There’s a saying that exists in every culture: “If you lie down with dogs, you will stand up with fleas.”
And it exists in every culture because it’s true. The people you associate with will influence your thoughts and behavior. Friends and colleagues that you see on a regular basis will rub off on you. As individual and unique as you think you are, it’s almost impossible to avoid inheriting some of your friends’ habits, ways of thinking or even their lifestyle.
So in terms of your career and creative goals, why not use this universal rule to your advantage? Hanging out with people who share similar creative pursuits and ambitions can really motivate you and even push you to become more successful.
While it’s inspiring to read about successful artists who have become world famous, it can be a remote or vague feeling of inspiration. But think about if you actually knew a person like that, if that person was someone you hung out with often, if that person was your friend. You know this person pretty well, and if they can get so successful and famous, then why can’t you? Friendly competition, even envy, can be very powerful.
It doesn’t mean that you should ditch your non-artist friends for more creative types who will become your secret competition. But knowing cool people who also happen to run a photography business or work as a freelance writer can help keep you motivated when you just aren’t feeling it.
At the same time that it can be fun and add some friendly competition by hanging out with someone else in your field, it’s also interesting to chat with other artists who work in different or possibly complementary areas. You might even end up collaborating on a project together.
Besides the usual advice of finding local artist groups and searching on Meetup.com, here are a few other ideas on how to connect with creative-minded people that you actually want to hang out with and with whom you can enjoy some friendly, mutually beneficial competition:
– Be on the lookout for creative communities like DIY spaces and community learning centers or arts centers. Instead of just waiting around for a monthly meeting or a scheduled event put on by the group you’ve found, you can show up for a lecture or class at the learning center. Some cool examples include Philadelphia’s Next Fab or in Generator in Burlington, Vermont.
– Join a co-working space. Working alone but together is what a co-working space is all about, and you’re going to meet plenty of other creative professionals just like yourself. Test out a few spaces before you commit to make sure you’re comfortable with the crowd and environment.
– Think about the places around you that would attract innovative people, and go check them out. If you’ve heard of a cafe that has poetry readings, jam sessions and holds photography workshops, that’s probably a good place to start meeting interesting and like-minded creatives.
– Attend regional or national conferences that are relevant to your field and make sure to go to the mixers and other social events. Aside from networking, you’re bound to get chatting with plenty of people who you can consider a friend and not just a ‘contact’.
– Have you ever stopped to wonder if you have any relatives who also live by the creative code? Ask around—you might be amazed by how much talent runs in your family.
– Still think that your town is lacking in inspiring folks? If you’re seriously seeking a creative community and lifestyle to support your career, then move! Find a more creative city that suits you either in the US or abroad. Maybe you could move in with your long lost cousin in Marfa, Texas who you just learned is a genius photographer. It’s not such a crazy idea—people move to pursue their passions all the time.
Don’t be lazy and think that finding cool and creative friends will “just happen naturally” like it did in school. You’ve got to put yourself out there and put in the effort. But the results could change your career and your life.
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