As a creative person, you probably spend a lot of your time alone. No matter how extroverted you are in real life, you know that the only way to get that project done is to lock yourself in a room alone and write/paint/sculpt/sew or whatever it is you do. Eventually, though, you hit a point in the process when the sound of your own internal voice is so loud that you lose all sense of perspective. You can’t tell whether a scene is fully fleshed out, or whether your knowledge of what’s supposed to happen is coloring your reading. You can’t tell if that puff-sleeve is adorably retro, or if it looks like it belongs to a five-year-old girl. You can’t tell if that chord progression is unexpected or the first three chords of a theme song from your favorite TV show.
You could post your work (or recordings or photos of it) to the internet and see what the cyber-community has to say. But then your are opening yourself up to the trolls that stalk the webiverse, these nasty buggers make a habit out of picking at projects like a toddler with a scab. Exposing your work to them too early can mean a project dies before you even finish it. And that, my friends, is why you need a creative community. It doesn’t have to be a big community. The people in it don’t even all have to work in the same medium that you do. What’s important is that they’re willing to look at your work and give you honest feedback, and that you are willing to do the same for them.
A good creative community, like my current writers’ group, is a mix of styles and perspectives. It has between three and six people, letting you get multiple viewpoints without taking hours. The group members are respectful of each other, but they’re not afraid to tell you when something just doesn’t work. They meet regularly (in our case, once per week), which means that you absolutely must finish this draft by such and such a date or face the displeasure of the group.
Now that you’re convinced what a great idea this is, let me give you some strategies for how to start your own creative group.
- Talk to your friends. Creative people attract other creative people. You probably have three or four friends or friends-of-friends who would be into this. If not, send them this blog to change their minds.
- Try the internet. http://www.meetup.com/find/ is a great place to connect with other creative people in your area. Plus it’s free to join. Full disclosure: I found my current group on Craigslist.
- Be Bold. Make some flyers and put them up at the local library, colleges, performance spaces, asking for creative types to join you at a coffee shop. Then show up on the day advertised and see who’s there. You can always hide under a table if they seem creepy.