“When you explore inspiration in the context of community, you get not only to see what influences the creative decisions of others but also to explore the mechanics of how others bring inspiration to life.”
The second aspect of developing a creative rhythm identified in
“The Accidental Creative” is Relationships. When I saw this I had, umm, mixed feelings. First, the idea of creating collaboratively makes my skin crawl a little. I’m naturally pretty introverted and throughout my time in the education system “group projects” really meant “Peter does a lot of work in order to not be dragged down by other people”. Depending on others rarely worked out well for me.
Second, creativity seems like a deeply personal and individual practice. This is wrong, but that is how it often seems to me. Maybe I’ve spent too much time reading Ayn Rand or something but groups don’t seem conducive to creativity to me. Most of my experiences mirror that old cliche joke, “What do you call a horse designed by a committee? A camel.” Basically, too many people involved fucks up the design.
Despite these misgivings I actually found this section of the book to be incredibly valuable so far (I’m only about halfway through this chapter). If for no other reason because I’m proactively trying to be more social and build a network/clan/tribe/group of friends here in Wilmington. So, some of the information here can be valuable in my personal and professional life.
Side note: I find it interesting that we so often separate “personal” and “professional”. I’ve found that advice for one works well with the other and that they are pretty intimately tied together. Maybe this social dualism, much like the body/mind dualism, is really kind of a bad way to view the world.
There are three keys to cultivating stimulating and productive relationships:
1) The relationship must allow you to be real. No sugar coating, no pretending life is perfect. This isn’t an Instagram post. Real help requires real acknowledgment of reality.
2) The relationship must allow you to learn to risk. A good relationship isn’t one where the other person protects you from risks or encourages the safe path. It needs to involve skin in the game and the real possibility of falling down. We are adults and that means sometimes we get our asses kicked by the risks we take.
3) The relationship must be one where you will submit to the wisdom of others. Relationships don’t exist to give one person control or to allow a bunch of monologues. A good relationship involves trusting the other person, sometimes more than you trust yourself. Dan Savage talks about this a lot with relationships, we all need that friend that we trust who will tell us if your partner is a piece of shit or if they aren’t treating us well. Sometimes, we are so caught up in our own mess that we make terrible decisions. Trust people.
So, what does the book have to say about fostering relationships and creativity?
I’m glad you asked. There are three strategies mentioned to enrich relationships. I am going to try and implement these a bit more explicitly in my life. Here is the first one… I haven’t read the other two yet.
Strategy 1: Start a Circle
Get a group of people together in small groups to help each other stay focused and engaged. It can be a group of parents discussing issues with their children, artists talking about struggles with creation, entrepreneurs sharing tips on what works for them, or (ideally) a combination of these to get some new perspectives. Getting a group together in an intimate place to explicitly discuss our creative issues can be incredibly valuable and productive.
I’m actually part of a circle and didn’t even realize it. Every two weeks I videochat with two friends of mine that I’ve known since about 5th grade. We catch up on each other’s lives but it is mostly to help each other with creative and entrepreneurial issues. We all have creative projects and businesses that we run or are getting started and it has been really valuable to come to each other with problems and get a new perspective. It is well worth the two hours a month.
If you’ve got some people to do this with I highly recommend it. If not, the book has a shameless plug for their website to help you out (accidentalcreative.com/circles). I don’t know how valuable it actually is but figured I’d share it.
Within the circle there are three questions that should be asked and discussed:
1) What are you working on? What are the top creative blocks in your life? This isn’t a “to do” list, it is the projects that require some brainstorming and new perspectives. This question lets everyone know where you are coming from. During my circle sessions these can be personal “My partner and I are having trouble matching up our sex drives”, professional “I’m not sure how to inform my clients that I’m increasing my rates at the beginning of the year”, or artistic “I’ve got writer’s block with the dystopian novel I’m writing”.
2) What is inspiring you? Most of the people I know are usually reading something, taking a class, or just working to improve themselves. They want to keep their lives moving forward and I often don’t know what exactly they are involved with. This question can really help provide books to read, artists to enjoy, movies to watch, apps to use, etc. Such a simple but powerful question.
3) What would you like prompting on? This is all about accountability. What areas of your life would you like someone to check in on you with. Have you been procrastinating your daily writing? Eating junk food? Developing a business plan? Exercising? Making time for your kids? Tell your circle and let them provide accountability. Accountability encourages action and action breeds motivation. If you are constantly waiting for motivation then you will go to your grave without accomplishing your goals.
Interested in starting a two person email chain circle with me? Am I wrong about everything in this post? Do you have a deeply personal or mundane question that you want to ask anonymously? Then shoot me a message!
Email address: email@example.com
Questions: pneiger.sarahah.com or www.surveymonkey.com/r/XYRDXHH
Also, I wrote a book about a cross-country bicycle ride I did! It desperately needs to be redone with a professional editor involved but here it is!
“Wandering Oak: A Rite of Passage”