Creative Communities are Goldmines
Artists can be weird, secluded, introverted humans.
We often hovel ourselves away in our studios/offices/where ever we work. Some of us forget what time it is, some of us forget what day it is, some of us even forget to eat during the workdays *guilty*. But one very important thing that we both forget to do — and sometimes even actively avoid — is socialising.
Introvert or not, we need occasional contact with other people to remember how to socialise and to, every now and then, snap us back into reality. Creative endeavours and careers are so absorbing and all encompassing (if it’s a decent project, that is…) that we can drift away into another world temporarily. Whilst this can be beneficial to some practices, there are a multitude of reasons as to why we sometimes need to come back to reality. We might need to do our accounts, run some errands, or just generally make sure we can still communicate with other people without sounding like confused cave-people.
It can be hard sometimes.
Forcing yourself out of work mode and into social mode can sometimes feel like you’re wasting your time.
“Why am I doing this when I could be working?”
“I could have sent a hundred emails with this time!”
“I’m going to fall so behind…”
Anything that isn’t directly and actively producing visual work feels like a waste of time. On the list of priorities after creating work, socialising is certainly pretty far down that list.
This is why I’ve found creative communities and meet ups so incredibly important.
They allow for this amazing and rare hybrid of feeling productive whilst tending to ‘non-essential’ needs, like staying social. Casual chats about ideas, projects, professional practice, anything even vaguely creative makes the conversation and whole scenario feel, somehow, like work.
At first I thought I was just finding excuses. A bit like how if I have my emails open and equipment out, I’ll feel like I’ve achieved a base level of productivity. I may not read a single email or draw a single line, but the fact that I took that first step leads me to having a false sense of comfort… “yeah I’ve achieved something today”.
It was only when I left these meet-ups that I realised I felt more refreshed, inspired, and more ready to work than if I had at at home with my emails open and equipment out.
Not only do creative meet-ups and communities help drag you out of the house, but they give you a fresh perspective.
You can’t generate ideas staring at a blank piece of paper. You need input. Inspiration. Something to spark something off and it’s incredibly hard and rare to have that happen through the power of your own mind right at the moment you need it. Books, magazines, online resources, music, all of these things can be brilliant at aiding you in forming the ideas you need, but they’re still limited. They’re still things you have found and you have curated. Having the input of entirely different minds can be a massive source of ideas and solutions that neither you — nor your media — would have ever thought of. When it comes to forming a diverse and evolving portfolio, this is exactly the kind of input you need. Portfolios can fall stagnant when the inspirations and influences for the work stays the same all the time, and stagnant portfolios are rarely revisited.
So, if creative meet-ups and communities can do so much, why isn’t there more of them?
I’m fortunate enough to live in a very art-centric city. Norwich (UK) is home to Norwich University of the Arts (founded in 1845), an arts specialist university. This, along with many other influences, has allowed the city to become a hub for creativity, both in the visual arts and other fields (notably areas such as game design and digital media ever since being pinpointed as a ‘tech cluster’ in 2015).
Despite this rich environment for creativity and inspiration, I have struggled to find a regular and organised artistic community for meet ups and general networking. Whilst we have a huge range of amazing support networks like the Norwich Creative Hub, Writers Centre, and the Ideas Factory (amongst many others) we seem lacking in many informal groups of practicing and/or aspiring artists for chats and general forming of connections.
I recently attended the Norwich Creative Freelancers, one of the only informal creative driven meet-up groups I’ve come across. It was amazing, and I had no idea why there aren’t more of these, especially somewhere like Norwich!
We’re certainly not lacking in creative people, or venues. So what is missing?
I’ve come to realise that perhaps a leading force in this lack of groups could be confidence. Our isolated and self-employed lives can often lead it into the realms of self doubt (which I’m writing another blog post about at the moment, I’ll update with a link when it’s live) and we can sometimes have the belief that meet-ups like this aren’t for us.
“I’m not professional enough”
“I don’t earn enough money”
“I don’t do it often enough”
“I’m not good enough”
I have a feeling that these doubts significantly contribute to the lack of creative meet-ups. You can’t turn on the spot without running into a general business networking event or group, but artistic ones are sometimes little nuggets of gold hidden away.
I believe that if we all had a bit more confidence in our practice, a little bit more secure in our skills and selves, then we’d see a huge increase in these groups. Of course, the lack of confidence within artistic communities goes much deeper than simply not talking to other artists. But perhaps is a good place to start.
In short; creative communities, meet-ups, and hubs are this huge — often untapped — source of inspiration, motivation, and general wellbeing for any and all practitioners, whether you’re a hobbyist or a professional.
In an industry as ideas and inspiration driven as the creative fields, it’s a shame that there’s not more networks to help share these. Sure, artists and creatives can be more introverted, but we can also be more secluded and isolated. Maybe one of the only ways to get us to speak to other human beings regularly is if it’s cunningly disguised as work.
If you’re an artist or creative in any way, I want you to check out what creative communities are in your area. Online communities are good too, things like Facebook groups and forums, but really physically going somewhere makes a huge difference. Find a group, and attend. Actually go to one of the meet-ups. And try going by yourself! I find it easier to talk to strangers when I don’t subconsciously cling onto the friend I’ve brought with me.
Go to the meet-up, chat to some amazing artsy people, find your voice again, and break yourself out of the isolating cycle we can all to often find ourselves in!
Want to find a group in Norwich?
Creative Freelancers Meet-up — Informal meet-ups with fellow freelancers and creative people.
Norwich Hackspace/Makerspace — For the creative with a techy twist.
Print to the People — Norwich based print studio, often hosting ‘mesh nights’ for chatty evenings with artists and designers.
Life Drawing Norwich — Ideal to not only polish up those life drawing skills, but to have a chat and swap contacts during the break.