Creativity is a Team Sport

I like when ideas about creativity surprise me from random sources; when an idea is sparked by an non-fiction article, paragraph of fiction, line of poetry, a photograph, an emotion ignited by the news or the delicious consumption of a six-pack of doughnuts.

Recently I was reading an article, “5 Practices We Need Back In Our Lives,” and one section on mutual encouragement stood out. Here is the relevant section (my emphases):

Mutual Encouragement

As a kid, I played a lot of sports. Although I enjoyed the competition, I mostly loved being on a team and working toward a larger purpose. In that context, every teammate becomes a cheerleader. There’s nothing quite like the energy created by mutual encouragement. It lifts spirits and helps everyone perform at their highest level.

Why, I wonder, does this type of encouragement fade as we grow older? Instead of cheerleaders, we become critics of one another. Perhaps it’s because we’re no longer on a team—at least that’s how we choose to see it. Instead, it’s us versus the world.

It’s time to begin encouraging those around us—family, friends, even co-workers. God calls us to “spur one another on toward love and good deeds” (Hebrews 10:24). Practicing this won’t merely lift others’ spirits and improve their performance, it will leave everyone feeling as though they’re on the same team, working toward a common purpose.

So often as creative people we think we are working in isolation (every man is an island when it comes to creative work), disconnected and removed from other creative people. This is especially true of the mythology of writers (of which I am one), that we spend our time locked away in a distant castle/apartment/coffee shop/ball pit at IKEA, removed from the smothering cloying atmosphere of people, suffering for our art.

What are we to do?

A past student of mine was a long distance marathon swimmer. He become the youngest male to swim the English Channel. While it was him in the water for many many hours, he spoke of the team around him who lifted his spirits when he was exhausted, dejected, and wanting to give up.

I feel there has been a shift in thinking and in culture regarding the isolated creator. We are moving towards a group consciousness and collectivisation in support of one another.

Whether this is groups that meet in real life or virtually in online groups and forums, the mutual encouragement gained shows that we are a team working towards a common goal and purpose.

Personally I’d like to see collectives grow organically, places where creatives of all pursuits and passions can meet to create, discuss, encourage, critique, edit, beta, inspire.

Imagine a salon of poets, writers, musicians, artists, dancers, sculptors, IT gamers, apps developers, philosophers, mathematicians, scientists, any type of creative person. A cultural think tank, brains trust, hot house, backyard barbecue  where we all bring a plate of food to share (a very Australian idiom) and get to enjoy each others’ company, ideas and encouragement (sorry to mix metaphors).

At its most basic, creativity is a team sport. We might work in isolation but our success depends on our community and relationships.

Here’s my game plan:

  • Join a team.
  • Create community.
  • Foster relationships.
  • Encourage and equip others.

2 responses to “Creativity is a Team Sport

  1. And how do we as artists define ‘success’? Is it someone paying for what we create, is it getting famous and known beyond our communities, is it being able to say, I am a ‘professional’ artist or is it also in creating something and having that sense of fulfillment that comes with self expression. I wonder about this sometimes and it brings me round to another question all together, Why do we create?

    • Success is dependent on how the individual defines it. It can be any or all of the reasons you give.
      Why do we create? Good question. It’s intrinsic, innate, a desire, a calling, a passion, an exploration. So many answers.

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