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Why Creative Communities Matter.

September 26, 2013

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by Amy Shearn.

Like all young people who spend a lot of their time thinking about being creative, talking about being creative, and planning out their acceptance speeches for the awards given to outstanding creative artists, my high school writers’  group and I used to enthusiastically say things to each other like, “Some day everyone will think it was so amazing we knew each other way back when!” We were absolutely certain that we were the next Bloomsbury, or at the very least, Beats. (In the way of enthusiastic amateurs everywhere, we had not quite noticed our contemporaries. I had a strong and somewhat presumptuous sense that I was too busy reading the classics off the AP English Extra Reading list to buy books written by people currently alive.)

On a side note, I attended my first meeting of Writer’s Group barefoot.

The Writer’s Group has since dispersed. One of our prose writers has become an organic farmer; our poet-in-residence has changed her name to Astra Spider and become a life coach. As it turns out, we were not the next Literary Brat Pack, though we were sometimes bratty (it was one of the crowning achievements of my school career when my junior-year English teacher called me a literary snob.) But I still distinctly remember that thrill of feeling a part of something special, the brain-tingle of meeting, on a Sunday night after the homework was finished, in a suburban living room or corporate bookstore café, to discuss the writing we’d done, and, more significantly to me then, the writing we would some day do.

It’s that feeling that matters, that nourishing buzz of being excited about creating something, excited about what other people are creating. That moment when you’re brimming with ideas and energy because you’ve been talking to other people who are creating, too. It’s why even the most solitary of artists, even the most dedicated of nose-to-the-grindstone workers, need creative community.

The downsides of creative community are well-documented: competitiveness can be fostered; existing in an echo-chamber can be deadening. But that sense that you are not alone, that other people love what you love, that someone will be excited to see your etching or hear your composition – even if it’s only your handful of people – is what keeps creativity feeling relevant in our world, where there is so much trouble, so much work to be done, so little reward for sui generis creativity.

It’s lovely to be in a writer’s group, attend a conference, or enroll in an MFA program if you have the opportunity. Whatever creative community you have access to, nurture it. Give back to it – go to other people’s events when you can, support the art of artists you love. But if you don’t know other creative people, or live in some remote area where artists are as sparsely strewn as no-fee ATMs in Manhattan, lucky you – lucky all of us – to be living in the time of Twitter.

I know! It’s a controversial statement, but that’s it, I’ll say it: Twitter is nice.

For as much as we all love to complain about how Twitter and Facebook are time-sucks and “not for serious writers” (and be “we all” I mean Jonathan Franzen), they can also be lovely ways to connect. Even though I live in Brooklyn, which is lousy with other creative-types, I have recently found myself marooned by motherhood; all those readings and literary events I used to attend as a way to be a part of New York City’s lively, inspiring, “everyone-is-so-productive-and-successful-I-gotta-get-to-work” panic-attack-inducing community…they all seem to be scheduled to coincide precisely with little kid bedtime. And yet when my daily life is grinding me into a decidedly uncreative stupor, I can peek at my cracked, peanut-butter-smudged iPhone and get a little shot of the smart life from the feeds of @juliafierro or @readandbreathe or @publicroad. In a recent Twitter exchange @juliafierro and @pronounced_ing and I were discussing writers who aren’t on Twitter, and I wrote: “they probably just, like, read Proust and think really hard all day.” Celeste Ng (@pronounced_ing) replied, perfectly, “Let ’em. We have much more fun over here.”

So maybe I’m not part of the next Bloomsbury group. I can hardly manage to get my friends together for brunch. But I can still be a part of a creative community, and no matter where in the world you are, or who in the world you know, you can be too.

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Amy Shearn is the author of two novels, including The Mermaid of Brooklyn [http://www.amazon.com/The-Mermaid-Brooklyn-A-Novel/dp/1451678282]. Her essays have appeared in the New York Times, Real Simple, Martha Stewart Living, The Millions, and elsewhere. She regularly writes for Oprah.com, and curates a reading series called Lit at Lark. Visit her atamyshearnwrites.comfacebook.com/amyshearnwrites, or on twitter @amyshearn.

 

Jennifer Pastiloff is part of the faculty this year at Other Voices Querétaro in Mexico with Gina Frangello, Emily Rapp, Stacy Berlein, and Rob Roberge. Please email Gina Frangello to be accepted at gfrangello@ameritech.net. Click poster for info or to book. Space is very limited.

Jennifer Pastiloff is part of the faculty this year at Other Voices Querétaro in Mexico with Gina Frangello, Emily Rapp, Stacy Berlein, and Rob Roberge. Please email Gina Frangello to be accepted at gfrangello@ameritech.net. Click poster for info or to book. Space is very limited.

Daily Manifestation Challenge, How To

Help! I’m Stuck! The DMC

November 12, 2011

What do you do when you feel stuck?

Seriously, what do you do when you are stuck like that guy in the picture?

You know, you feel like you are plastered to a wall and some chick in a red beret is just staring at you?

I will tell you what I do.

What? You don’t think I get stuck ever?

(Hold on while I LOL.)

Sometimes I get so stuck that I feel as if I have taught the same yoga class 678 times. At least.

Sometimes I feel so stuck that it seems my car could drive itself, it doesn’t even need me because it’s been to the same places so many times.

Sometimes I feel as if I have made the same mistakes over and over that I must be insane because only crazies keep doing the same things over and over and expecting different results, right?

Sometimes my thoughts feel very very stuck. Like Elmers. Like gum on a shoe. Like they are on a merry-go-round that ceased me merry a long time ago. They simply just go round and round.

And round.

There’s many days (fewer and father between lately) where I feel stuck. Where I feel down. Where I feel blue. Uninspired. Bored. Lazy.

You know. The gamut.

I did a scientific experiment that involved a lot of stuff, and here is what I found works best to get me unstuck and back to my Manifesting Self.

1. Laugh. I watch shows that makes me laugh (hint hint: Modern Family.) I hang out with funny people. I play with babies. I read funny books. I make dumb jokes. I sing out loud. When I laugh I feel the most “me” and it is from that space that I can move forward and get unstuck. From that place I can create. From that place I can take myself less seriously.

2. Hang out with people who inspire me. See earlier Daily Manifestation Challenge called “Who You Hanging With?” Who inspires you? Are you surrounding yourself with these people. Make a list in the comment section below. And, if you aren’t hanging with them yet, I suggest you make a date. It’s kind of a no-brainer but when you hang with people that excite and inspire you, it rubs off on you! It’s like a rope that they throw down the hole to pull you out of that ditch you are stuck in.

3. Make vision boards. They don’t even have to be proper Vision boards (like there is even a such thing as a “proper” vision board) but something where you are visualizing your desires and dreams and the things you want to manifest into your life. Visualization is key! Can you visualize yourself being unstuck? This is a profound question. If the answer is no my advice is to keep trying. Keep practicing. Repeat this mantra: I can manifest anything I put my attention on.

(Ahem. What are you putting your attention on anyway?)

4. Take a class. This weekend I am taking a class purely by chance My friend Juliet offered me a ticket to a wine and cheese class. Yes, I know. It had my name all over it. But you know what? It made me realize how much I love learning and miss being in school or taking class. Keep learning and studying always. Forever.

5. Do yoga. Or something. Anything! I am a yoga teacher, so yea, I do the yoga. But do whatever. Hike! Walk on the beach! Get connected to nature. Go watch the sun set or rise. Something that gives you a connection to something outside of yourself. Get your blood pumping and your adrenaline going. I notice I get majorly depressed when I am stagnant too long and yet the longer I am stagnant the harder it is to get motivated. Catch 22? Why, yes! But most of life is. Get used to it.

5. Do things that make you feel good.To quote my own poem, “How To Make A Life”

Let your joy be contagious and spread through

Your home, your job, your children.

Let it spread through the world

Like a virus so that when you forget it,

Every so often, you’ll catch it from someone else.

Whatever brings you joy, do it. Be it taking a bubble bath, curling in bed with a good book, cracking open a nice bottle of Cab, buying a nice smelling candle, painting, calling your friends in New Jersey, playing with your toddler, yoga. Whatever it is, just do it.

I want to coin that phrase “Just Do It” but I swear I have heard it somewhere before?

Today’s DMC is about being stuck and getting un-stuck. In the comment section below, list your experiences with being stuck. List what you do to get out or what you would like to do next time. List ideas you may have. Hey, I need them as much as you do, Dear Manifesters!

Being a creative and free spirit, it is easy to feel restless and bored. And blue. And yes, sometimes uninspired.  I am always looking for ways to keep blossoming and to keep my ideas fresh. I really don’t like feeling this a whole lot:

Keep on manifesting your life,

One laugh a time,

ManifestYogaJen

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