The Immense Importance Of Belonging To A Creative Tribe

image: dan james
image: dan james

Recently I was going through a phase of doubt with my photography.

This isn’t unusual for me, or indeed for any artist. I’m sure you can relate, and have had your own share of moments where you weren’t quite sure what you were doing, and why you were doing it.

What got me through this indecisive period was the support of my fellow CCSers.

CCS, or CoachCreativeSpace to give it its full name, is the online creative community we began around six years ago. One of the terms of endearment for members of our tribe is CCSers. Another is ‘Spacer, and another is any of the many species of monkey, but that’s for another conversation.

My CCS tribe helped not just in the obvious way of giving support or advice when I asked for it.

In fact it’s all the other, less obvious, ways that reminded that belonging to such a community is priceless, and that I wouldn’t have evolved to anywhere near the photographer I am without it.

Here are five of those invaluable ways –

1. Ideas we get from other artists working in the same media as us.

I’m very fortunate that there are other film photographers on CCS (my main medium). This means we can share tips and ideas, talk technicalities when we wish, and even collaborate (I’m currently in the midst of a film swap with Ahrabella, the third such film swap I’ve done with other CCS photographers.) This all enriches my own experiences and learning as a photographer, in a way that couldn’t happen if I didn’t have this to and fro exchange of ideas and conversation.

2. The ideas we get from artists working in other media.

In some ways, it’s even more valuable to mix with artists working in different forms. I often get new ideas by seeing what others are doing in their work, and considering what an equivalent technique might be in photography. A writer switching from novels to haiku, or a painter overlaying both acrylic and watercolours on a single canvas makes me think, question and evolve in my own main artform.

3. Being able to support others and directly see their own growth, on a daily and weekly basis.

Aside from any encouragement I get from being a member of CCS, even better is the support it allows me to give to others. Sometimes just a few comments of interest and encouragement lead to a breakthrough in another’s work that might not have happened without my input. And in our Thirty Days Of Creating group, where we keep diary like accounts of our daily creating, we can see literally on a daily basis how people are thriving. So inspiring.

4. Being able to talk to others who realise the importance of creating, in a way that many others don’t, and can’t.

Much of the conversation with other artists revolves around the actual making of art. In this kind of supportive environment, these discussions flow freely. So much so that we forget what a struggle it can be in the “outside” world to convey to other people (non-artists, and especially family!) how crucial it is that we create, that’s it up there on our vital-things-to-do-list with eating, sleeping and breathing, not just a “nice little hobby”. What a release to not have to go through this battle when amongst fellow artists.

5. Knowing that others are genuinely interested in your work, and you’re not just screaming into a vacuum.

One of the biggest struggles in creating can be the feeling that no-one cares about your work, or even knows that you’re a living, breathing, creating artist. It can make one question why we bother to create at all. But with a core community who follow your progress, are eager to see your next work, and ask how you made it, that struggle all but disappears. Meaning so much more time and positive energy to focus on the art itself.

There are other benefits that come without me realising, and, six years into the life of CCS, it’s difficult now to imagine what kind of artist I might have been without belonging to this wonderful, diverse and supportive tribe.

I know for sure that I wouldn’t have created a fraction of what I have done, learned all I’ve learned, and, more than that, I wouldn’t have met people who are not only talented artists in their own fields, but whom I consider as personal friends too.

What creative communities are you involved with, and how do they enhance your artistic life?

Come over and join the conversation


Thank you for reading. Please share these words. Subscribe for free updates.