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Universal Canvas: Your Creative Community

Creativity is about using your self—your hands, your body, your mind, your heart—to make something that wouldn’t otherwise exist. The thing you create is in some small way an expression of your deepest experience. At its best, this expression speaks to others on the universal plane of human understanding. And when your work resonates with someone else, that spark gives birth to community. Since you’re reading this post, I need hardly point out that building community is one of the internet’s most powerful capabilities: connecting us as we stumble toward enlightenment, becoming more intentional in our work and more compassionate with each other.

The Creative Flock
Relationships are part of how we define ourselves and understand what we’re doing. We know that infants and children who are deprived of social and physical contact fail to thrive and can even die. People really do need people. As artists, writers, and other creative practitioners, community is vital to inspiration and validation. Sharing ideas, talking shop, and simply rubbing elbows with other creative souls goes a very long way in keeping your artful self at the forefront. Increasing your creative social connectivity is one of the easiest ways to develop and maintain your creative identity—especially when you’re struggling with self-doubt and the logistics of making art happen. (And who among us doesn’t struggle with those things at least on occasion?)

The people you’re involved with, in person or online, inspire you. They’re doing things. You want to do things too. They’re enjoying successes, large and small. You want those things as well. Your creative social network reminds you of who you are when you’re so adrift in domestic/work life that your artist self is only a shadowy glimmer. When you can barely recall the feeling of clay under your fingernails, surround yourself with other creative people wherever possible. Immerse yourself in the world of your art. It’s not unlike the suggestion that when you want to lose weight, you should imagine yourself as a thin person and act like a thin person might act. Playing the part helps turn it into reality. Fake it till you make it.

Building Your Creative Community
Assess your resources. What and whom do you currently rely on for creative energy? Which online resources, in addition to this one, do you regularly enjoy? What else could you do to participate in your creative network more regularly—or what could you do to create one? Make a list. A few ideas for starters:

  • Reach out. Send e-mails or make phone calls to creative friends and associates from the past and find out what they’re up to. Facebook stalk them if necessary. (In the nice way, not the creeper way.) If anything resonates, develop the relationship.
  • Even if your home base isn’t an urban area, don’t prematurely decide that your networking options are limited. Many smaller towns have a local gallery or an artisans’ gift shop. Stop in and find out if there’s a consortium of artists you can join.
  • The Sun Magazine’s website offers connections to local readers’ and writers’ groups across the country: http://www.thesunmagazine.org/get_involved/discussion_and_writing_groups.
  • Pick up a few of those freebie arts publications that are often stacked by the door at stores and restaurants. Peruse to see if there’s anything going on nearby that you’d like to attend.
  • Yahoo Groups (http://groups.yahoo.com) and Google Groups (http://groups.google.com) exist on nearly any topic imaginable. Some are highly populated and post dozens of messages every day; others are quieter. Visit and search for your area of creative interest.
  • One of my favorite Yahoo Groups is an homage to Danny Gregory’s book Everyday Matters: http:// groups.yahoo.com/group/everydaymatters. With a focus on art (drawing in particular) this Yahoo Group is extremely active—and inspiring to visual artists as well as those who are not.
  • Craig’s List offers discussion groups on writing and the arts. Visit www.craigslist.org to find the Craig’s List website closest to you. Many locals use their local discussion list to form groups that meet in person.
  • If you have a favorite artist, writer, movement—or even a phrase!—that you’d like to keep tabs on, create a Google alert for that name or sequence of words. Whenever a new web page or blog is created with that string, you’ll receive an e-mail alert. This is a great way to explore the blogosphere. Visit www.google.com/alerts for details.
  • Join the Monday Post right here at Studio Mothers for accountability and support!

What else works for you in connecting with creative community?

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A version of the piece above originally appeared as a guest post at the fabulous Bliss Habits.

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