“Write On” is a blog series by ArtYard Playwright Fellow TyLie Shider on the topic of creative discipline and how local creatives overcome obstacles in their respective careers. Each creative develops a box of tools they use to create. The objective of the series is to take a glimpse into those toolboxes and shed light on the process behind their craft.

My creative discipline series continues with Michael Haller. He is a musician, event organizer, and sought-after host. We met at one of my favorite coffee shops where he moonlights as a manager. In the interview we discuss hanging paper-flyers in the age of social media, honoring the gestation process, and giving yourself permission to take a break!

TyLie Shider: In a recent article I define creative discipline as the ability to complete a single project from idea to creation to development to production. However, it may also be defined as one’s creative practice e.g. cinematographer, dancer, or sculptor. How would you describe your creative discipline?

Michael Haller: I’d describe myself as a musician, host, and organizer.

TS: What determines your interest as a creative?

MH: My interests as a musician is folk music, from Tuvan throat singing to Appalachian fiddle tunes – to soul. As long as it’s music made by regular folk for regular folk and not rooted in capitalism. And I tend to host events that I think will bring the local community together for a good time, whether that’s my own idea or an idea that someone brings to me because they want to see it happen.

“We don’t practice, our practices are our performances.”

TS: Yes, fellowship is especially important post-quarantine. What are three things you cannot create without? And why?

MH: Three things that I can’t create without are time, people, and ease of desire. Like I said in a previous response, I need time for ideas to brew. Deadlines set by others are not my friend. But once I’m ready to commit, I know it, and I’ll commit and give it my all. For music, I don’t get the gratification of writing or playing music alone. I need people. Learning traditional songs at fiddle festivals is my favorite way of increasing my songbook. Also, I enjoy learning by ear and sight from the older players. My band takes these songs and we put our own spin on them. We don’t practice, our practices are our performances. We will try new songs for the first time in front of an audience. We like creating a living atmosphere, where we are less performative and more a part of what’s going on in the room. Getting people to dance is our goal, because we are fueled by the energy of the room. For example, when it comes to hosting, I need people because people motivate me. As soon as what I am doing starts to feel like work, I don’t want to do it, hence why deadlines are not my friend.

TS: Walk me through your creative process? How do you create? Can you identify a routine?

MH: My creative process starts with an idea. Whatever that may be – as my hobbies and creative interests are all over the place. I don’t have a calendar, nor a notebook to keep myself organized. I’ve found letting the ideas steep in my brain for however long they do is the best way to put my ideas into action. If a week goes by and the idea is still being revisited and workshopped in my head then it inevitably becomes an idea worth pursuing.

TS: I always tell student-playwrights to pay attention to the gestation process, because if an idea lingers, it is probably your story to tell. Where does your inspiration come from?

MH: My inspiration comes from wanting to have fun in life. I value being rich in life – over rich in money.

“My band doesn’t have social media accounts, because we still post flyers locally, and depend on word of mouth …”

TS: For whom do you create?

MH: I create for myself and for the local community. My band doesn’t have social media accounts, because we still post flyers locally, and depend on word of mouth, though we do have a website!

TS: That’s archaic, but it kind of sets you apart! When do you know it’s time to abandon a project?

MH: Projects get abandoned in my mind. When they are forgotten about, that’s the abandonment.

TS: Have you ever returned to an abandoned project? If so, why?

MH: I don’t believe so.

TS: At what stage in your creative process do you invite collaborators?

MH: As a host, it’s usually my take on an event, even if it started out as someone else’s idea. As a musician, I am always collaborating with my band members and others.

TS: How important is it for you to finish a project from start to finish?

MH: Finishing a project is a must.

TS: What creative obstacles do you face? Personal or professional.

MH: Money. My interests and creative hobbies aren’t money making tools, though each event does pay, you cannot survive on it. I have my job and I do my best to set boundaries so I am able to still have energy for creativity.

TS: What tips do you have for creatives who may be facing their own creative challenges?

MH: Honestly, sometimes it’s okay to just stop for a bit.

TS: Amen!

MH: Take a step back and get the rest of your life where you need it to be in order to be able to appreciate your creative outlets and not force them. Let them flow naturally.

TS: What projects are you currently working on and where can our readers follow and find your work? And/or What projects are you excited about?

MH: I’m putting together a square dance. My band Burnt Mills Highballers is recording an album. I’m hosting trivia nights which turned into a one man production every Thursday at the Milford House, and I have other stuff brewing in my head. Look out for my 2nd Rock Paper Scissors tournament!

Michael Haller is a musician and host. He is the founder of the old-time-blue-grass band Burnt Mills Highballers. Website: https://burntmillshighballers.neocities.org IG: @neighbormike103