The Unspoken Reason You Need Creative Community
Creatives are often encouraged to find like-minded others for support and encouragement. But is there another important reason we need creative community?
Creative work of any kind can be hard; at times, lonely. Finding a community of fellow creatives can help you feel understood, give you encouragement and support, and create opportunities to collaborate with or learn from others. A community can help you hone your craft and overcome frustrations, rejections, failures, and disappointments.
And there’s another feature of being part of a community that shouldn’t be ignored.
A community can help you learn to talk about your work.
Finding Freedom In Creative Community
There’s always the potential for embarrassment when people ask you about your latest work, especially at the beginning of your journey. Even with years of experience, the awkwardness of writing your bio or about page doesn’t magically disappear. Neither does the feeling of needing to apologise for promoting your work in emails or on social media.
You know what you’re trying to say, show or convey. But sometimes you’re so close to the thing you’ve been trying to make, you’re unable to describe it, to explain it. You’re heavily invested in it emotionally, unable to objectively articulate your underlying purpose.
But even if you can, that doesn’t mean someone trying to consume your work – a reader, viewer, or listener – will get what you were trying to communicate. They may have a whole set of other reactions, or none at all.
You can think of it like this. Your perspective, as a creator, comes from inside the work, looking out at the world. Someone coming fresh to your work has a different perspective, one where your work is simply one thing in a universe of things.
This is where sharing your work in a creative community can help.
It gives you a chance to hear what resonates with others, what catches their attention, and the kinds of work that feel similar – and what makes your work different. Listen to people in your creative community explain their reaction to your work and you’ll get a rich palette of ideas, examples and metaphors to draw from. And people will invariably mention similar work they like from other creators. Listen, and you will find a wealth of descriptions, comparisons, and examples you can use to describe your own work.
The Right Kind Of Community
When I suggest you share your creative work, I’m not talking about sharing it on open social media platforms. That’s inevitably going to be counter-productive. Random criticism from strangers isn’t useful.
The community you need is made up of people who have “skin in the game”. People doing the same kind of work you do. Not folks who are live-action role-playing creative endeavours. Or just hanging around looking to criticise the efforts of others.
Share among equals. Talk to peers. Listen to teachers and mentors who want you to succeed.
Find this kind of community and it can fuel your ability to describe your work.
Learning To Speak To Your Audience
When people say your writing reminds them of such and such, or your photos recall a particular photographer, or your music seems to reference a certain artist, don’t flinch or get defensive. Hear this for what it is: a compliment that puts you within the canon of what they consider to be great creative expression.
You could do worse than to keep a note of this kind of feedback. Use it as a resource to find inspiration for future work. Borrow the language people use to describe your work when writing your own bios and about pages, pitches, and propositions. Enjoy using their words and descriptions as you explain your own work, knowing that you aren’t faking it or making it up but instead relying on real people’s thoughtful responses.
Most of all, relax into the knowledge that other creative folks – often the early adopters and tastemakers in society – find your efforts worthy of notice.