I gave a short talk at the Hackers & Founders MeetUp here in Amsterdam on Thursday 2 August. It seemed a bit weird to talk about creativity to a room full of people who start new businesses and create hacks and fixes for a living.

As a result, I thought I’d focus on an aspect of creativity that is really starting to intrigue me: the creative community.

I am guilty, you see. Guilty of never really being part of a Creative Community. And I can see exactly the effects that not being part of such a structure has had on my projects, businesses and career.

One of the things that I say over and over to people in my workshops and talks is that Creativity is NOT magic. Just because we don’t always understand how it works does NOT make it magic. OK, so far so good. But the thing is there are more myths around creativity that are harder to avoid being sucked into.

Many of us have highly romantic ideas about creatives and creativity. The lonely artist, the glorious individual, ploughing ahead alone against all odds, overcoming everything. Like the Hollywood hero, the violent outsider.

I fell for this vision heavily: magnificent in my isolation, I laboured away in my artist’s turret, waiting to bring my wonders to the world. Most often I have not referred to canon, commerciality, trend, comrades, masters or anything at all… And this was supposed to be good right? This is how true art is made right?

Except it isn’t true, it was never true, and it will never be true.

To be creative you must be connected to the world. You must be able to achieve flow in your craft… which means you need to be highly skilled, highly trained, very well informed. And you need to bounce and ricochet off the ideas of your milieu.

In his book, The Creative Curve, Allen Gannett identifies a vision of a Creative Community that has four key parts:

  • A Master teacher
  • Conflicting collaborators
  • A Modern Muse
  • A Prominent promoter

Most of my life I have been missing at least 3 of the above, sometimes all 4, but have never had more than 2.

I have never had a prominent promoter, someone who represents me out in the world. I have always tried to play that role for myself. So much so, that I wouldn’t even know how to find such a person!

These were the thoughts rolling through my head before I did my presentation. The room was pretty quiet while I talked, and I saw a lot of thoughtful faces. From the people I talked to afterwards, the idea clearly had an impact on some. Maybe it was old news to the others, but it made me think: This MeetUp is a community. How effective is it as a source of Creative inspiration/motivation?

Sometimes in our world, we resist the Master Teacher, we want more egalitarianism. We also mostly try and avoid conflict, seeking resolution instead. And we are almost always trying to get ahead ourselves and mostly not promoting anyone else.

How could a MeetUp play a different role? Could such a structure ever become an active creative community and provide all the four roles that Gannett identifies?

It’s an interesting question and one that I am busy with moving ahead.

Do you, dear reader, have a creative community around you?
How does it work?
Can you identify specific roles within the community and what they give to you and you to them?
I’ve love to hear about it!