Cultivating Community

Cultivating Community

In a week I’ll be headed to the Chautauqua Institution to serve as writer-in-residence for their final week of summer programming. Chautauqua was a place I visited as a child with my family, and I have lots of fond memories. Returning decades later will no doubt be surprising and special in its own way.

Opportunities like these are important. As artists we work so often in isolation. Going to conferences and residencies and other places that support artistic exploration cultivates a sense of community that many artists lack in our day-to-day lives. It’s hard to explain to neighbors and colleagues and even family members why we’re motivated to do what we do, especially when oftentimes there’s no obvious reward for all the hard work and thought that goes into it. Meeting others with shared interests and goals reminds us we’re not alone in our creative pursuits.

Over the years, I’ve learned so much from the people I’ve met. I’ve been inspired and usually leave with a feeling of rejuvenation and excitement. Some of my closest friendships have arisen out of these experiences. I’m looking forward to making friends and connections in Chautauqua.

But I also understand that these opportunities aren’t always possible for folks. If you can’t get a residency to cover the costs of the travel and missed work time, it’s hard to justify taking the hit. Many people (most people?) can’t afford to do this. Which is also why organizations like Creative Pinellas matter so much: community can likely be uncovered in your immediate environment. It just might take a little digging around, some effort to get it started.

And if you are saying that community cannot be uncovered in your immediate world, I offer this: Back in May a friend and I became writing buddies. After a conversation we realized that were were each at similar stages in our creative writing projects and that serving as “partners” might assist us with motivation. Each week we share with one another the work we’ve accomplished and tell each other what we’ve been doing. We provided support and encouragement and accountability to one another. We serve as sounding boards when things are rough, give each other reading suggestions, ruminate on the day-to-day challenges that can both impede and inspire creative work. And because my friend  lives in Salt Lake City, Utah, all of this happens via the internet.


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