A few months ago I attended Laura Street Festival in West End, and saw a brilliant slam poet (and author too) named Josh Donellan. He was funny, charismatic and insightful. So I decided to get in contact with him to see if he’d be one of my March Mentors. This project has definitely opened my eyes to just how easy it is to get help from those you admire when you just ask.
We met up yesterday and he was just as kind and inspiring as all my other mentors (I don’t have a picture of us because I got flustered and forgot).
As usual I asked him what he was good at that he could pass on to me, and he answered with art/life balance. Josh splits his life into teaching and writing/performing. He loves teaching because he gets to tell stories and sing songs with the kids, but it doesn’t sap him of creative energy, so when he gets the time to write he’s completely onto it. He told me to search for what works for me and treat my mind like an athlete would their body.
Then it was time for the challenge. Josh started off with an anecdote about having to perform poetry to a group of 150+ 16 year old boys. When he finished he said “I challenge you to give your art to someone you think will hate it.” He explained that it will help me deal with criticism better.
So I wrote this story based on Terry Whidborne’s tweet prompt from today: “melt”. (Terry is another amazing mentor/person I admire- his brilliant mind and stunning illustrations are on display at 7th World)
Her brain begins to melt. Thoughts slosh about, mixing like bad cocktails made by inebriated teens. She cocks her head and it trickles out her ear onto the desk.
Mortified, she scrapes it up, trying to reshape it. It doesn’t work. The edges are wonky and little bits from the outside world keep sticking to it. Accepting futility, she stuffs it back inside her head.
Surprisingly it works. Colours look a little different and ideas begin to stick together, but it seems to think even better than before.
And then I hit the streets looking for someone who might hate it. This turned out to be hard… really hard.
For starters I had to stereotype people (funky glasses- no they like art… beard? No they probably run a blog themselves). And to top it off, I am very nervous about striking up conversation with strangers.
Finally, I decided to ask a construction worker, but he was directing traffic and said all the others would be too busy to read it too. I sat down in despair, then a man sat down next to me. He was holding a book about sporting injuries. It was a long shot…
“Excuse me, do you like short stories?”
“Great! You’re exactly who I’m looking for- can you read mine and tell me what you think?”
He looked as if he was wishing he’d sat somewhere else as he took my story.
After a minute he handed it back.
“Not bad, it’s a lot shorter than I expected which was good. It’s way better than reading my podiatry text book.”
Not a glowing review but I’d take it. I took a picture and off I went. A wave of relief hit me. The prospect of live feedback was way more daunting than actually receiving it.