Teamwork Makes the Dreamwork
"None of us is as smart as all of us" Ken Blanchard
“A healthy support system is often the only difference between the artists and the ex-artists. It isn’t nobility, heroism, or talent that makes a working artist, but a whole network of helping hands that give the artist the support to keep going.” Carol Lloyd
All of us need to surround ourselves with people who support us. These are friendships, family, colleagues and mentors. This is your team and they connect you to the world. You depend on them to be positive and always have your best interest in mind. They understand your definition of success and want you to achieve it. They lift your spirits when your down and help you get back on track. You are careful not to abuse their generosity and you give them just as much support as they give you.
Lets look at a few different ways to help create a healthy support system.
First is an accountability partner. This is one person you meet with weekly or monthly and share ideas, goals, dreams and fears. Your overall goal is to keep each other accountable. It’s also a shoulder to cry on when things aren’t so good. It should never feel like a relationship that only focuses on the negative or allows you to constantly complain. A support buddy helps pull you out of those depressive states and towards something more positive.
When you meet with your accountability partner talk about the work. If either of you find yourself going down the road of ‘poor me’ then change the subject. Get positive. Say something good about your career, friends, family or a piece of art or music you found inspirational. You might need to force yourself to be positive in order to break the habit of being negative.
Another way to add to your support team is by studying all the dead masters who have come before you in your field. These are all the artists who we are connected by way of artistic lineage. These are our ancestors in art. They paved the way for us to be where we are today. Study their careers and discover who they were in their art and in their personal lives. See if you can forge a relationship with them and get to know who’s shoulders you stand on. Absorb everything about them, to the point where you feel you can connect the dots between their work and your own. Discover the evolution that exists between you. By doing so, you will have the support of your own artistic ancestors because knowledge of their history brings confidence to your work.
The third group are professional communities, classes, school, clubs, on-line groups, collectives and organizations. Most will cost money or have some kind of membership dues. These can be inspiring ways of receiving support for your work. When you are part of a greater community, your work will feel less arbitrary and less lonely. People will know what you are working on and ask you about it. When you talk about particular struggles or successes, they will know what you mean.
As an actor and filmmaker, I’ve always found my team of collaborators in these environments. Specifically acting classes, universities and theater companies because the structure of the group is designed to get you to start working together. This kind of forced collaboration exposes you immediately to working with other artists. You will naturally gravitate towards people you like because you work well together. So many great friendships started in classes, universities, collectives and theater companies.
Although groups provide a sense of community, support, love and service, few remain untouched by competition and jealousy. It’s just part of the terrain. Navigating your way through is a lesson in and of itself. Doesn’t mean groups can’t enrich your life, most often times they do. Just stay focused on what you are there to learn and you’ll discover similar people are there to do the same. Or if you think the group isn’t for you, you can always find another one. However, if you find yourself changing groups often, then it’s possible that you are the one who needs to change.
Another option for support, comes from forming a peer group. Writers, artists, dancers, musicians, actors, filmmakers, etc.. all have their own groups to exchange each other’s work. You can find groups that already exist or start your own. They’re also a wonderful structure for developing and maintaining friendships with other people in your field. Unlike those of less organized clubs or social scenes, these group discussions usually stay focused on the content of the creative work rather than degenerating into shoptalk or professional gossip. Or at least, that’s the idea. These are generally free or have a very small donations to keep the light on or provide bites of food and drinks.
I’m reminded of a story when American director Anne Bogart met French director Ariane Mnouchkine and asked her about the point of having a company. Her response was “What are you going to do without a company? Don’t get me wrong. It’s a pain. You lose people. It’s always a problem. But what are you going to do?” - And there you have it. We need other artists in our lives because it’s impossible to create work and stay healthy in the process without them. We need each other. We need support. We need collaboration. They are not always easy to locate, but out there somewhere are all your creative soul mates… so go find them!