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Start Again

People who run events often live in the shadows. You might not know them, but you know what they’ve done. It’s the curse of being behind the scenes – if you’re doing your job correctly, no one will ever know your name. But you should know Monica Derksen. She (and her team, which happens to include me) has run the Nuit Blanche art installations, festival VIP lounges, the Santa Claus Parade, back alley parties and Table for 1200, all here in Winnipeg. If it’s cool, urban and well-run, it usually has Monica’s imprint on it.

No surprise that she’s got a different way of looking at the world. It’s one the things I most admire about her: her ability to constantly and consciously see things in a new light.

Monica has a way of describing how she approaches events that is an easy parallel for our whole damn lives: “Sometimes, you’ve rolled the dice and you’re trying to make them fit. You’ve tried to make a pattern, to add them up, to stack them in different ways and nothing feels right. Eventually, you just need to pick up the dice and roll them again.”

Example? Monica was in charge of the now defunct music festival Interstellar Rodeo’s VIP Lounge. She designed the space and the experience. Soft furnishings, chandeliers in tents, curated menus. She wanted luxe, comfort and an experience that Winnipeg wasn’t used to. And she wanted to do more. “After I did the lounge, I let it be known to organizers that I wanted a bigger part of the show, that I could offer more,” she says. “The next year, I got given the lounge again, nothing else. And that was the last year they came to Winnipeg.”

At the time, she assumed that she’d lost her chance to get involved in a festival in Winnipeg at that level. The dream was over. Until she rolled the dice again and decided it wasn’t. “One day, after a lot of soul searching about what I loved to do most, I asked myself how I could do something like Interstellar Rodeo if it didn’t exist anymore? It came to me: I could create my own festival.”

CURRENT Winnipeg was born. It was scheduled at the Forks for August 2020 and I don’t need to tell you what happened to that plan. I also don’t need to tell you what Monica did: she re-rolled the dice. The year’s delay gave her time to redesign the event space, tweak the format, hone in on the dream experience she’s trying to give Winnipeg.

“When I know that something has to be a certain way, and I get stuck trying to get there, I start from scratch,” she explains. This means removing all the furniture from your living room and starting with the couch in a place you’d never expect. This means planning a festival in a public space and not putting the stage where everyone else has put it. This means deleting the blog post you’re writing and starting in the middle of it instead of the beginning.

Pick any problem, and rolling the dice anew will bring you closer to solving it.

smallshift: Start again. When you hit a block, remove the plans, walls, ideas and concepts you’ve got and start again. Then force yourself into creativity by starting somewhere unexpected. Your next great solution is hiding in a place you’ve never looked before, so throw everything on its head and start again.

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