Everyone exults about how amazing it is to get FOUR WHOLE WEEKS where we don’t have to cook dinner, tend family members, or do anything at all but create our work. And they’re right; it’s truly transformative. Some residents love the community piece, as well, living for a period of time among people who are also carrying visions for something beautiful and/or meaningful they want to make, visions that are often difficult to articulate, take years to manifest into art or a manuscript, and which, honestly, make some of us feel crazy within the context of our everyday lives. Even our own plans can seem whacked as we spend years shaping them into something someone hopefully wants to view or buy or support.
It’s the “honestly” part of the paragraph above that I want to write about now. Djerassi does a particularly good job of choosing cohesive, sympatico groups of residents. I know this from attending Djerassi events and seeing that it wasn’t just my group that was exceptionally wonderful. But in fact my group was exceptionally wonderful. We writers, filmmakers, painters, composers, playwrights, and dancers shared our excitement about our work, but we also felt comfortable enough with each other—after a week or two, anyway—to be honest about the full range of feelings around doing creative work, work that is so often not supported in other parts of our lives.
One night we started talking about rejections, and the power that these statements of “no” have on our work. We revealed, in lovely detail, particular rejections that still stung years later, that return at three in the morning on insomniac nights, that slice through what could otherwise be productive work days.
So we came up with an idea. We’d have a rejection party! We’d talk and drink and dance away a particularly needling rejection from our past. Everyone would write theirs on a piece of paper. Then we’d build a massive bonfire and burn them! We called our event Rejectabration. Then we added an exclamation mark. Rejectabration!
We planned elaborately, realizing right away that a bonfire wasn’t a great idea, but we did have a Dionysian-style party down at the barn, with great music, drinks, snacks, and lots of sweaty dancing. Instead of the fire, we dug a pit in the earth. We stood in a ceremonial circle around the pit and, after an artist who happened to be a member of Wicca blessed the four directions, we each talked about a particularly painful and persistent rejection that we wanted to let go of, starting that night. We wrote notes about these rejections on scraps of paper and dropped them into the pit. Then we shoveled soil on top and filled the hole, burying the rejection slips.
Our loads greatly lightened, we resumed dancing. And the next morning, we resumed working on our projects with renewed gusto and love and commitment.
Lucy Jane Bledsoe, 2017 artist-in-residence
The novel Lucy Jane Bledsoe finished at the Djerassi Program, The Evolution of Love, came out in May of 2018. www.lucyjanebledsoe.com