Why Join a Creativity Support Group?

Last month, I quietly launched my new Facebook group as a place to comment and discuss the ideas from these blog posts, and as a way for you to find direct and personal support in your creative journey. We are all in different places on our journeys, and we can all find value in having a supportive community for our practice.

Personally, other than the CB group, I am a member of a couple of online support-type groups, including a writer’s group and a couple of business/marketing chat groups. I’m in just a few professional development groups through LinkedIn, where I can get alerted to new articles and thinking. In real life I am a member of a women’s film and media networking organization.

In the past I’ve been a member of an artisan’s group where we participated in many ATC trades, a couple of group round-robin doll making projects (one great, one pretty good), and briefly a beautiful doll/journal project that didn’t work out for me (entirely my own fault). Some members of the artisan group did host periodic live events, but not near enough for me to attend, unfortunately.

Writer’s groups are often a special case. Many writers find a discussion and feedback group to be invaluable for improving the quality of their work. It is challenging to be that vulnerable.

I was in a group that started very enthusiastically, but quickly was overwhelmed by real life – jobs, schedules, and a sense of being stymied by some rules we thought were great at first. From that experience I have much admiration for groups that have longevity. In hindsight, the purpose of our group was too big – writing and production and networking and social – with too few members to support that much and differing priorities.

What can you get from a group?

  1. The first thing is the opportunity to share your quandaries and triumphs with like-minded folk. You can ask questions and get (hopefully) constructive feedback kindly expressed about your projects or plans. You will can share your delight for a new paintbrush, and find solidarity and understanding that may elude your significant other.
  2. Social interaction from people with similar beliefs about the value of creative pursuits.
  3. Often, the opportunity to hear about new stuff (products, trends, events) before the general public. Sometimes there are even giveaways. I do them on my group.
  4. The opportunity to participate in group art projects, whether it be a swap/trade, an exhibition or online sale, or a class.
  5. Depending on the rules of the group, you might get a whole new customer base for your products.

I enjoyed the themed ATC trades especially during a season of my life when I had very little time for my wider arts practice, while my daughter was young. I still enjoy making them when I am at a swap event. The art doll groups were very interesting experiences, especially in letting go of control of an art piece. One day I’d like to be part of an “Exquisite Corpse” project. Perhaps I’ll organize one. The social media based groups are mostly filled with people I know from events.

It’s important to get specific about what type of support you want from a group. Do you just want a clearing house for resources and upcoming events and expos? Do you want the chance to discuss your personal journey? Do you want a place to talk about techniques and learn new skills? Are you interested in competitions, craft fairs, galleries or submissions? There are social media and real IRL groups for all interests.

What to look for:

  1. The group has a clearly expressed purpose, with a moderation function (or ability to contact the organizers with complaints) to deter and eliminate those who stray from the purpose. Ensure that it is a purpose you need in your life.
  2. The group stays on-topic, and events are related and appropriate, if not all then at least most of the time.
  3. The overall tone is kind and supportive, and online trolls are removed.
  4. A sense of trust is generated by transparency. The members are moderated on joining and have real profiles with history. The moderators are visible and available.
  5. Little history of conflict. Flame wars are extinguished immediately – unless wild disagreement, debate and controversy is the purpose of the group.
  6. Clear guidelines and stated rules that are taken seriously by the moderators and members.
  7. Resource sharing is appropriate and useful.
  8. For IRL events, that they are often enough for your needs, affordable, and interesting enough to be worth leaving your studio for.

Best Practices:

  1. Stay on topic yourself
  2. Be honest and forthright, but kind. Speak as you hope others will speak to you.
  3. Participate in discussions, in the ways specified in the guidelines, and try to attend a few events to determine whether the group is right for you.
  4. Answer questions when you have something useful to add, from your experience. The point of many groups is to access the “wisdom of the crowd” so knowledge is valuable. But, if you just don’t like something someone else is making, and it is just a matter of different taste, keep that opinion to yourself.
  5. To earn trust, be trustworthy.

Exercise:

Join one group on social media so that you can read the archives and see if it will give you good value. Investigate local real life groups and find one event to attend in the next month. Or attend a local event like an expo, and see if there are any simpatico groups exhibiting.