Three weeks to deadline and I was stalled. My characters were no longer speaking to each other, let alone me, and I’d been struggling with a scene transition for several days. Trying to shake my story, and myself, out of my funk, I’d taken walks, read a book on my subject, listened to music, switched writing spaces, cleaned my closet, discussed the story with my husband, and generally lost all hope that I’d finish in time. I was debating whether to drop the story altogether when I got a text from a fellow writer working on the same submission call.
“If you’re stuck, I’m happy to help. What’s the conflict? What are the stakes?”
After a brief exchange where I spelled out my characters and basic plot, my story was not only back on track, but moving so fast my fingers couldn’t keep up with my brain.
This is the good that comes from being part of a creative community. It’s easy to get in a rut, to tell yourself that your project is unwanted or unimportant. That’s why even the most introverted creative can benefit from a group of people genuinely excited to share the journey and offer the help we need to make us better. There are clear benefits to joining a community or building one of your own.
A basic need
In his 1943 paper “A Theory of Human Motivation”, Abraham Maslow defined five basic needs that all humans have. Basic physiological and safety needs are first, but social belonging needs come right after. Without intimate social connections and the sense of belonging acquired through these connections, Maslow argued that a person can not move on to the realization of their potential. In basic terms, a group of collaborators, mentors, and friends are what help a person thrive. Your circle will become your support when you need encouragement, your connection when you are isolated, and your knowledge base when you’ve hit a roadblock. Everyone needs a place to feel safe and accepted. It’s the only way to get encouragement and keep moving forward.
A place for understanding
It’s helpful to gather where everyone has a core knowledge and uses the same language. Your creative community is where people understand writer's block, cyclical breathing, Rosco gels, or whatever terms apply to your particular art. This is where other people can relate to your frustrations and experience. Creative groups are usually formed because members need a forum to discuss concerns that aren’t important or aren’t considered outside their discipline. For that very reason, many creative groups make themselves approachable to new artists seeking more information.
A chance for growth
It sucks putting your heart and soul into your work only to have it blasted by someone who doesn’t understand the difficulty involved in creating. Being criticized by other makers is a whole different experience. People in your circle should understand that discipline and maturity are a process, not an endpoint. Whether you’re struggling or succeeding, these are the perfect people to offer suggestions for improvement. They have overcome similar problems and offer new perspectives. Your community is the best place to hone your abilities, ask ‘dumb’ questions, find information about workshops, and allow yourself to fail. The right community will help you thrive by offering advice, and asking for some in return.
A way to give back
Being active is a major part of a community. Just as you are given help, you get the chance to share your wisdom with newcomers. Ask about the abandoned stories of your peers. Offer insight on great places to get art materials. Take something that was difficult for you to master and make it easier for the next person by offering your insight. This can be the best part of a community, because you’ll often see the impact of your advice in the output of others. Giving back can remind you why you first got interested in creating.
Whether you find a creative community or build your own, simply having a group to share your ups and down can be the best part of the creative process. The people that understand you, encourage your growth, and offer you opportunities to share your hard-earned experience are people worth keeping around. Whatever your passion, finding your people will help you and your art.
Harley Easton is a Renaissance woman dabbling in everything life offers. She's worked at a theme park, found expert witnesses, been a guest lecturer at a national museum, and worked with medical students. Putting experience and insanity to good use, she's become an author specializing in erotic, romantic, and speculative fiction.