Sure, craft matters.
Knowledge matters, too.
A grounding in the history of your craft will serve you well.
But there is one thing every Creative needs. And many (most?) don’t have it.
Every one of us needs to belong to a community of Creatives who care about, understand, motivate, inspire and challenge us.
Do you have this? Do you belong to a writers’ community? Or an artists’ community? I’m not talking about online. And I’m not talking about a paid class or seminar either.
I’m talking about a group of friends and colleagues. In your city. Where you talk eye-to-eye.
How I Discovered Community
From a fairly early age, I was drawn to the written word. I kept journals and sketch books. I wrote stories and songs.
I went to college to major in business, but felt like I was selling my soul to Satan. So on the day I had declare my major, I chose Literature. And it literally changed my life. I found my spiritutal and intellectual home among other writers, poets and book geeks.
In the years following college, as I moved around for jobs, I invested huge blocks of time honing the craft and submitting work to publications. In time, though, I drifted away from my creative life, as the demands of work grew and, eventually, took over.
And then I bottomed out.
It was during this empty season that I started writing again. Then I started meeting and hanging out with other writers. Which led to paid writing gigs. And more hanging out with more creative types.
That period from 1997-1998 remains one of the most fruitful and fulfilling periods of my creative life.
These days, my life is incredibly demanding. I head corporate communications for a national healthcare company (in which I do a lot of writing). I own a small, private media company (in which I do a lot of writing). At night, when everyone’s in bed, I write for healthcare, literary and lifestyle publications.
Last year, I started sensing that something was missing in my creative life (besides time and energy). And after some reflection, I came to the realization that I was working in a bubble. With more than a decade spent living and working in separate cities, I lacked a creative community. I was disconnected.
So I started reaching out to writers. Experienced writers. Aspiring writers. Poets. Teachers. Bloggers. And I started meeting with them to listen, share ideas and shoot the breeze.
I’m enjoying one of the most productive writing periods I’ve had in years. And I don’t doubt for a minute the energy these friendships are injecting into my head and heart as I sit down to write.
In the coming year, I plan to host a writer’s retreat for this little group of Creatives—I want to get everyone in a room, away from life’s distractions, and invite serendipity to join us. I’m also considering starting and leading small groups for aspiring writers in my office and church.
Do You Belong to a Community of Creatives?
If you do your homework, you’ll discover that every major and minor artist in history emerged out of a small, local community of artists to which they belonged. Some of these communities have names like Transcendentalists, Beats and Inklings.
My hope is that you belong to a community of Creatives. And if you don’t, I hope you create one. It will change you. And it will feed you. Trust me.
Every song and every chord is built on a root note. The root note is the foundation around which everything else aligns.
It’s time to add the note of community to the chord of your creative life.
From May 2012 to July 2013, I wrote a weekly series of intimate essays for writers and artists seeking a deeper connection with their identity and place as modern creatives. I called this series Root Notes. This was an essay in that series. It was originally published on October 12, 2012.