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Linda Dessau : Connect With Other Artists

Connect With Other Artists

By Linda Dessau

"So I am not the only one having these creativity blocks? This makes me feel less lonely." — Martine, Painter

Why IS it so vital to our creative fulfillment to connect with our fellow artists?

Support — Asking for support is often the last thing we think of, even when things are at their toughest or we feel like giving up. We don't want to impose on someone else, we don't want to reveal anything that could be perceived as a "weakness", and we think we "should" be able to handle things on our own.

Meanwhile, lessons from the self-care field show us that isolating — keeping those negative thoughts and feelings to ourselves and withdrawing from people, either physically or emotionally — will have serious repercussions.

Not only do we increase our risk for serious emotional difficulties like depression and anxiety, but we also suppress our immune systems and put ourselves at risk for significant physical injury as well.

Kinship — "Community is important — like-minded people, friends who are artists — the need to be understood, for your language to be normal — I feel like a Martian with people from offices". — from "The Creativity Interviews", by Linda Dessau.

We all have a fundamental need to be seen, heard and understood, and to feel like we fit in with others. For many creative artists, that just doesn't happen "out there".

We feel too different and this tends to send us further into isolation. It can also reinforce a negative self-image and make it more difficult to gain the confidence, strength and courage that we need in order to approach our creative work.

Collaboration — Two heads are more creative than one. Whether it's combining two different art forms (i.e. a writer and an illustrator), or teaming forces within the same discipline (co-writing, or contributing individual pieces to a common theme), you can choose to work with someone at a similar level of creative development, OR challenge yourself by working with someone who's farther along the journey.

Inspiration — When you purposefully seek out creative inspiration, and you open yourself up to receive it, creative juices and ideas will flow abundantly towards you. Sometimes just being with another artist – on the telephone, over email or in a coffee shop – and talking ABOUT your work can inspire you and spark you back into the flow of things.

Motivation — Setting up a structure where you're regularly sharing your work with other artists, or even regularly talking ABOUT your work, will give you a sense of being accountable to someone else. Plus, the ambition and productivity of another artist can "rub off" on you and get you moving.

Feedback and self-improvement — You can consciously create a safe space for yourself to get feedback on your work, in order to continuously develop and improve your skills.

Otherwise, your only means of feedback is what comes at you directly and indirectly through contest submissions, auditions, audience members, "looks", unspoken comments (that we're bound to misinterpret) and other forms of formal or informal judgment and rejection.

When you take the first step and request feedback, you get to make up the rules! If your work is in it's infancy, you might request that someone just listen as you talk, knowing that as you talk things through you'll clarify your ideas for yourself and spark new ones.

If something is closer to completion and about to be released into the world, you might ask for more concrete feedback and impressions.

Giving back and mentoring — No matter how far along the path you've traveled, there's always someone newer than you in at least one specific area of skill, experience or confidence. And even if they're not, YOUR unique perspective can always help someone else if they're open to hearing it.

Helping someone will ALWAYS come back to you — whether it's hearing your advice and being able to apply it to yourself, having that person be able to help you at another time, or just feeling great about yourself for enabling someone else's creativity.

What about solitude?

You might be challenging some of these ideas. Maybe moments of solitude have brought about your most intense periods of creative inspiration and transformation.

Traveling, meditation and nature walks are all examples that I've heard and experienced. Keep your periods of solitude — seek them out, if you haven't yet. Solitude is NOT the same thing as isolation.

Remember, there's no reason to feel different when there's a whole creative community out there, and plenty of reasons to reach out and connect with other artists. •

© Linda Dessau, 2005. All rights reserved.

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12/4/05