In a summer long series called Meet the Artists, you will be introduced to all the teachers for this years Create Explore Discover Art Retreat. Last week, we met Lisa Congdon and this week we are introducing you to Jen Lee, of Jen Lee Productions. Jen is an independent media producer and performer living in New York City. She will be co-teaching 3 courses with Liz Kalloch this year called: Indie Publishing. It is my pleasure to introduce Jen to you and I cannot wait for her to join us this fall. So with out further ado…
Tell a little about yourself. Where you have lived, what type of creative work you have done and how you came to build your business.
I come from pioneers. My ancestors settled along the Colorado/Kansas border, and this spirit of curiosity and adventure weaves its way through my family tree, along with the desire to settle–to raise the barn and build the town. I feel both forces in me, all the time.
My husband and I set off over five years ago to come the other direction, and we brought our family on an urban adventure to New York City. We’ve been making Brooklyn our home-away-from-home ever since.
My girls were little then–3 years old and 3 months old, and I was trying to trust and honor this compulsion I felt to write, even though I could never really measure or decide or forsee if it was worth doing. It was like throwing spaghetti on the wall at first, and I tried a bit of everything. A novel. Some children’s stories. Some non-fiction pieces that ended up in an anthology. And a online journal to just kind of chronicle my stumbling through the fog with just my intuition to guide me like some strange internal sonar.
In 2008 I produced my first self-published project, Don’t Write: A Reluctant Journal. It went into a second run after the first sold out, and then sold out again. Everything I’ve made, then and since–even though I hope it will be valuable for people and sometimes I KNOW it will–I make because I must. For me. Every project, every word, is a completion and and testimony to an internal journey that brings me to these occasional places where I can look back and make sense of the terrain behind me.
But even after over a dozen projects and all this time, it still feels just as much like finding my way through a fog with my intuition sonar as it did back then.
What are the steps you follow when you are working towards a goal?
It always starts with an obsession–a catalog I can’t stop looking at or a movie I can’t stop watching on repeat. Something will inspire me and I just can’t shake it. I get quiet inside and listen for what wants to be made. When I think I’ve got it, I tell my friends and listen for whether or not it resonates. If not, we talk it through or I listen some more. Then we marry the production and the creation a little. We think, What can we fit in a Priority Flat Rate envelope?, because that’s easy for me to manage in my Brooklyn pedestrian world and because I love sending good mail.
I find options for producing that preserve my intentions, and I don’t know, I just do what I can on it every day. I learned years ago, writing a novel with babies, that a little every day snowballs into something big over time.
After you have achieved a major goal? How do you wind down and still keep that momentum moving forward?
Winding down is really a challenge for me. It can take up to a couple weeks to “downshift”. Watching Masterpiece Mystery on Netflix helps–things with interesting writing or beautiful cinematography tend to restock my inspiration pond while my strategic mind rests.
I also do puttering kinds of work. Updating databases, entering receipts, putting things in order. I’ll go on a cleaning or decluttering binge. Clearing out my physical space always makes me feel like I have room to think, and for new possibilities to come and be born. As I go, I might be reading or listening to books or podcasts that are feeding my mind, possibly related
to what’s next. But it’s just kind of a passive taking it in while I putter, and while I’m not really trying to mastermind it, some unconscious part of my mind will pick up the parts I need and weave them together. There’s always a What’s Next pulling me forward, even if quietly.
Here’s were you can find out more about Jen and her work: