art, artists, authenticity, choices, collaborations, community, contracts, decisions, mothers, new mommy writers' workshop, newmommywrites, no, partnerships, passion, programs, saying no, women, writing
That’s what I did last night. I spent several hours rescinding my proposal to partner the New Mommy Writers’ Workshop with a large and influential organization. They would have provided an ideal space and a massive advertising campaign. I would have been able to give the workshop a greater platform and reach many more mothers and those active in their mothering work. Possibly even, this pilot partnership could have leveraged access to grant funding that would later allow me to produce the workshop as a permanent program within this organization. On the surface it was an optimal and promising arrangement.
But the spirit of the collaboration was troubled, and had been so for some time. There were flags I kept trying to ignore because I had convinced myself that the sum of all the pluses and minuses would still be greater than zero. As we progressed in negotiations, it became clearer to me that the organization’s contract manager did not really grasp the meaning or purpose of the New Mommy Writers’ Workshop, let alone have an understanding of the work I do or the community I serve. This was dangerous, I knew, but the lure of all those perks I would not have to pay for led me away from my intuition bit by bit. Think of all the access it will give you, I would repeat to myself after every disappointing interaction. It’s only for a little while. You can survive that long, surely.
But why spend even one day walking in the wrong direction? The way forward was teeming with issues that compromised the integrity of the workshop and the way I wanted to share it with the mothers and women who had come to trust the space that I had been able to independently produce thus far. It was getting harder for me to justify the lie. I think the most telling indicator that I wanted an altogether different partnership agreement was watching myself delay the submission of the contract I’d had for over two weeks. Everyday I found a new reason not to sign the paperwork and turn it in. For a long while I wrestled with feeling like I had to do it, had to finish what I started. Your name is on this / you’ll lose credibility/ how are you going to do this without their resources that you don’t have? But after while, even that tape sounded old and inauthentic. Deep down I knew that my mission was more expansive than a few months of presenting the workshop with this organization.
At first, I assumed these hiccups along the way were normal adjustments one would expect to make when taking a smaller program and transforming it into a larger one. I didn’t pay much attention to the parts of the deal that felt uncomfortable and not quite aligned with the workshop process I had been so consciously crafting. When specific concerns I brought up weren’t addressed, I made excuses for why they hadn’t responded. Mostly, I started to accept that they were a massively important entity, and I was a small fish lucky to just have a foot in the door. If I could manage to smile through the nonsense they were slinging, it would all add up to something more than nothing. And the soul of my vision wouldn’t have to suffer too much, right?
By the third round of attempting to settle on a schedule, I had grown weary with the partnership process. I didn’t understand why I wasn’t being given better slots on the calendar even though there were no conflicting programs at the times I was requesting. My questions repeatedly went unanswered. It had now been nearly five months of trying to get this collaboration on its feet, and I thought that since I’d come this far, I should just trudge on. Get it over with. And when the contract ended, I could start fresh somewhere else.
This is where being a new mommy to a growing munchkin helped me see the light. I don’t really have idle blocks of time to waste on projects that aren’t fully aligned with my calling to serve mothers, women, and artists. It actually makes no sense to go through with a contract that would tie up so many hours of my time, all the while forcing me to compromise on the quality of the programs I want to offer. There were so many logistical factors that were going to make life more complicated for me and the people I’m responsible to. Honestly though, I was willing to plow ahead anyway, but after encountering yet another instance of the organization giving me the brush off, I realized that critical truth we all come to when it’s time to walk away: This is not worth it.
So last night, with my family sleeping peacefully all around me, I stayed up putting into writing my final decision to withdraw my proposal. I outlined all the reasons why and also included a thorough list of suggestions for improving their proposal and partnership process for future applicants. I read and reread it several times before deciding that I had said all I needed to say. When it was finished I felt good about my process and I reflected on all this journey of attempted partnership had taught me.
As it is now, the New Mommy Writers’ Workshop is looking for an official home for the new year. Initially, I won’t be able to produce it on the grand scale that being connected to the organization would have afforded me, but I will have the freedom to shape the space and gradually expand the program. Also important, I am now more aware of the type of collaboration, if any, that I want to cultivate next time. This experience has definitely shown me that I am not lacking in anything, and I don’t need something outside of myself to do the work I am passionate about doing.