Deborah Henson-Conant

Telling stories with music at HipHarp.com


I’ve just started the process of editing the first level of “Hip Harp Academy” my year-long pre-jazz program for harp players.  That means that Mackenzie, my school administrator and I, are going back through content of the 10+ programs that make up the curriculum and reorganizing, adding new content, etc.

At the same time I’m starting to work on the new Jazz Harp Curriculum we’re adding in 2018.

It’s fun to look at what I’ve created in the past few years – a whole learning model to share my method of improv and performance – one that only existed in my head until I started building the courses for “Hip Harp Academy” a few years ago.

With creating comes the need to share – and the more I teach, the more I discover that many of us have similar anxieties about sharing our work – regardless of our ‘level’ as artists – and just like the students share their work with me, I’m sharing my work – the online classrooms I’ve built – with them.

many of us have similar anxieties about sharing our work Click To Tweet

Yesterday I went into the “Hands on Harmony” classroom that’s starting in August, to show it to my new program manager and I discovered that we’d loaded the wrong videos.  The content was all there – but we’d loaded the unedited versions of the videos.

No big deal, right? The class hasn’t even started, and we can load the edited videos long before we even take the first registration. But everyone who’s already in the Academy already has access to every class – including this one – so that they can review them, get a head start or them, or take them at their own pace … so someone probably saw those unedited videos.

Not like I was naked in them or anything – they just don’t show the handouts the way I want them to. But realizing we’d done it ‘wrong’ triggered a little emotional avalanche for me.  My first feeling was just — icky. Icky that I’d shared something that I didn’t think was ready to be shared.

But then I felt fear.  The fear of having done something WRONG. Did I really edit those videos – or just dream I did??? Did we lose the edits?? How long will it take me to recreate them??

Then came the big whallop:  the meta-fear:  what if I did the WRONG THING?? What if I wasn’t careful???  What I, myself, am just WRONG????

Impatient for the Finished Product

I remember about 5 years ago when I was first creating my “Strings of Passion” program. I was working with an agent who wanted to book the program quickly, and who was coaching me to create it.  As I was developing the content, he kept urging me to “Make it simpler! Make it SIMPLER!”

I had no idea what SIMPLER meant.  I was in the discovery phase. He was already anxious to ‘get it packaged NOW.’   In retrospect, I realize he was used to seeing people offer him finished products, not ones in the process of creation. I now realize he’d probably never collaborated on creating a program – people probably came to him with finished programs.

Back then I was just confused and stressed by how insistent he was, unable to respond and internalized the idea that I was doing it wrong.

Now I realize that his impatient  “Make it simpler! Make it more ORGANIZED” was like yelling at a cook “Keep the kitchen CLEAN! Get it on the PLATE!” — when they’re in the middle of making spaghetti sauce.

So … why is this important?

Well … I realized I was feeling much the same thing – and going through the same emotional turbulence and catastrophizing that my students describe about sharing their homework videos.

I’ve been scared my whole life about my own messy process – afraid of how my stages of creativity LOOK or SOUND to others. I’ve always tried to hide it, and felt embarrassed when people see it.

But the beautiful side of understanding this about myself is that I’m able to look at other creatives’ works, and see what IS there instead of immediately zoning in on what’s WRONG and what needs to be FIXED.

Heck, even writing about this when it comes to my own process being misunderstood, or judged, I can feel my pulse racing.

So yesterday, when those feelings came up about the ‘wrong’ videos being on display –  I made a commitment to push away from blame, to push away from guilt – and I just look at that fear about doing things wrong.

And here’s what I remembered:

Everything that’s born comes out slimy.

Everything that’s born comes out slimy Click To Tweet

THE CREATIVE PROCESS is messy It goes from diffuse to clear. It never “gets done right the first time.”  It doesn’t travel in a straight line.  And the ‘mistakes’ you agonize over are often the greatest help to clarifying that process, getting you through it and learning empathy for others. So embrace them. Use them. Love them.

Creativity never ‘gets done right the first time Click To Tweet

The members of my academy will probably say, “But that’s what you always say to US.”

Right.  And I constantly struggle to live by it myself.

And that’s one reason I promise the members of my Academy that I commit to model imperfection for them, as well as teaching them all I know.  To MODEL sharing imperfect work, to commit to the value and intention of what we’re sharing. And to learn to share our mistakes and even laugh at them.

So … if you want to join a learning community where everyone’s committed to imperfect action and creative learning, get on the First-to-Know list for “Hip Harp Academy” – opening for the Fall term September 2017.

Ooops … we don’t have a ‘First to Know” list yet … so … I’m working on that this weekend … stay tuned!