159: Fertile Fear with Luan Joy Sherman, artist and educator

It’s Mara Thomas in conversation with artist and educator Luan Joy Sherman!

Mara connected with Luan through the School of the Alternative (SotA) an immersive, non-hierarchical learning environment that seeks to “create conditions necessary for a present-day community of pioneering artists and critical thinkers.”

During this year’s SotA session, Luan facilitated a class titled, “Fertile Fear” which Mara and Luan discuss in this episode. The description of Fertile Fear: “A class focused on making friends with fear/avoidance and using these instructive feelings as a door into our true desires. Compassion, vulnerability, emotional safety, and community support are the ideal ingredients for accessing bravery. We’ll discuss dimensions of fear, the power of vulnerability, and create guidelines for how we can cultivate bravery together.”

One of the tools Luan shares in this episode is what he calls his “Daily Practice” – identifying things that he needs to connect with on a daily basis to help him feel emotionally, physically, and creatively healthy. Luan discusses how his Daily Practice came to be, how it was received in creative community, and the tendency that can creep in around using tools like this as a form of self-judgment.

BIO:

Luan Joy Sherman (he/him) is a white, queer, trans masculine, neurodivergent artist, writer, performer, teacher, and energy worker. He works with School of the Alternative; an experimental art school / world-building project located in Black Mountain, NC as a community facilitator and Board Member. He’s taught four classes at SotA: Fertile Fear, Physical Education- The Joy of Having a Body, How to Not Know, and Queering Masculinity.

 Luan earned an MFA in Sculpture from the School of the Art Institute of Chicago in May 2020 and is certified in Compassion Cultivation, Mental Health First Aid, and as a Trauma Support Specialist.

Transcript

Quote Mentioned in Episode:

“Being content is perhaps no less easy than playing the violin well; and requires no less practice.” – Alain de Botton

LISTEN TO ASBX AUDIO DRAMAS:

Master Builder

The New Colossus

Declaration of Love audio anthology

ASBX Shorts

CONNECT AND FOLLOW:

Artist Soapbox on social media:

Twitter: @artist_soapbox

Instagram: @artistsoapbox

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/artistsoapboxpodcast/

CONTRIBUTE:

Soapboxers are the official patrons of the Artist Soapbox podcast. Get on the Soapbox with us at Patreon or make a one-time donation via Ko-fi at https://ko-fi.com/artistsoapbox or via PayPal at PayPal.Me/artistsoapbox.

If you would like to make a tax-deductible donation, please consider our non-profit Soapbox Audio Collective.

Transcript
Tamara Kissane:

This is Artist Soapbox.

Tamara Kissane:

Through interviews and original scripted audio fiction.

Tamara Kissane:

We deliver stories that speak to your hearts and your minds.

Mara Thomas:

Hello, soap boxers.

Mara Thomas:

What an honor to be part of this new season and for the opportunity to

Mara Thomas:

bring these discussions and ideas to the Artist Soapbox community, as ever.

Mara Thomas:

We really appreciate your comments and feedback and invite you to send us an

Mara Thomas:

email or interact with us on social media.

Mara Thomas:

We're really looking forward to hearing your thoughts on today's

Mara Thomas:

episode, I'm talking with artist and educator Luan Joy Sherman.

Mara Thomas:

I connected with Luan through the School of the Alternative, an immersive

Mara Thomas:

non-hierarchical learning environment that seeks to, and I'm quoting

Mara Thomas:

here, create conditions necessary for a present day community of

Mara Thomas:

pioneering artists and critical thinkers throughout our conversation.

Mara Thomas:

You may hear Luan and I refer to the school of the alternative by its acronym.

Mara Thomas:been involved with SOTA since:Mara Thomas:

more During this year's SOTA session Luan facilitated a class titled Fertile Fear.

Mara Thomas:

As soon as I read the description, I knew I needed to be part of the class.

Mara Thomas:

Starting at the location of our fear to identify fertile creative possibilities,

Mara Thomas:

a class focused on making friends with fear and avoidance and using these

Mara Thomas:

instructive feelings as a door, into our true desires, compassion, vulnerability,

Mara Thomas:

emotional safety, and community support are the ideal ingredients for accessing.

Mara Thomas:

We'll discuss dimensions of fear, the power of vulnerability and

Mara Thomas:

create guidelines for how we can cultivate bravery together.

Mara Thomas:

The class will culminate in each participant, identifying a fear,

Mara Thomas:

naming what you need to transform it and practicing, leaning into

Mara Thomas:

that fear with our support.

Mara Thomas:

As you may imagine, fertile fear was a rich topic to dive

Mara Thomas:

into in a group of creatives.

Mara Thomas:

Each with their unique sensitivity and lived experience that they

Mara Thomas:

brought with them into the room that we may not have addressed this

Mara Thomas:

explicitly in the conversation.

Mara Thomas:

You're about to hear Luan and I both wanted to make sure that we

Mara Thomas:

acknowledged that many people in our communities experience fear due to

Mara Thomas:

external systems of oppression and control that impact them directly.

Mara Thomas:

And even within our trusted.

Mara Thomas:

Each individual has points of identity that positioned them

Mara Thomas:

differently, depending on the scope of the conversation, the individuals

Mara Thomas:

involved, and many other factors, it's all incredibly personal.

Mara Thomas:

And yet we also all seem to have our own fear narratives, especially with

Mara Thomas:

regard to our creative practices.

Mara Thomas:

One of the tools Luan shares in this episode is what he calls his daily

Mara Thomas:

practice, identifying things that he needs to connect with on a daily

Mara Thomas:

basis to help him feel emotionally, physically, and creatively healthy.

Mara Thomas:

We'll talk about how his daily practice came to be, how it

Mara Thomas:

was received in creative.

Mara Thomas:

And the tendency that can creep in around using tools like this as a form of self

Mara Thomas:

judgment, we'll link to a few images of the daily practice that both loon

Mara Thomas:

and I have engaged in over the years.

Mara Thomas:

If you're feeling inspired to try this for yourself.

Mara Thomas:

And now a bit about my guest, Luan Joy Sherman.

Mara Thomas:

He is a white queer trans masculine neurodivergent.

Mara Thomas:

Writer performer teacher and energy worker.

Mara Thomas:

He works with school of the alternative and experimental art school.

Mara Thomas:

World-building project located in black mountain, North Carolina, as a

Mara Thomas:

community facilitator and board member.

Mara Thomas:

He's taught four classes at soda, fertile fear, physical education,

Mara Thomas:

the joy of having a body, how to not know and queering masculinity.

Mara Thomas:

Luan earned an MFA in sculpture from the school of the art Institute of

Mara Thomas:Chicago in May,:Mara Thomas:

first aid, and as a trauma support specialist on behalf of the Artist

Mara Thomas:

Soapbox team, I am pleased to bring you my conversation with Luan Joy Sherman.

Mara Thomas:

Please enjoy.

Mara Thomas:

Luan.

Mara Thomas:

I am so excited to talk with you today and to bring all of your amazing thinking

Mara Thomas:

processes and just amazing human that you are to our listeners at Artist Soapbox.

Mara Thomas:

So thank you so much for being

Luan Joy Sherman:

here.

Luan Joy Sherman:

Thank you so much for having me.

Luan Joy Sherman:

It's a real honor to like share the space and in the thought and the energy and

Luan Joy Sherman:

all that, it's just it's life giving.

Luan Joy Sherman:

Well, and

Mara Thomas:

on that note, I'm just want to jump right in to this amazing

Mara Thomas:

class that you taught at school of the alternative called fertile fear.

Mara Thomas:

And you know, when I read this course description, I was like,

Mara Thomas:

well, that's where I need to be.

Mara Thomas:

And that was even before I had met you.

Mara Thomas:

And once we met.

Mara Thomas:

Was so clear to me that like this, this was a really valuable place to

Mara Thomas:

be and a process to, to be among.

Mara Thomas:

So, um, I'd love to hear you share a little bit about how you were inspired

Mara Thomas:

to create this course and, and talk about your experiences with fear.

Luan Joy Sherman:

Oh my God.

Luan Joy Sherman:

Yeah.

Luan Joy Sherman:

Thank you.

Luan Joy Sherman:

Yeah, this class was really terrifying for me.

Luan Joy Sherman:

Of course, really appropriate to the.

Luan Joy Sherman:

It was a scary thing to bring into the space of now and started.

Luan Joy Sherman:

I think the idea for me started with like a kernel back in February, where I got

Luan Joy Sherman:

invited by a friend of mine in Chicago who runs this like really incredible

Luan Joy Sherman:

art collective slash gallery slash project called Holly and the neighbors,

Luan Joy Sherman:

or it might just be the neighbors.

Luan Joy Sherman:

They invited me to do this performance could do anything I want virtually.

Luan Joy Sherman:

And I've been working through for the past couple of months.

Luan Joy Sherman:

I mean, and many years, honestly, my extreme fear of

Luan Joy Sherman:

singing in front of people.

Luan Joy Sherman:

I sing all the time.

Luan Joy Sherman:

It's like one of my favorite things to do.

Luan Joy Sherman:

It's life-giving in love with it, but it's not something that I bring.

Luan Joy Sherman:

Really to anyone else.

Luan Joy Sherman:

So I spent some time in February before the show, like really sitting

Luan Joy Sherman:

with myself and feeling so clearly pulled to take the opportunity to sing.

Luan Joy Sherman:

And I was terrified, but I heard this really incredible talk

Luan Joy Sherman:

from this woman Barbara Sher.

Luan Joy Sherman:

I think share or sure, but she does all this research on like isolation and.

Luan Joy Sherman:

You know, our true passions and our love and what our actual gifts are.

Luan Joy Sherman:

And one of the things she says is that like the antidote to fear

Luan Joy Sherman:

is love and connection, even just naming it, even just telling people

Luan Joy Sherman:

I'm, I'm terrified of X, Y, or Z.

Luan Joy Sherman:

So took this opportunity to really face that fear.

Luan Joy Sherman:

And I just, it was so deeply transformative.

Luan Joy Sherman:

And what I brought into that performance for the first time was.

Luan Joy Sherman:

A full admission that I was terrified and that fear would be a part of

Luan Joy Sherman:

the performance like that people were gonna see it in my body.

Luan Joy Sherman:

Hear it in my voice.

Luan Joy Sherman:

Like I'm telling you right now how afraid I am, you know?

Luan Joy Sherman:

And it, it like undercut all of the, well, most of the anxiety of doing the thing.

Luan Joy Sherman:

Because I wasn't trying to perform, like, I wasn't afraid.

Mara Thomas:

I love that so much.

Mara Thomas:

You know, this I'm I'm terrified everyone.

Mara Thomas:

I just want to go ahead and say that and not try to overcome or

Mara Thomas:

overcompensate, I guess for, I can't let anybody know that I'm scared.

Mara Thomas:

I can't like what if my voice cracks it's like, it's going to, so I'm just

Mara Thomas:

going to embrace that and ask you all to just be here with me in that.

Luan Joy Sherman:

Yeah.

Luan Joy Sherman:

And it kind of.

Luan Joy Sherman:

One of my least favorite things, maybe as an Aquarius is like too,

Luan Joy Sherman:

for other people to witness things.

Luan Joy Sherman:

About me that I can't see.

Luan Joy Sherman:

And I'm, I'm convinced they can't see it.

Luan Joy Sherman:

Right.

Luan Joy Sherman:

Or this kind of like certainty that it feels like kind of unreasonable to think

Luan Joy Sherman:

that people wouldn't pick up on the fact that I'm afraid and somehow absorb that

Luan Joy Sherman:

in their experience of the performance.

Luan Joy Sherman:

And so if I don't name it, it's there, no matter what, it's

Luan Joy Sherman:

just now a huge distraction.

Mara Thomas:

Yeah.

Mara Thomas:

Yep.

Mara Thomas:

And so how did it feel once you've said that out loud and then presumably

Mara Thomas:

stepped into the performance zone, how did it change things for you?

Luan Joy Sherman:

Yeah, I mean, I feel like it's important to frame this as like

Luan Joy Sherman:

I did step into the performance zone in a new way that was terrifying, but also.

Luan Joy Sherman:

Not without like a ton of flotation device and like support to do it.

Luan Joy Sherman:

So the setting itself being really supportive, it was virtual the way

Luan Joy Sherman:

that I brought myself into it and the way that I set up the performance.

Luan Joy Sherman:

So I made sure that it was like with material that I had sung a thousand

Luan Joy Sherman:

times, this was not going to be like a growth edge upon a growth edge upon it.

Luan Joy Sherman:

You know, like sometimes we, like, when we think about fear, we think about having to

Luan Joy Sherman:

go to the ultimate and resolve the whole.

Luan Joy Sherman:

You know, like if it needs to be like, okay, I've conquered it, which

Luan Joy Sherman:

yeah, really just kind of, I felt myself retreating from, from the

Luan Joy Sherman:

risk, the more pressure I put on it.

Luan Joy Sherman:

So just step into it and then to find myself supported by the stuff that

Luan Joy Sherman:

I had been doing this whole time.

Luan Joy Sherman:

I was like in the moment reminded that I had earned this with

Luan Joy Sherman:

my hard work and remind me.

Luan Joy Sherman:

In my sharing of the fear that like, it was okay to begin

Luan Joy Sherman:

to just be at the beginning.

Luan Joy Sherman:

Yes.

Luan Joy Sherman:

And it also felt tremendous.

Luan Joy Sherman:

Like the performance itself went really well.

Luan Joy Sherman:

And like people responded to.

Luan Joy Sherman:

This part of myself that I hadn't been sharing with anyone.

Luan Joy Sherman:

And they responded with like open arms and love.

Luan Joy Sherman:

And I think it helped me just like, you know, the whole purpose of that.

Luan Joy Sherman:

For me, it was both a performance and a fair exercise because it was about

Luan Joy Sherman:

breaking the seal, which is something that we talked about in my class around.

Luan Joy Sherman:

How we approach fear in a reasonable

Mara Thomas:

way.

Mara Thomas:

Thank you for setting that up.

Mara Thomas:

So perfectly to sort of segue into the class.

Mara Thomas:

So, you know, coming off of this experience where you openly shared your

Mara Thomas:

fear, allowed fear to be present, and part of the experience now take us through.

Mara Thomas:

How you started to think about putting this class together and what elements

Mara Thomas:

were important to, to include?

Luan Joy Sherman:

Yeah.

Luan Joy Sherman:

Well, because it's such a potent thing for all of us.

Luan Joy Sherman:

Like even the title itself is kind of like, can stimulate fear, you

Luan Joy Sherman:

know, it's like curiosity, but also like, Ooh, a little stress.

Luan Joy Sherman:

It's a shared energy.

Luan Joy Sherman:

So part of what I try to do going into this class was like recognized that, you

Luan Joy Sherman:

know, my limitations include not being a mental health professional, not being

Luan Joy Sherman:

equipped in the time and setting that we had to like provide, you know, this isn't

Luan Joy Sherman:

an outpatient program, you know, and the topic that we're dealing with is really

Luan Joy Sherman:

shared, it's really collective.

Luan Joy Sherman:

And so it means we can really affect each other easily with just talking

Luan Joy Sherman:

about it in ways that we are unaware of.

Luan Joy Sherman:

So going into this, I like started, I think with my fear of going too deep

Luan Joy Sherman:

and my fear of bringing people too deep into the woods and not being equipped.

Luan Joy Sherman:

So I started with like really solid ground rules.

Luan Joy Sherman:

You know, we talked about like this depth, right.

Luan Joy Sherman:

Of like standing in a shallow pool where intentionally in the shallow end together.

Luan Joy Sherman:

So we can practice a little bit of vulnerability together, a little bit

Luan Joy Sherman:

of fear, like all these things in moderation and get out of this sense

Luan Joy Sherman:

of like, in order to address my fear, I have to be at one extreme or the other.

Luan Joy Sherman:

Right.

Luan Joy Sherman:

Yeah.

Luan Joy Sherman:

So, yeah, we, I mean, going through like these shared agreements with.

Luan Joy Sherman:

What we can, what we can do.

Luan Joy Sherman:

And one of the other things I said was like to practice trust in this space

Luan Joy Sherman:

and like to expose yourself with a need, with a fear, with an anxiety,

Luan Joy Sherman:

whatever is a lot of trust in the group and trust that it'll be received.

Mara Thomas:

I remember two part of the ground rules that you put

Mara Thomas:

forth for the group, or even just a suggestion around that was around

Mara Thomas:

boundaries and how boundaries.

Mara Thomas:

Like maybe there's safety in boundaries.

Mara Thomas:

Maybe there's a little safety in distance.

Mara Thomas:

And I feel like that kind of gets to this being in intentionally, in the shallow

Mara Thomas:

end together that, you know, we have a limited amount of time and limited

Mara Thomas:

availability to dig into these topics.

Mara Thomas:

So, you know, how can we also take care of ourselves and each other?

Mara Thomas:

Yeah.

Mara Thomas:

I just remember that being a potent moment for me during

Luan Joy Sherman:

this.

Luan Joy Sherman:

Yeah.

Luan Joy Sherman:

I think just naming the fact that we all need boundaries in this space and that

Luan Joy Sherman:

like every time we talk about boundaries, not as a buzz word, but as a practice, I

Luan Joy Sherman:

know there's a thing that we actually do.

Luan Joy Sherman:

It helps us figure out what our boundaries are and what the

Luan Joy Sherman:

boundaries are in a new space and a new group and whatnot like that.

Luan Joy Sherman:

We can constantly create.

Luan Joy Sherman:

Safety through communication.

Luan Joy Sherman:

And we do that through knowing ourselves and knowing what, what a setting is

Luan Joy Sherman:

about, or, you know, in the ways that we're able to in this little container

Luan Joy Sherman:

of the class, which is its own boundary to saying like we have three hours, you

Luan Joy Sherman:

know, we're going to do X, Y, and Z.

Luan Joy Sherman:

And boundaries are what keep us safe here, right?

Luan Joy Sherman:

To the best of our ability, because you know, the other thing that felt really

Luan Joy Sherman:

important going into this like topic with a group of people who are just

Luan Joy Sherman:

meeting for the first time and soda is such a like open container that brings

Luan Joy Sherman:

people from, I mean, it feels very serendipitous the way that we all kind of

Luan Joy Sherman:

like end up in this place together and.

Luan Joy Sherman:

You know, we're not going to be able to understand each other's

Luan Joy Sherman:

needs, limits boundaries, blah, blah, blah, in this amount of time.

Luan Joy Sherman:

And this is just an exercise in like creating a shallow

Luan Joy Sherman:

area for us to sort that out.

Mara Thomas:

I remember too, some folks were having a difficult time

Mara Thomas:

tapping into the shallow part of it.

Mara Thomas:

You know, the, the, you know, if you imagine things on a one to 10 scale,

Mara Thomas:

like one is maybe a minor annoyance at the grocery store and 10 is.

Mara Thomas:

Super deep trauma.

Mara Thomas:

You know, folks were really connected to the depth of it.

Mara Thomas:

And I really appreciated that element of making folks think about how can we

Mara Thomas:

take maybe some of these smaller scale things that happen to us and start this.

Mara Thomas:

Instead of jumping way into the deep end with, you know, without this safety net.

Luan Joy Sherman:

Yeah.

Luan Joy Sherman:

Cause that's the accessible way to think through and work with fear.

Luan Joy Sherman:

At least for me has been through like the daily experience of reactivity or.

Luan Joy Sherman:

Like having something affect you in a way that's like, kinda

Luan Joy Sherman:

does not make any logical sense.

Luan Joy Sherman:

Like a moment when you get sort of extremely rigid about a plan and

Luan Joy Sherman:

it's out of character or someone forgets to text you back and it

Luan Joy Sherman:

affects you in an unreasonable way.

Luan Joy Sherman:

Like, you know, these sort of like daily ways that we experienced stress.

Luan Joy Sherman:

There they're so abundant.

Luan Joy Sherman:

And for me, I have like a lot, I mean, I've been in therapy for such a long time.

Luan Joy Sherman:

I've been in dialogue with myself, my patterns, my behaviors, whatever, to try

Luan Joy Sherman:

to create healthier responses, you know, as someone with complex trauma and ADHD.

Luan Joy Sherman:

And even though that's difficult, it's also given me a ton of emotional tools.

Luan Joy Sherman:

You know this way of just saying, like, let's just do a little bit,

Luan Joy Sherman:

let's just do a, a bite size.

Luan Joy Sherman:

Let's let you know.

Luan Joy Sherman:

This is like a thing that has been given to me as a tool over and

Luan Joy Sherman:

over again, working through hard feelings and working through yeah.

Luan Joy Sherman:

You know, self-regulation learning how to celebrate.

Mara Thomas:

Which itself is its own form of practice.

Mara Thomas:

Right.

Mara Thomas:

You know, I remember some quote and I will find this quote for the show notes

Mara Thomas:

and I will also offer to our listeners, anything we mentioned in here that

Mara Thomas:

we can find a resource for it online.

Mara Thomas:

It's going to be included in the show notes, but I remember.

Mara Thomas:

Quote, that was to the effect of happiness is no less of a skill than

Mara Thomas:

learning how to play the violin.

Mara Thomas:

You know, it's sort of like, it's a practice.

Mara Thomas:

It's something that you show up for and, you know, learn these skills around

Mara Thomas:

emotion regulation, and you know how to diffuse that moment when you don't

Mara Thomas:

get that text back and you start to spiral out and we've all been there.

Mara Thomas:

And it just makes me think too, even kind of going back to your.

Mara Thomas:

Your fear around singing.

Mara Thomas:

You know, I think that fear and creativity, you know, these

Mara Thomas:

things are so just, I'm kind of smashing my hands together.

Mara Thomas:

They're just so smushed together in our minds about, you know, the, the, you

Mara Thomas:

know, whether it's receiving critical.

Mara Thomas:

Criticism, whether it's somebody told us something once and we then therefore

Mara Thomas:

thought we couldn't do that thing.

Mara Thomas:

You know, just how intertwined the fear can be.

Mara Thomas:

You know, with Tamara the co-host of this podcast, I've helped facilitate

Mara Thomas:

creative accountability groups.

Mara Thomas:

And one of the things we realized kind of to your point was, whoa,

Mara Thomas:

we're going to immediately be getting into like meant the mental health.

Mara Thomas:

And at that time, like was not qualified to do that.

Mara Thomas:

And so I just, I think it's so fascinating.

Mara Thomas:

Maybe we could talk a little bit about these things that take root in our minds,

Mara Thomas:

whether it's perfectionism or something harsh that we internalized and how, how

Mara Thomas:

these things impede our creative process.

Luan Joy Sherman:

Yeah.

Luan Joy Sherman:

That's like a really good way to tie into that and also

Luan Joy Sherman:

summarize some of like the, yeah.

Luan Joy Sherman:

The roots really.

Luan Joy Sherman:

How something that happened however long ago, an offhand comment, like

Luan Joy Sherman:

something insensitive, whatever.

Luan Joy Sherman:

Yeah.

Luan Joy Sherman:

Like our greatest love and our deepest fears are right next to each other.

Luan Joy Sherman:

And I think a lot of that that's been my own experience and I think that's

Luan Joy Sherman:

like some of the magic and amazing release that I've noticed from people

Luan Joy Sherman:

when we talk through this stuff.

Luan Joy Sherman:

And even in some moments of this class, That when you can sit

Luan Joy Sherman:

with a fear, it's usually, yeah.

Luan Joy Sherman:

It's usually neighbors with this thing that you are really deeply in love

Luan Joy Sherman:

with, or that really matters to you or is like extremely precious, you know?

Luan Joy Sherman:

And so for me, like this fear of.

Luan Joy Sherman:

The fear of being heard, singing is a complex one, but it has to do with

Luan Joy Sherman:

my anxiety, that my voice is a burden to other people, which I think like

Luan Joy Sherman:

if, if we like simplify it further, it's like fear of being too much.

Luan Joy Sherman:

And then there's like making sound.

Luan Joy Sherman:

So being.

Luan Joy Sherman:

And someone looking at you.

Luan Joy Sherman:

And so when I'm working with like, okay, it's a fear of singing, but is it though,

Mara Thomas:

right, exactly.

Mara Thomas:

You know,

Luan Joy Sherman:

like I love to sing.

Luan Joy Sherman:

So I can't even say that it's a fear.

Luan Joy Sherman:

I'm absolutely not afraid to sing.

Luan Joy Sherman:

I'm afraid to be witnessed.

Luan Joy Sherman:

Right.

Luan Joy Sherman:

And that's something else, but I can use singing to work through.

Luan Joy Sherman:

My fear being witnessed at the same time.

Mara Thomas:

I just love that my brain is going in 55 directions,

Luan Joy Sherman:

especially with this creative thing.

Luan Joy Sherman:

I mean, yeah, the pathways into a new, like, like the forms of expression

Luan Joy Sherman:

that, that are just deeply tied to our heart, whatever that is.

Luan Joy Sherman:

I think we have to be able to, to release fear in order to get

Luan Joy Sherman:

into that room with that feeling.

Mara Thomas:

Yes.

Mara Thomas:

Release fear or maybe even like you did acknowledge it, say it's present.

Mara Thomas:

It's that whole, like having a cup of tea with it here, come, come sit down.

Mara Thomas:

I see you.

Mara Thomas:

And here, here you are again.

Mara Thomas:

And I'm not going to pretend that you're not here because here you are.

Mara Thomas:

Um, well, I'm wondering if you could share with us, if there have been times in

Mara Thomas:

your creative past, you know, that you've bumped up against, you know, this idea.

Mara Thomas:

Not being witnessed or, you know, maybe being witnessed and then

Mara Thomas:

having that witnessing kind of go sideways or not really feeling that

Mara Thomas:

the people that you were with were understanding how you were showing up.

Luan Joy Sherman:

Yeah.

Luan Joy Sherman:

Oh, wow.

Luan Joy Sherman:

Yeah.

Luan Joy Sherman:

I mean the freshest wound definitely grad school and I.

Luan Joy Sherman:

Yeah, not totally a wound, you know, but definitely like an eye-opener for

Luan Joy Sherman:

that kind of how I want to be witnessed, how I'm not being witnessed, what I

Luan Joy Sherman:

have to say, what I want to do all that through my creative practice came through

Luan Joy Sherman:

getting an MFA in sculpture and I still really deeply identify with sculpture.

Luan Joy Sherman:

Like I think it's the core of my practice.

Luan Joy Sherman:

And especially in the energy work I do.

Luan Joy Sherman:

And the writing and the performance using sound, all of it.

Luan Joy Sherman:

Right?

Luan Joy Sherman:

Like, especially writing.

Luan Joy Sherman:

I mean, it's just so constructive and building, but when I was in the,

Luan Joy Sherman:

in the MFA program that I was in, it was much more, I'll say parts of

Luan Joy Sherman:

it were antithetical to who I am.

Luan Joy Sherman:

And I didn't know that going in.

Luan Joy Sherman:

Parts of the community were antithetical or homogenous where

Luan Joy Sherman:

having a different class experience.

Luan Joy Sherman:

There were so many ways that I felt misaligned with that environment while

Luan Joy Sherman:

also trying to access, like, you know, this deeply powerful creative channel.

Luan Joy Sherman:

And I found that it so much harder to meet fear without emotional, physical

Luan Joy Sherman:

or mental safety, almost impossible.

Luan Joy Sherman:

And I think it's also, it makes it really hard to create work that feels, at least

Luan Joy Sherman:

from my own practices is in alignment with me because I need safety in order to yeah.

Luan Joy Sherman:

Be able to be in full self-acceptance.

Luan Joy Sherman:

And I think that's what I'm trying to do with my creative practice, usually.

Luan Joy Sherman:

So in that, in that sense, it was like, yeah.

Luan Joy Sherman:

My experience of grad school was I had a really intense series of life events

Luan Joy Sherman:

happen halfway through and everything kind of fell apart all at once.

Luan Joy Sherman:

So into, yeah, my in the summer before my second year of grad

Luan Joy Sherman:

school was a two year program.

Luan Joy Sherman:

I went into an intensive outpatient program and my focus shifted.

Luan Joy Sherman:

Into the mechanics of care for myself, I'm like a daily level kind of this

Luan Joy Sherman:

like learning how to drive, stick shift with, you know, my emotions,

Luan Joy Sherman:

my reactions, all this stuff.

Luan Joy Sherman:

And so what I did at that point in my, in my experience with grad school

Luan Joy Sherman:

and my creative practice turned into a blending of that with care practices and.

Luan Joy Sherman:

Yeah, it was deeply antithetical to the, what most of my peers were interested

Mara Thomas:

in.

Mara Thomas:

I'd love if we could dive into this a little bit more, because I definitely

Mara Thomas:

want to hear more about the daily care practice that you established for yourself

Mara Thomas:

and how you tried to integrate that.

Mara Thomas:

Well, it sounds like, you know, you perhaps were able to integrate that with

Mara Thomas:

what you were trying to do creatively and then the kind of factors around you.

Mara Thomas:

We're not really understanding of what, how this would facilitate or have

Mara Thomas:

anything to do with the creative process.

Mara Thomas:

So I'm just, I'd love if you could share a little more about that.

Luan Joy Sherman:

Yeah.

Luan Joy Sherman:

One of the things that came out of my outpatient program that was like truly

Luan Joy Sherman:

transformative was the therapist I was working with helps me create while we kind

Luan Joy Sherman:

of, we co-designed, it was pretty much.

Luan Joy Sherman:

This thing that I call daily practice, that's basically like seven to

Luan Joy Sherman:

10 categories of things that are like essential for daily function.

Luan Joy Sherman:

That over time, if you neglect them, when I neglected them, everything fell

Luan Joy Sherman:

apart over and over and over again.

Luan Joy Sherman:

So the daily practice was a way for me to deal with a deep resistance

Luan Joy Sherman:

to structure that was imposed outside of me, form one for myself.

Luan Joy Sherman:

And established self-trust.

Luan Joy Sherman:

And I think that a couple of those things were not shared problems by my peers.

Luan Joy Sherman:

Like at least not in the same way.

Luan Joy Sherman:

So yeah, I was coming out of like a period of housing instability, and that also

Luan Joy Sherman:

influenced this daily practice chart to be basically, it was like, okay, food wise.

Luan Joy Sherman:

Sleep interact with friends, exercise or move your body, take

Luan Joy Sherman:

your vitamins and your medication, and, you know, play with your cat.

Luan Joy Sherman:

Like those were the categories.

Luan Joy Sherman:

And so when I brought, when I brought that stuff into.

Luan Joy Sherman:

Uh, critique setting and mind you, like, I mean, they were kind of participating

Luan Joy Sherman:

in the language of art school in the sense that like I had made these huge

Luan Joy Sherman:

charts on these large pieces of paper with colors and it was just a drawing

Luan Joy Sherman:

practice for me at the same time.

Luan Joy Sherman:

Like it just, it naturally.

Luan Joy Sherman:

This drawing and this care chart and whatever.

Luan Joy Sherman:

And I brought these pages, I've been working on this.

Luan Joy Sherman:

I've been doing this practice every single day for like, I think

Luan Joy Sherman:

almost three months at this point.

Luan Joy Sherman:

And so I brought all of this data to them in these huge drawings.

Luan Joy Sherman:

And I had this one critique where like, literally the response was,

Luan Joy Sherman:

why should we care about this?

Luan Joy Sherman:

And.

Luan Joy Sherman:

That this work is profoundly boring and it gets a combo of words.

Luan Joy Sherman:

So funny to me, because there is something profoundly boring about how

Luan Joy Sherman:

much labor it takes to support ourselves.

Luan Joy Sherman:

It's truly exhausting.

Luan Joy Sherman:

It's really tedious, you know?

Luan Joy Sherman:

And so I guess they weren't wrong in that sense, but it was also

Luan Joy Sherman:

just an inability to connect with.

Luan Joy Sherman:pandemic, this was like, what:Luan Joy Sherman:

People were not able to connect with why those daily needs would

Luan Joy Sherman:

be so hard to meet without a chart.

Mara Thomas:

Right.

Mara Thomas:

And for those of us who, you know, I've, I've had my own version of this

Mara Thomas:

and I'm really looking forward to sharing sort of a template for this,

Mara Thomas:

with our listeners, because I think a lot of us can benefit from this.

Mara Thomas:

You know, I I've had mine was born out of this like yoga group that I was in.

Mara Thomas:

And when I was on it, when I was meditating, when I was, you know,

Mara Thomas:

listening to music or, you know, moving my body in kind of a celebratory way,

Mara Thomas:

all these things that I had identified as being important, I felt really great.

Mara Thomas:

And then isn't it funny how, in the course of just living life one by one,

Mara Thomas:

these resources tend to fall away if we're not like on top of it, because

Mara Thomas:

there's always other things to do.

Mara Thomas:

There's always other things that we feel we should prioritize over,

Mara Thomas:

resting over, playing over, you know, being with being in community.

Mara Thomas:

So I just.

Mara Thomas:

You know, I, I actually I'm, I'm also like I'm loving that profoundly boring things.

Mara Thomas:

Like part of it, like actually, yeah, that's a feature, not a bug, right?

Luan Joy Sherman:

Exactly.

Luan Joy Sherman:

No, I'm aware.

Luan Joy Sherman:

I'm tired of it too.

Luan Joy Sherman:

Yeah, no, this, this point about, you know, to just be crystal clear about

Luan Joy Sherman:

it, like the oppressive systems that we live in, you know, white supremacists,

Luan Joy Sherman:

capitalist, CIS patriarchy it's deeply supports the deprivation that yeah,

Luan Joy Sherman:

it supports deprivation personally and, and produces it and expects it.

Luan Joy Sherman:

And so this system, one of my only rules for it, when I share this tool with

Luan Joy Sherman:

people is that, well, there's two rules.

Luan Joy Sherman:

One is that you cannot use this tool for self.

Luan Joy Sherman:

You cannot use it for self abuse and into the best of your ability.

Luan Joy Sherman:

You cannot use it for judgment because that's where it's going to go immediately.

Luan Joy Sherman:

That's what we do with systems naturally.

Luan Joy Sherman:

It's like, it's like how we were conditioned, right?

Mara Thomas:

Yeah.

Mara Thomas:

It's the, oh, here's one more thing I'm not doing

Luan Joy Sherman:

exactly.

Luan Joy Sherman:

Yeah.

Luan Joy Sherman:

Yeah.

Luan Joy Sherman:

It's ways to feel bad.

Luan Joy Sherman:

You know, you could do, you can just reproduce that, but the point is to

Luan Joy Sherman:

cultivate play, cultivate, rest, cultivate forgiveness, self-trust all this stuff.

Luan Joy Sherman:

The chart isn't meant to become a rigid thing.

Luan Joy Sherman:

I also recommend that it's hand drawn people who use this, wherever that is,

Luan Joy Sherman:

if it's on the wall or if it's, you know, in a book or whatever it just

Luan Joy Sherman:

doing it by hand and allowing that.

Luan Joy Sherman:

Fundamental part of it to be imperfect.

Mara Thomas:

Yes.

Mara Thomas:

Yes.

Mara Thomas:

And you know, just like you, did you using different colors using just different?

Mara Thomas:

How do you check, you know, proverbially check that box.

Mara Thomas:

Do you draw a little picture in there?

Mara Thomas:

Like all these different things you can do?

Mara Thomas:

Yeah.

Mara Thomas:

To just, again, like make it fun and make it something that is for

Mara Thomas:

you for your health and wellbeing and no other reason really.

Luan Joy Sherman:

Yeah, and it's armor.

Luan Joy Sherman:

And in a sense, because I think this was the part that felt most.

Luan Joy Sherman:

Disappointing.

Luan Joy Sherman:

So circling back to like the reception of this tool.

Luan Joy Sherman:

When I first like shared it with people, it was really deeply disappointing to

Luan Joy Sherman:

feel like I had failed to deliver the value, because I think there was a

Luan Joy Sherman:

part of me that knew deeply that this was something that, that most people

Luan Joy Sherman:

could find a way to benefit from.

Luan Joy Sherman:

Or the many people needed just looking around me and this, in this community

Luan Joy Sherman:

of like extreme exhaustion, overwork, you know, and MFA is just like, it's

Luan Joy Sherman:

so much, it pulls so much from you.

Luan Joy Sherman:

And so that critique, that bad experience really, it motivated me frustrated me.

Luan Joy Sherman:

Toward finding ways to communicate this and in, in multiples and

Luan Joy Sherman:

through other mediums and other ways to make this work illegible.

Mara Thomas:

I'm wondering if, as we think about that, you know, in this piece

Mara Thomas:

of, you know, bringing it to a group of people, ostensibly for feedback, you

Mara Thomas:

know, I'm just wondering if you could share a little bit, some of your thoughts

Mara Thomas:

around ways that we could actually.

Mara Thomas:

Start to humanize the feedback process so that it can be, you know, we've talked,

Mara Thomas:

you and I have talked about sometimes these, you know, you get this harsh

Mara Thomas:

critique or something that can actually really fuel a block inside of you.

Mara Thomas:

So how can we.

Mara Thomas:

Rather than fueling creative blocks among one another use critique and

Mara Thomas:

feedback to help lift up the person

Luan Joy Sherman:

who's creating.

Luan Joy Sherman:

That's a really good point.

Luan Joy Sherman:

Like I think a really powerful tool for this is modeling in groups

Luan Joy Sherman:

actually, because what I've noticed.

Luan Joy Sherman:

Is in some of these, these like toxic group critique settings

Luan Joy Sherman:

what's being modeled and what's, it becomes a competition between

Luan Joy Sherman:

the people who are critiquing.

Luan Joy Sherman:

Like it all gets ahead.

Luan Joy Sherman:

It gets away from itself like a runaway train or something.

Luan Joy Sherman:

And we can actually just go in the opposite direction when

Luan Joy Sherman:

we're modeling for each other.

Luan Joy Sherman:

Ways to engage with work or a problem or someone's fear or someone's

Luan Joy Sherman:

vulnerability that are like rooted in compassion, in a desire to build an,

Luan Joy Sherman:

a desire to help this person grow.

Luan Joy Sherman:

Like really just like love in action.

Luan Joy Sherman:

'cause like someone sharing their work with me.

Luan Joy Sherman:

Like it's not really about me.

Luan Joy Sherman:

And so it's kind of cruel to then make it about myself and leave

Luan Joy Sherman:

that person with nothing but doubt,

Mara Thomas:

because I can think of few things that feel more vulnerable

Mara Thomas:

than taking some piece of your creativity, whether that's a sculpture,

Mara Thomas:

whether it's a piece of writing and giving it to other people and asking.

Mara Thomas:

Tell you what they think of.

Mara Thomas:

It it's that that part alone has kept me from either doing or sharing work

Mara Thomas:

for so much of my life, because it's like, I don't, I'm not equipped to

Mara Thomas:

withstand the judgment and the criticism.

Mara Thomas:

So it's, I wish that we had so many more hours to talk about that topic because

Mara Thomas:

I really feel like that, you know, there are pockets of, you know, creative.

Mara Thomas:

The zones where people are starting to make these shifts around how

Mara Thomas:

feedback is delivered and metabolized.

Mara Thomas:

And like, I'm just so here for it yesterday.

Mara Thomas:

Like the more we can humanize this process, because that talk about fear.

Mara Thomas:

Right.

Mara Thomas:

You know, that's just such a, what will people think?

Mara Thomas:

What if they really saw this?

Mara Thomas:

What would they say?

Mara Thomas:

Will I

Luan Joy Sherman:

be correct?

Luan Joy Sherman:

Yeah, and it really just cuts off all potential for the work

Luan Joy Sherman:

to breathe and have a life.

Luan Joy Sherman:

And one of the other things that like really that drove me to bring this class

Luan Joy Sherman:

into this space was like this feeling of.

Luan Joy Sherman:

I forget where I heard this quote, but it was like basically that like our

Luan Joy Sherman:

expression of our most authentic self and our gifts are what other people rely on

Luan Joy Sherman:

to do the same, in some sense, because it's this web of actualizing, like me

Luan Joy Sherman:

bringing my gifts into the world is likely going to enable something else.

Luan Joy Sherman:

And so putting faith in.

Luan Joy Sherman:

That connectivity beyond our own awareness.

Luan Joy Sherman:

And that, that can be the purpose of expression.

Luan Joy Sherman:

It's just the trust that like, well, this came to me, I guess I have to

Luan Joy Sherman:

release it because somebody else needs to see this or hear it or be with it,

Luan Joy Sherman:

or, you know, like that is the most profound, those instances, the most

Luan Joy Sherman:

profound experiences I've had with art.

Luan Joy Sherman:

And so it's like, Rather than arguing about what is, or is not art, or if it's

Luan Joy Sherman:

good or bad is like talking about what's the purpose, you know, what are you

Luan Joy Sherman:

doing with this in a compassionate way?

Luan Joy Sherman:

You know, what do you wish for this?

Luan Joy Sherman:

Yeah.

Luan Joy Sherman:

Lewin.

Mara Thomas:

I could talk to you all day, every day for 65 years

Mara Thomas:

and it would never be enough.

Mara Thomas:

So I just so appreciate your willingness to join us today and for

Mara Thomas:

all these beautiful insights that you've shared with our listeners.

Luan Joy Sherman:

Thank you so much for taking the time to dive in

Luan Joy Sherman:

that just, yeah, it's so valuable.

Tamara Kissane:Established in:Tamara Kissane:

studio based in North Carolina.

Tamara Kissane:

Artist Soapbox produces original scripted audio fiction and an ongoing interview

Tamara Kissane:

podcast about the creative process.

Tamara Kissane:

We cultivate aspiring audio Dramatists and producers, and we partner with

Tamara Kissane:

organizations and individuals to create new audio content for more

Tamara Kissane:

information and ways to support our work.

Tamara Kissane:

Check out artistsoapbox.org or find us on Facebook, Instagram, or Twitter.

Tamara Kissane:

The Artist Soapbox theme song is ashes by Juliana Finch.

Artist Soapbox

Artist Soapbox is a platform for original scripted audio fiction and an opportunity for artists to discuss their creative work in their own voices. We do this through our interview podcast, our blog, and original audio dramas.

Artist Soapbox is an anti-racist organization. We believe Black Lives Matter. In addition, as an audio production company, ASBX has signed the Equality in Audio Pact on Broccoli Content.

Artist Soapbox is more than just an interview podcast.

We lead writers groups, accountability support, events, and workshops. We create and produce audio dramas too! Listen to the Master BuilderThe New Colossus Audio Drama, Declaration of Love, and ASBX Shorts. Stay tuned to hear about more projects written by the Soapbox Audio Collective Writers’ Group.

Artist Soapbox is about Empowerment & Connection.

Artist Soapbox was founded on the belief that if we (humans/artists) talk with each other, and if we LISTEN to each other, then we’ll make better art. We’ll form a stronger community. We’ll feel more empowered and less alone.

Artist Soapbox goes deep into the creative process.

On Artist Soapbox podcast, artists in the Triangle are invited to put words around their creative journeys and processes.

Artist Soapbox explores all artistic mediums.

We believe we can learn from all artists. Artist Soapbox is open to the full spectrum of art-makers and has interviewed creatives in theatre, dance, visual, literary, craft, administration, film making, photography, music, design and more.

Scroll to Top