wasn’t. I’d be watching and editing and dreaming of all the ways it could be better. Or sometimes I’d sit with the final result and like hold my head in my hands like, God, this is awful. And that’s kind of the point. It is also my other favorite reward for doing this work and that is the practice of putting the perfectionist in the passenger seat and letting the inner child drive for a little while. Mmm. bad analogy, don’t let kids drive. Let the artist’s drive, let anybody drive except the perfectionist. That’s easier said than done. For many of us, I suffer from a terrible affliction called perfectionism and I know I’m not the only one, especially my fellow dance types. This project taught me that it’s impossible for all of your work to be your best work and it’s also highly unlikely that your early work will be your best work. So relieve yourself of all that extra perfection pressure and get closer to your best work by working every single day, even if that’s just a couple minutes a day. Am I asking you to make an Instagram video everyday? I dunno, maybe I am. Does that excite you? If it does, then go for it. What I am doing is proving that creativity is a renewable resource and anyone can mine it. Even if you consider yourself more of a idea person that struggles with the follow through or if you think of yourself as a type A person that’s really strong on the technical side but has been fooled into thinking that you aren’t the creative type.
Speaking of creative types, I think it’s really interesting that everyone seems to have a different definition for art. Like what is art? Actually, take a second and answer that for me. Need more time? Now. Ask someone else, the next person you encounter. This is a great challenge. Ask the next person whose path you cross, “what is art?” and I guarantee you they will give you a different answer than the one that you just gave yourself. So okay, people have different definitions of art and people certainly have wildly different ideas about what is good art. Well, I have a different definition of creativity. I believe the word creativity is simply another word for problem solving. Yup. That’s it. Google says the definition is the use of the imagination or original ideas, especially in the production of artistic work. Okay. Let me take that one more time. Creativity is the use of the imagination or original ideas, especially in the production of an artistic work. Wow. Okay. We could really rip that apart and ask, well then what is an original idea? Is there really such a thing? And we could have that, What is art? and therefore What is artistic? conversation again, or we could just say that creativity is problem solving and every living human being will be met with problems, I’ll call them challenges every single day. Some of these challenges will be more pressing or demanding than others. For example, squats or global warming and some might be small and seemingly trivial like deciding what to wear or what to have for dinner. Just as there’s a range in magnitude. There’s also a sliding scale of creativity that’s exercised in solving these challenges. My husband and I, for example, could look into the same fridge with the same challenge, Dinner. And I would walk away with some solid food item like an Apple or a broccoli dipped in Greek yogurt, then dipped in almond butter. Don’t judge me. And he’d come out with a three course meal inspired by a specific ingredient or region of a variety of homemade sauces or mustards and probably a cocktail that compliments a flavor profile of the main dish. He’s always tasting as he goes, tweaking and changing and then finally plating from start to finish. It’s a production, it’s a sight to behold and it is a taste to be tasted. Alternatively, when tasked with the daily challenge of what to wear, he will wear whatever clothing items are clean and closest to his feet when they hit the ground as he gets out of bed and I’ll leave the house usually several hours later prepared with multiple looks selected specifically for their color, shape, size, and texture, which all affects how they make me feel and how they look in motion and how they’ll help me better express myself.
Think about all of the decisions that you make in a day, what you eat, what you wear, how you get around, what you watch, what you listen to. Every time you make a decision, you have an opportunity to flex your creative muscles. The creative muscle can get stronger, but it can also get weaker if you don’t exercise it. So yes, I’m asking you to flex your creative muscles. I’m asking you to problem solve and now your problem is that you have to make something every day. Go and solve it. You could solve it by making a latte, a hot and very thoughtful, artistic and beautiful, well curated latte. Or it could be an eight count or it could be a sweater that you knit, I don’t know, it could be an eight count of choreography about knitting a sweater while you’re drinking a hot, thoughtful latte. And it doesn’t need to be for a year either, or even a month. I’ll admit it. A year is a really long time. A 365 day challenge will change your life, but big changes can still be made in smaller amounts of time. I suggest you choose a length of time that is just barely longer than what you’re comfortable with. Once you have a timeline, pick a challenge. Turn one of your many interests into a daily challenge and remember it doesn’t need to require increasing your expenses. For example, if you’re a foodie, you could make a new recipe or research a new ingredient every day. Fashionistas, you could challenge yourself to build a new look for a friend every day or additional challenge, You could use items that you already have. Actor make a daily monologue every morning. Artist, How about a daily doodle Photographers, photo of the day? You see how this is going and you’ll probably notice that it gets way more exciting when you add a few parameters to your work. For example, movies have to be 15 seconds long. Doodles must be made with non art supplies or photos must be taken with your feet, so on and so forth. The next step, of course, is to share it with the world. Okay? The digital capture or public display are not an essential part of this challenge, but here’s why I’d recommend it. Number one, the simple thought of others looking in on a project helped me stay accountable. Number two, the feedback I’ve received provided really unexpected insights into what moves people. For example, I learned people really love dogs, dogs and babies. If my video had a dog or a baby in them, boom, instant hit. Alternatively, if I wasn’t in the video, a lot less engagement. It’s cool to get that feedback and to get it so quickly. Number three, the real life skills and face to face relationships that come as a result of this challenge are worth more than gold. With these little videos, I attracted the eyeballs of people that I might have never ever come in contact with. Some of these people are my real life heroes. Some of those heroes. In fact, it became real life friends and collaborators all because of this platform. That is an incredible thing. Number four, if given the opportunity to improve your own life or improve your life while possibly improving the lives of others, wouldn’t you choose? The latter? Sharing really is caring. It’s a cliche. I know it, but I think that there’s truth in it. I also think that creating something every day will change the way you see the world and the way you interact with the things and the people around you. Solving the problem. What am I going to make today? We’ll give you the tools, strength, and confidence to tackle other challenges in your life. So now that you’ve decided on an interesting topic, given yourself a timeline and decided how or if you’ll share it, here’s a little starter kit of tips.
Number one, keep a list. You’ll be shocked at how fast ideas come once they start flowing and it can actually be really hard to remember them all. You don’t even need to keep them all in one place, but have places that you keep them. Number two, always be rolling. In other words, record everything. Your rehearsals, your scouts, your setups. You never know when genius or magic will strike. In my experience, it usually strikes right after I hit stop. So always be rolling. Number three, be prepared for people to not be as thrilled about your project is you are, especially if your project involves a camera. Not a lot of people are that comfortable around cameras, truly, and I’m not saying that your project needs to be built around making other people comfortable, but it’s good to be aware. Also, be aware that cities and states have different rules about filming in public spaces. So study up and decide when it would be better to ask permission or forgiveness. In my next episode. I’ll talk more about gear production approach and more. But right now I think you have more than enough to get started. I want to hear all about your journey, so be sure to message or tag me at words that move me podcast, All one word, on Instagram. All right, I think that does it. That does it for episode one. Hey, thank you so much for listening. I’ll talk to you soon. *pew pew* It’s amazing. That’s my sign off for this episode. It comes with finger guns *pew pew* and a little body roll. Bye!