When my son was in elementary school, he developed a fascinating creative friendship with another little boy in his class. The two of them spent hours together creating a multi-layered cartoon series based on the Star Trek TV show, but replacing all the characters with cartoon animals. (Kirk was a kangaroo and Spock was a spaniel.) Their version was called Car Trek, and it included written stories, books and books of cartoon panels, as well as audio and video recordings.
It was serious business for these two 8 and 9 year olds - more important to them than almost anything else (including school work, of course). They talked on the phone every night, plotting and planning the next episode. They had long discussions about the proper shade of Prismacolor pencil, and their biggest disagreement once occurred over whether to use Gray Number 2 or 3 for the Enterprise. (If my son reads this, he’ll probably correct me on the color numbers because I’m sure he remembers them 25 years later.)
The point is, they learned early on the benefits of creative collaboration, and in the process produced literally hundreds of drawing, stories, and recordings.
Over the years of my writing online, I’ve made a lot of marvelous and inspiring friends - other writers, poets, photographers, and artists. We’ve communicated back and forth on our blogs, on social media, in e-mail exchanges, and once or twice on the telephone.
Mostly though, these creative friendships are conducted from afar. For a while now, I’ve been craving a creative friend in “real time,” the kind you can meet for coffee every so often to share ideas and cheer each other on. Although I have a lot of friends who are creative, we don’t connect on quite the same plane. We’ve met and forged our friendship over different areas - church or music groups or volunteer activities - and it seems that’s where they’re destined to stay.
Recently though, I made contact with a professional creative who is practically in my backyard. Christa is an astounding musician, who performs professionally throughout our area. She lives in the same town I do, and is a full time artist/entrepreneur, who makes her living through music. She has been so supportive of Life In General, and we decided to meet and see how we might help bolster each other in our respective creative pursuits.
We met last week for our first creative confabulation, and it was fabulous. It was energizing and inspiring to meet someone like Christa, who is doing the hard work necessary to make a living pursuing her passion. It reminded me again how relatively easy I have it in comparison, but inspired me to work all the harder for that very reason.
lthough we’re not in exactly the same creative fields, I think our collaboration will be mutually beneficial anyway. Here’s why:
1. Mutual accountability: During our meeting, we brainstormed some things we each could do to promote our latest ventures - a CD for her, and Life In General for me. Then we each came up with a list of things to do before our next meeting. Having that accountability factor, knowing we’ll meet again and have to “report in” is a great motivator, especially for a couple of perfectionists like we are.
2. Creative Energy: There’s something about verbalizing ideas that incites a different sort of creative thinking. As we talked, ideas seemed to appear in the classic light bulb manner. “What about creating a book club package for Life In General?” Christa suggested when I mentioned I’d been invited to a couple of local book clubs who were reading the book. “You could offer a complete package including copies of the book to local libraries, and I bet they’d love to feature a local author!” Ambitious and creative ideas come from brainstorming out loud.
3. Mutual Support: It’s wonderful to have the moral support that comes from someone who understands the creative process. But as we talked we realized there were concrete ways we could support each other as well. Writing reviews for each other’s books and CD’s, linking to each other in our social media accounts, being a source of connection in the real world as well as in our individual creative sphere.
“Every man works better when he has companions working in the same line, and yielding to the stimulus of suggestion, comparison, emulation.” Henry James praised the power of group activity long ago, and certainly some of the most creative work has been born out of artists circles like the Impressionist painters, the Bloomsbury group of writers. Although I’ve always considered myself as someone who works better alone, I’m seeing a great benefit to spending real time with someone who provides the stimulation of “suggestion, comparison, and emulation” - Creative Confabulation.