On my walk over to the Minneapolis Institute of Art on one of the first frigid mornings of the Minnesota winter, I had no idea what to expect from the event to come. It was my first experience with Creative Mornings — “a breakfast lecture series for the creative community.” I knew it was a departure from the standard networking events I’d been attending. Less industry best practices, more perspective on how creativity shapes our community as a whole. I never expected I’d leave feeling more empowered as a female creative. Especially when I considered the topic of discussion was death and music in Minnesota.
The speaker, Andrea Swensson, is a most impressive individual. No matter how you measure it. She’s spent more than a decade lending her voice to the Minneapolis music scene. Writing poignant commentaries on some of the most influential artists in the world. As well as some lesser known artists who had a tremendous impact on me personally. She’s carved out a space for herself at The Current. Written a book. And used her voice to tear down the stigma around mental illness.
All of these achievements and yet she opened with a crack about her imposter syndrome, explaining how she struggled to feel she had earned her place in an industry she was actively working to transform. Even if she didn’t fully realize it. She was bringing a feminine voice to a scene dominated by men whose coverage of a very emotional medium—music—was completely void of emotion. She saw an opportunity in this. A chance to write something different. To lend some authenticity to the letter grades and sarcasm so many music journalists were doling out at the time.
She reflects on one of the first comments she got on an article where she let her emotion drive the narrative: “What are you going to write about next? Your toenail polish?” Because of course to be emotional and vulnerable, you must have little more in your head than cosmetics. What was truly inspirational was what she took away from this comment. “I must be doing something right,” she thought. She knew it meant she was pushing boundaries and bringing something to the scene that hadn’t been there before.
She continued to embrace that. To use the thing so many saw as a weakness to make a name for herself. To make real connections with the artists she was covering. To become respected by those artists to the point where they used her critiques to improve their art. Despite her feelings of not being good enough, of not earning her place, she bravely leaned into the unknown.
The bravery and vulnerability paid off not only professionally but personally as well. She closed her presentation by sharing yet another experience where someone felt the need to comment on her emotion. On her feminine weakness. Just a month prior to the Creative Mornings presentation, she had posted an image of herself moved to tears as she held her book at Magers & Quinn. Someone, of course, saw this as an opportunity to scold her for being so publicly emotional on social media. But this time she realized “I just didn’t care.”
It can be hard to believe in the work we’re doing as female creatives. We get talked over. Diminished. Second guessed. And sometimes it’s just nice to know we’re not alone. That the women who inspire us experience the same self-doubt and uncertainty we’re going through at any given point in our careers. They just keep pushing forward. Turning perceived weakness into strength. Until they realize they don’t care about the loud comments from small people anymore. Because their vulnerable, honest voice is more powerful than negative commentary will ever be.
/Written By Eliza Green