Words That Move Me with Dana Wilson
Ep. #39 Holding the CREATIVE Space
The Overactive Listener by Caitlin Reilly: https://www.instagram.com/p/CEpuG81pnQs/
Dr. Katrina Ubell's Podcast: https://katrinaubellmd.com/podcast/
Man Talks Podcast: https://mantalks.com/
In the Heights: https://www.intheheights-movie.com/
Intro: This is words that move me. The podcast were 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: Hello. Hello, everybody. Welcome to words that move me. I'm Dana and I am so stoked that you are here. I'm stoked to be talking to you. Number one, because the subject matter of this episode is near and dear to my heart. I think it's very important, very valuable, but number two, because right now I am talking to you from my homemade podcast booth, which I have appropriately named the pod. Um, my husband and I worked on it together. And I think it sounds really great. I dunno, you tell me, I would love to hear some feedback either over @wordsthatmovemepodcast on Instagram, or you are always welcome to leave a comment on theDanawilson.com/podcast Also, if you're digging what you're hearing, I'm not sure. I think, I think my listeners are pretty split 50, 50 half of you guys over listening on Spotify. And half of you are listening on Apple podcasts, but if it sounds great, if you're digging what you're hearing in terms of quality and content, please do leave a review and a rating. Download these episodes, keep them with you all the time. I do so appreciate it. Your reviews and your ratings help other people find the podcast more easily so it really is so, so helpful to me and to the community. Appreciate that. Um, okay. If you're new, let me introduce the format of the show. I usually begin every episode with wins. I think it's really important to celebrate what's going well in all of our worlds, especially in times where it might seem like nothing is going well. It's important to celebrate your wins no matter how big, no matter how small. So this week I will start by celebrating my larger than a bread box size win, which is my podcast studio. I'm so jazzed about it. It feels so good. So glad to not be crammed in my closet, ruffling against items and jackets and, you know, rubbing my shins up against this awkwardly sized step stool so that I can be at the right height to reach a microphone, the pits. Um, now I am not crammed in a closet. I am actually standing very comfortably in front of a closet and inside of this awesome booth that reminds me of my husband and all of his many talents. So that is my win today. Now it is your turn. What's going well in your world.
Oh right. Congrats. Keep winning. I'm so proud of you. All right. Now in episode 36, the assistant, I talked about how to be and how to have a great assistant spoiler alert. There is really just one thing that you need to do on both sides. And that is have a great relationship. I actually do give some specific steps to achieving and maintaining that relationship and really all relationships truly in that episode. So if you haven't heard it think about tuning back into episode 36. Um, in that episode, I also talk about a few of my assistant fails, like big ones, big, big learning opportunities that I share with you so that you don't have to learn the hard way. This episode is a branch off of one of those stories. So last year in 2019, while I was working as an associate choreographer on, in the Heights, under our supervising choreographer, Christopher Scott, he mentioned to me one day, not in a good way, not in a bad way, but just as something that he noticed that I give very noticeable feedback sometimes verbally, sometimes non-verbally is it possible to do both simultaneously? It's true. I've noticed this about myself even before he said the words, but once he said it, it was like somebody had just held a magnifying mirror right up in my face and my head is nodding blatantly. Um, yeah, I, I, I do think I kind of report the news constantly with my body non-verbally and with my voice, if any of you have taken class with me, you know, that to be true, I'm a pretty vocal class taker. It's obvious when I'm loving it. Um, and it's obvious when I have questions. I love asking questions during class. I do try to ask them at appropriate times, but when Chris gave me this feedback, I started to notice it more and more often. I nod a lot. I smile. I grin really, really big when I'm in favor of, or in agreement of what's going on, or I hold really, really still, if I'm not in favor of, or don't understand exactly what's going on. So I started noticing, noticing this about myself and in other people a lot. And then I saw this brilliant human on Instagram. Her handle is at @hicaitlinreilly I think R E I L L Y. So that's at H I C A I T L I N R E I L L Y. I found her thanks to my assistant and technical director, Malia Baker, Caitlin has this parody impression of the overactive listener. And I was like floored by it. I'm like, yes, this is a thing. And I have thoughts about this thing. I'll be sure to tag Caitlin's Instagram video in the quick links of the show notes of this episode. So if you're interested in finding that, go to the show notes too, to check that out. So when I saw this very masterful piece of comedy, I knew that this is actually a pretty serious thing. And I have thoughts about it. Let's dig in to being an active reactor and how to hold this space.
Alright, Most of the relationships in your life, like the ones you have with your parents, your friends, significant others, teachers and so on and so forth are not focused on objectivity. Those relationships, typically very openly without pause, either show agreement or disagreement or approval or disapproval likes or dislikes. When I say show, I actually should say demonstrate perhaps the demonstration of agreement or disagreement is verbal. “Oh my God. Yes. Oh totally. Oh my God. Yes.” Or, “Oh God. No. Oh my God. Why would you think that? I can't believe he just said that.” Or perhaps it's nonverbal the shaking of a head or the crossing of arms either way, be it verbal or nonverbal disagreement usually causes discomfort that we either avoid or embrace super shout out. By the way to episode 30 with Spenser Theberge and Jermaine Spivey, where we talked about how to disagree with people that you love. Oh my gosh. So good. Well, all that to say, I'm learning a lot about conflict. I'm learning a lot about how my dance training can help me to see opportunity in conflict. I'm learning a lot about how to manage unwanted feelings that crop up around conflict, like guilt, regret, feeling misunderstood, et cetera, and okay, sorry. I've gotten sidetracked. Most of the relationships in your life are not rooted in objectivity. Most of our training tells us that it is good to agree with people and to be agreeable, and that it's bad to disagree or be in conflict as a result. So many of us are trained into this physicalizing and verbalizing of our agreement, our approval, our being pleased and our pleasantness. And this might not be a bad thing, but there are certainly times when it isn't the best thing to do this episode zooms out to really observe the effects of that verbal nonverbal feedback and it considers the alternatives. One in particular being neutrality, the alternative to being an overactive listener is holding the space. You may have heard of this phrase, holding the space, um, because it's actually become a bit of a popular saying, but what does it actually mean? One of my favorite podcasters, Dr. Katrina Ubell has a great episode about holding the space. It's episode number 157 of her podcast, weight loss for busy physicians stay with me here, and it is called holding space for yourself while you lose weight. Okay. Again, stay with me here. Don't get distracted. Doctor Ubell's podcast is geared towards physicians and weight loss, but the concept of holding the space can be practiced by everyone and applied to darn near any conversation. Dr. Ubell, his episode is a fabulous place to continue learning about this concept. If it's interesting to you, and if you want to hear more after this podcast, her podcast is also an exquisite resource If you're interested in weight loss or finding freedom in your relationship with food, yes. Even if you are not a busy physician. I think of the phrase, holding the space as kind of a modern, more specific way of saying ‘being a shoulder to cry on,’ you're allowing a safe and open space for somebody to discuss something difficult or painful. Sometimes involving tears holding the space is a specific practice, but it's not by any means. One specific thing that has one specific definition. To explain holding the space. I'll describe, um, kind of a hypothetical situation here. Imagine that a friend has just gone through something awful. Perhaps let's say they've lost their job. And they open up to talk to you about it. Not holding the space in that situation might look something like you saying, “Oh my God. Yeah. You and like half the country, I completely understand Trust me. Like the exact same thing happened to me. And I've been unemployed for like all of quarantine and I totally blindsided me. I know how you feel. I mean, I feel awful. I am right there with you and here's what you need to do. Let me just tell you, you need to stay positive, pull up your big girl pants and like, get your resume together. You should definitely go on unemployment like now and blabity, blabity, blah,” you, you get the picture. This person may be very well intentioned, but this is definitely not holding the space. When you're holding this space, you're listening more than you're talking. You're not distracted. You're not giving advice. You're not making it about you. You weren't even trying to make the other person feel better. You're simply honoring the, they are feeling right now by listening and staying present and gently holding space for them to be exactly as they are.
How does that sound to you? Does that sound like holding the space might be really challenging? Does that sound difficult to you? The process of keeping a neutral zone for your friend to sort of be not neutral in. Dr. Ubell describes holding the space, like holding a really big pillow, kind of with your arms out in front of you really gently, really light doesn't require much effort. You know, kind of like the way you would hold a big empty box. It shouldn't require much effort from the listening party, but here's the real caveat. The real important part is that holding the space requires no effort from the other party. If you're the person holding the space, the person in this space shouldn't need to worry at all about holding you. In Dr. Ubell, his episode, she mentions another podcaster named Connor Beaton and his podcast called Man Talks Podcast. Connor describes holding the space as holding a metaphorical bucket for someone else to mentally and emotionally vomit into. Well, me and my seven year old humor really do find that quite appropriate. It doesn't take much effort for me to hold this bucket for you. Go for it mentally and emotionally spew into this. High five If you just caught my Wayne's world reference. Alright, So holding the space requires that you listen to hear people's thoughts. It also requires that you manage your own thoughts and don't make the moment about you so that the person in need of the bucket doesn't need to hold the bucket for you. So that's how you hold the space for others, but you can also hold space for yourself. This can be sticky because if holding the space is not making it about you, then how do you hold the space for you without making it about you, but it's you, that's in the space and you're holding the space for you? It's kind of a mind trick, but believe it or not, you can allow yourself the space to mentally and emotionally spew without telling yourself “Ew gross, dude, pull it together, Ugh, how could you let that happen? You're so sloppy. Yuck.” So for me, holding the space for myself usually starts with a totally judgment free download a thought download, a thought dump or a kind of a free journaling. Usually I do this with pen to paper. Sometimes it's fingers to keys, either way It's a stream of consciousness writing without any judgment, whatever crops up comes out. Then I read what I've written and I hold the space for the person that wrote those words. I hold the space as if person who wrote those words was my best friend. I get curious. And I ask questions when it's appropriate, I get compassionate, and I use kind language with myself. Now, whether you're holding space for yourself or for someone else, holding space requires clean thinking. Now you're gonna make judgments. You are a human being, and that is what we do, but it is possible that you can make judgments and set them free and get back to holding the bucket. You don't need to use your hands to hold your judgments, use your hands to hold the bucket. It's possible that you can make judgements and not voice them or show them physically. So now we've talked a little bit about holding the space for someone else and holding the space for yourself. I want to broach a new subject, holding creative space. In other words, holding space in a creative setting, be it a rehearsal, a brainstorm meeting, or even an interview. New ideas are presented as as little seeds, sprouts, tiny hatchlings, little fragile, but full of potential. Not fully formed yet, in those early stages. Ideas have no walls and they have no ceilings. And when you give a verbal yes or no, or even a nonverbal, “Oh my God, I love it.” Or “no, not quite working.” You wind up putting up walls and setting the ceiling for that tiny sapling of an idea. What happens if you just let that seed fall into the ground and hold the space while it sprouts? Yes. You can give it a little water by asking questions that reveal what it might become. Yes. You can ask it. How do I help you grow? But you don't need to immediately claim what that seed will become. A big evergreen, a tomato plant, a basal plant. You guys all know I'm super fond of the basil. So here's the other thing about showing your approval right away. And I'm speaking, especially to myself, as I say this, because I am actively working on this is when you respond with kind of an all in attitude at the suggestion of an idea, it can be kind of suspicious. Who in their right mind would fully agree and jump on board with something that's not even be, that's not even been fleshed out yet? That's not even sprouted. You know, it, it can be a little bit concerning. In addition to that, one enthusiastic nod turns into another. That can limit the type of questions that get asked. If any, at all, speaking of nods of when somebody has presented a tiny hatchling or a thought, an idea, and you nod in approval, it's very likely that you're nodding in approval of what you see, not what the person has said. As the idea is new, It's possible that they're not even seeing it fully yet either. Now that can be risky because from that point on, you're claiming that idea's yours. Mine not theirs. Great not better. So how can you help hold the tiny seed, the little hatchling, the new idea and care for it as ours, not yours. How can you let it be best? Not just great, because let's be honest. Some very early ideas are great, especially those first reaction, gut impulse, Holy cow, listen to this ideas. Yeah, they probably are great, but you might be keeping a great idea from being even better by putting your exclamation mark at the end of a sentence that could be an ellipsis. You know what I'm saying? What happens if you let it be open-ended. Now here's the tricky part, when you're in a creative, especially in a collaborative situation, you're likely expected to not just hold the space, but to step into it and contribute. So one of the most important things you can do as a collaborator is check the temperature of when you should be holding space and when you should be jumping in, okay, these are the two questions I like to ask myself. The first question is, am I being asked for my opinion, if no, then keep holding the space. If yes, then go ahead and jump in. But immediately after deciding to step in to this conversation, I asked myself the second question, am I leaving room for other people's opinions? See, even from the inside of the creative space, you can still hold space for other ideas. I like to think of this as like a swimming pool. It is definitely possible for more than one person to be in the pool. But if one person is splashing around like crazy person, then it makes it hard for other people to be seen and to be heard and to well swim. So let's get out of that metaphor and let's jump into another example to kind of illustrate the difference between leaving room for other opinions and not leaving room for other opinions. Let's say that, um, collaborator A says, “Ooh, what do you think about breaking into a tap section right here?” They say, what do you think? So I'm taking that as an opportunity to share my opinion and opinion that doesn't leave room for others might sound something like this, “sick that would be so dope. Yo, you have to get Chloe Arnold. Nobody is better than she is. It has to be Chloe. That's it period the end.” or something like this, “maybe. Ooh, um, maybe, but they'd have to wear sneakers or something soft in their feet because otherwise we'd have to buy mics to capture the sound and then get hardwood flooring. And really that's just a total mess. And like kind of out of our budget.” that's an example of not leaving room for other opinions. Here's what it would sound like if you were leaving room for other opinions, collaborator A says, “Hey, what do you think about breaking into a tap section right here?” A person who's holding the space might say, “Ooh, I love that idea. Is there a world where it's like kind of a golden age of film type song and dance soft shoe thing? Or I don't know what other styles call to you?” or we could take the yes and approach one of my favorites. And if you're not familiar with the concept of yes, and you might journey back in time to episode number 15, where my seaweed sisters and I talk a bit about our creative process and how we have kept holding the space for each other for over six years. Alright. So a Yes. And approach to an answer to this question. What do you think about breaking into a tap section? Might look something like this. “Ah, I can see that as being a super grounded and soulful moment. And could it be done with plastic cups on our feet instead of traditional tap shoes that might give it the quirk and the comedic element that is at the heart of this piece?” I'm saying yes. And I'm contributing an additional idea. I love asking questions. Like, is there a world where, or is it possible that we and I love playing? Yes. And. Can you see how holding the space even from inside the creative space, affords that creative idea to become ours? Not mine. It leaves no pun intended a room for the idea to grow into something. Instead of committing that idea to its current state, a tiny little seed. Now, trust me, it's easier said than done. I think it's pretty clear the value of holding space in a creative setting, not just from the outside, but from the inside as well. One last thing I'd like to include is that you should have a plan for what you might do and say, and think if creative space isn't held for you. In that moment, hold it for yourself. Try not to get distracted, keep holding space for yourself, especially, but also for the room. Collaboration is really quite simple, but it's not always easy. Trust me. It's much easier said than done to hold the space in a creative setting. I am not a master of that, but I am committed to practicing it. And this is the great thing about holding space. You can practice literally any time, whether you're in conversation with someone else or with yourself or in a room, creating a work. The other great thing is that the more you practice in one area, be it holding the space for yourself or someone else or in a collaboration. The better you get at all three, because they are more the same than they are different. Just like us I imagine.
And with that ladies and gentlemen, I will bid you adieu. Thank you so much to listening. Thank you for being open to holding the space and please, as this is a concept that I am absolutely working on myself. I would love to hear your feedback about this episode, about any tricks or trials that you've encountered in holding space, especially in creative collaborative circumstances. Again, please leave comments on Instagram over @wordsthatmovemepodcast or leave a comment on the website, theDanawilson.com/podcast And um, let's see what else? Oh yeah. Don't forget to keep it funky. I'll talk to you soon.
Thought you were done. No. Now I'm here to remind you that all of the important people, places and things mentioned in this episode can be found on my website, theDanawilson.com/podcast Finally, and most importantly, now you have a way to become a words that move me member. So kickball, changeover, patreon.com/wtmmpodcast to learn more and join. All right, everybody. Now I'm really done. Thanks so much for listening. I'll talk to you soon.
Brought to you by Dana Wilson of Words That Move Me with Dana Wilson