Creating Your Community

Here’s what I’ve been mulling over lately: the fact that too many musicians feel isolated in our creative work. It’s often an unstated need and question: How to Find or Start Your Own Creative Community.

Are you getting the input you need to do your best creative work?

We have various “tribes” or communities we belong to. Outside of the ensembles with which we perform, we each belong to various official and un-official groups. Real-time and virtual. We invest time and attention in these. These may include book clubs, neighborhood or church groups, advocacy organizations, and national associations. These communities allow us to exchange ideas, inspiration, and support.

We are, after all, social creatures. Our sense of identity, purpose, and value is in part determined by who we hang out with. As humans, we need connections to groups for a sense of belonging. So how can we grow our circles of influence?

Networking for introverted musicians

As an introvert looking to make networking easier, I like to focus on smaller group interactions. Situations where I can ask questions and get inspired by new ideas that challenge me creatively. And where I can contribute value to others.

What I gain from participating in groups is a sense of belonging and support. It’s an essential for creative artists: access to a healthy give and take within a tribe, a community.

For example, I’ve had a long-term connection with Chamber Music America. I’ve attended their annual conferences for (OMG!) more than 20 years. The relationships I’ve made and cultivated through CMA have been wonderful gifts in my life—thank you, CMA!

Over the years, I’ve spoken on panels and mentoring sessions at the conference, and served on the board. I’ve been able to connect with many terrific artists, managers, and presenters. And these connections have, over time, led to new projects, clients, speaking opportunities, and more.

But my CMA participation has provided me something better than all that. It’s given me regular infusions of new ideas and perspectives that challenged me, thanks to the people I’ve come to know. Ideas that got me thinking in new ways about how I saw the field itself and my role in it. CMA has connected me with people and ideas that have improved my teaching, speaking, listening, and coaching—and I’ve made dear friends in the process.

So take a few minutes now and think over for yourself . . .

What communities, official and unofficial, do you belong to?

What professional associations and social groups are you part of? Think about what you’ve gained from your participation and what you’ve contributed. Be honest.

I’ve found that the more you give the more you get.

But beware of being stretched too thin. If you’ve joined a zillion groups you aren’t going to reap much because you need to cultivate friendships. Identify any particular groups you need to let go of. And then do it: just be thoughtful and diplomatic to those you are leaving behind.

Create value for yourself and for others

If you’re not getting much out of a group but it’s one you’d like to continue with, think how you might create more value for yourself and for others. This doesn’t need to take a lot of time or effort. On the most basic level, it might be that there’s a question, idea, or discussion point you’ve been holding back on and it’s time to step up and speak up. Get valuable feedback. Get over your ego and see what good you can create!

When we take on a new job or project, move to a new city, or move to a new neighborhood it’s an opportunity to make connections. With people, ideas, and sources of creative inspiration. But if we isolate, or stick with our same circle and stay within our comfort zones, we aren’t giving ourselves the opportunity to grow.

Beyond joining existing groups, we can also start or co-create our own support communities. There’s compounded power in groups—power to influence and to make things happen. Groups create impact for their members. We all want to be seen and understood by others, and to have a sense of belonging that comes with being accepted and contributing to a group of our peers.

What communities have you created or co-created in the past year?

I’ve got two recent examples of my own:

First, there’s a set of people I’ve gotten to know through attending seminars led by the authors of The Tools Barry Michels and Phil Stutz. I found a small group of die-hard fans and after last year’s seminar we decided to stay in touch online with a weekly Google hangout. In these hangouts we talk through how we are using The Tools. And what challenges and questions have come up in the process, so we get to learn from each other and share experiences.

These conversations have helped me in my own creative practice and coaching work, and have been a terrific outlet for times when I was feeling discouraged or stuck. We’re an eclectic and international set of folks I would never have connected with had I not attended the seminars and talked with people there. As a ‘solopreneur’ I’ve found it’s even more important to connect with groups. Especially people who can give me a fresh perspective from outside my professional niche.

I’m the only one of the group working in music (we have a doctor, a graphic designer, several writers, a life coach, a shrink / software developer, you name it!). The diversity of perspectives is great, as is members’ generosity and interest in others.

Note: if you’re only hanging out with musicians, you’re limiting your creative possibilities.

Here’s another example, in taking Seth Godin’s online Marketing Seminar last year, we were all encouraged to connect with other people in the class and create our own “master mind” groups. The purpose: to be accountable to each other and to talk through how we were applying the lessons we learned to our businesses. The mini master mind group I belong to is just 3 and we’re still going strong a year after the course ended.

Talk about unlikely connections! The group includes a business consultant based in Milan who focuses on companies’ cultures, and a hypnotherapist located on the Gold Coast, south of Brisbane, Australia—and then there’s me, a music carer coach in Boston. (Working out the time zone challenge for our weekly hangouts was amazing.) These two very smart and successful people have helped me upgrade my thinking and my work. We encourage and inspire each other to get past our fears and forge ahead.

All three of these groups, these creative communities I belong to have been terrific gifts in my life.

What makes a group effective?

Whether it’s an ensemble you perform with or a master mind collective, an effective group meets certain criteria. First, every member contributes and is valued for who they are. Members learn from and are inspired by each other. And finally, effective group have a spirit of generosity. Members prioritize the group over their individual needs and interests.

Seth Godin offers this:

“Who you hang out with determines what you dream about and what you collide with.
And the collisions and the dreams lead to your changes.
And the changes are what you become.
Change the outcome by changing your circle.”

So build your own creative communities of support. Be generous: invest your time and attention in others. No matter if it’s a big or small community, online or off, it’s about really getting to know people and being of service.

Questions for the week: What tribes, associations, or groups are you part of? How do you contribute and what do you gain from the interactions? What mastermind group might you create or join to help you level up your career?

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Here’s to your forward motion,

Dream Big, Plan Smart, Live Well


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