On Co-Creation: The Birth of The Manzanita Project

The first time I spoke to my boyfriend Kevin on the phone (we met on eHarmony...there were emails and "guided communication" that preceded our first phone contact), he confessed he'd already heard my voice. He said he'd Googled my name and followed the link to listen to a short essay I'd read for a talk radio station.

Upon hearing this, I was initially a little embarrassed. I mean, it's not like I put it out there so people WOULDN'T access it, but I hadn't considered that a potential date might do this before we'd had the chance to meet.

My secondary reactions, after I'd gotten over the initial surprise, were more favorable. First of all, he was interested enough to check me out. Cool. Second, he heard my essay and was still interested. This boded well because a man of a certain kind of traditional ilk would have probably been turned off by the content of that particular essay. Cool again. Thirdly, he now knew that writing was at least a part of what I did with my life, and it would seem he didn't take issue with that. Zing!

I would shortly discover that Kevin was not only a supporter of creative endeavors, he was himself a very talented artist; he emailed me these drawings the first time I asked to see some of his work.

Wowee, I thought. That's (he's) the real deal.

When we moved in together with our children this summer, one of the things Kevin and I both looked forward to was creating a space in which we could mutually support and give space to one another's crafts--the practice and honing and labor of that.

We had both arrived at stuck places--he because he hadn't finished a major drawing he'd been working on for years, me because I had an ever-present worry playing lo-fi and constant in the back of my brain which didn't leave a lot of room for creativity. So far, we hadn't been itching to do a lot that either of us needed to support or make space for.

My omni-present worry has worked itself out, however, and Kevin has decided to work on other things until whatever it is that needs to happen for him to finish the major drawing (his personal Chinese Democracy, I like to call it) happens.

With these turns of events, I turned to him with an idea.

I thought it would be cool to embark on a project together. For a year, I would agree to produce a piece of writing and he would create at least one drawing per week. He was game.

The moment we hatched this plan I felt a surge of creative energy like I haven't felt for some time. My mind had been so tired I just couldn't even fathom the kind of late night writing sessions that used to fill me with adrenaline. All I could really think of was getting through the daily stuff, the chores, the work, the planning. It's not that I wasn't having any fun--I'd just stopped processing the days' events in terms of how I might write about them, which is what I'd always done when I was writing regularly. There'd been a voice in the back of my head very deliberately generating sentences to describe things as they unfolded, but I'd let that voice go quiet.

I've invited her back, though. I want to hear what she has to say again; I want to hear how she has to say it. And I am beyond excited to be setting out on a project like this with a loved one. I mean, I have never created something with another person before, save my son. And since Kevin and I almost surely won't be making any of those together, isn't this a great alternative? I find the thought of it somehow romantic.

And though we aren't focusing a themed piece (I will be writing about who-knows-what-all-manner-of-thing and he will be drawing who-knows-what-probably-related-to-the-natural world), I'm interested to see how our creative processes intertwine and interplay.

I'm also really excited to see what he ends up being inspired by. Kevin's drawn one significant nature illustration in the time we've been together (depicting three different predatory habits of the California Kingsnake), and a bunch of little cartoons, but beyond that I haven't much seen him in action. He said he will likely be doing sketches to get him back into the groove--not necessarily in-depth pieces, but whatever it is I'm interested. Hmmmm...

It took us a while to come up with a name for our project (I promptly voted down his loopy, post-sick nap suggestions of "Project Fuck Ass" and "Project Bloody Dolphin"). He thought it would be nice to focus on a flower that blooms in the winter months, since in effect that is what we'd be doing, and we'd been talking about the concept of becoming "open"...to the muse, to the flow, whatever you may call it. Because he studies these things for a living, Kevin wanted a plant that was native to California. And so I present to you:

The Manzanita Project.

Isn't the Manzanita a super bad ass?!

So...I will be posting all my pieces here on this blog, and I will share some or all of his here as well. I hope you enjoy.

1 comment: