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  • Tracey Kelley

Turning on a dime

What's the origin of this phrase? Dating back centuries, it references the ability to stop and turn suddenly, within a small space. Agility. Quick reaction. Split decision.

And so it was that I recently had to do the same thing: abruptly drop all my plans and previous business progress in order to address a more pressing issue: a creative project, three years in the making, nearly to the point of completion, removed from one existence and stranded in limbo.

There really wasn't a gray area here: either I left it alone or moved forward. Either choice would create disruption.

In order to advance the project, I had to set aside a number of other business initiatives I hoped to put in motion. I also intended to finish a short story and send it out for submission. My husband and I had a vacation planned, and the down payment for a much needed new(er) car.

All resources--time, money, and intention--were promptly diverted in order to focus solely on the matter at hand. I had to learn a variety of things immediately, spend thousands of dollars, turn down other business-building projects, and drop all pretenses of creativity in order to be a deft and logical project manager. The level of detail was intense.

My health suffered. I didn't sleep well for weeks. Many plans, including those involving the project, were either rescheduled, modified, or canceled. And the project continued to have absurdist problems and delays that sometimes were laughable, but more often than not, simply inane. And frustrating.

And through it all, the big question loomed: why bother? What's the point of it all?

Hedge fund managers rarely ask this question of their work. Or physicians. Or electrical linemen. But a creative person is often wedged in the chasm between reality and fantasy: do we really have to do what we do? Wouldn't life simply be easier to not pursue art, make it public, start conversations about its importance in society when there are so many other practical matters to resolve?

In other words: why take on such a challenge if it's going to be so difficult?

I'm someone who experiences aspects of life through what I create. I can't deny this part of my nature. What's the point? It isn't any more complicated than that. Artists of any medium shouldn't have to explain away their purpose. When they struggle, it's not because they don't understand the greater ills of the world. Yet every individual has a confrontation with purpose at some point, and we can't evaluate experiences by comparison. Society needs art as much as it needs science, modern technology, education and yes, money. I have a tendency to procrastinate. Sometimes my time management ability requires diligent attention.

But I don't give up easily. And I don't like to let people down once I've committed to something (or at all, really--unfortunately, that's probably happened with or without my knowledge.) So while this new experience wasn't something I'd expected, it was more important to see it through. To believe I could come out on the other side with greater knowledge, stronger skills, and yes, the creative project I envisioned three years ago.



And it's--oh wow!--nearly there. This didn't happen in a vacuum. My husband provided a pillar of support and intentional action in many ways. My project collaborator refused to be disillusioned and kept the rally going. Business advisors and lawyers spun quickly to help put new provisions in place. More creative talents stepped into the void right away to make things better. And a few friends listened with care and interest and kept the light on so I wouldn't get lost in the dark.

But we may also need to be increasingly resilient and flexible, and have the agility to turn on a dime in order to modify our expectations more than we care to admit. In many ways, the art may thrive beyond original borders in this atmosphere of greater acceptance.

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