I’m actually going out this weekend into the “field” this weekend, which is, for me, both proverbial and literal. The site, where I will be both working and living, is a grassy clearing in a state forest in Sonoma county. As I anticipate this trip, I’ve been thinking about the tensile relationship between the twin virtues of expectations and flexibility. Both, it seems, are necessary for any project in the field.

On the one hand, independently designed projects can be nebulous and difficult to contain without a clear set of goalposts and expectations. I’ve been a grantee for other independent projects in younger years where I’ve learned the importance of making clear to other people exactly what you need from them, lest the project fall apart because of someone else’s inability to hold up their end of the bargain. Similarly, for a self-designed project, maintaining focus can be difficult, and so I place a high value on a clearly defined set of goals from the beginning.

Still, though, every project in the field relies on the independent variable of other human beings, and a project with too many rigid expectations is also a project that is likely to be defined by its own failure. Flexibility is key. Let’s say permission to use a specific interview¬†falls through: is there something else we can use? Or another person doesn’t deliver the research they had promised: is there time to do it ourselves? Can that be a valuable of our time?

Anyways, my point is that what I’m bringing with me is a careful assemblage of expectations, informed by months of research, writing, and thinking,¬†enmeshed with my understanding that nothing in the field is promised. Responsibly navigating both is what, I think, can make a great project.