Whether it’s the image of starving artist in the garret, or the wildly successful artist who lives in a world of constant creation and work, the one thing both of these images have in common is the artist alone.
Creatives do need frequent doses of silence and solitude in order to be able to listen to their Muses. But, creativity also functions and flourishes in the company of other creatives, not just in collaboration, but in support and sharing. Two ways I’ve found that make a difference in my creative health and success are accountability partners and critique and process partners.
In January of 2011, at the beginning of a year-long coaching program for my business, as part of the program, I agreed to have an accountability partner, Yvonne. Every Wednesday morning, with rare exceptions, we talked to each other by phone, reporting on accomplishments for the past week and setting goals for the next week. After 2 ½ years, we are still doing this, and also offer each other suggestions and feedback on business challenges, asking permission to do so first.
Because we were at similar places in our spiritually centered businesses, we had similar challenges, knew the language of our businesses, and very closely paralleled each other in our growth.
This kind of partnering is helpful in keeping you on task and on track with your creative work or projects. Whether you check in with your partner once a day, once a week or once every two weeks, holding each other accountable means you are more likely to keep moving forward and taking productive, consistent action.
Critique and Process
Whether you are a writer, composer, painter, or other creative, you know that you can get so involved in your work you can’t see it or hear it with any perspective after a while. Having one or more critique partners to provide feedback and insight into your work can help you move past blocks, enrich and deepen your work, and, as with the accountability partner, keep you producing on a regular basis.
Even if you don’t want anyone to see your work until it is completed, a partner is supportive through regularly sharing process challenges such as staying on schedule, dealing with blocks and fears, and sharpening craft techniques.
I have a writing partner, Jen, who started out as a critique partner and then, when her creative focus changed, turned into a process partner. Originally, we read our writing to the other for feedback. Now, we talk about process, development, challenges, and personal issues related to our work.
One of the keys to making this type of partnership successful is to be sure you both agree on the rules. Then work hard to honor them.
My accountability partner and I agreed to talk weekly, and still do. Yes, we make exceptions but they are few and far between.
My critique and process partner and I connect weekly or every two weeks depending on personal schedules. We also agree to some level of flexibility for the schedule and the day but maintain a regular connection.
Length of time for a call is another area for agreement in order not to let the calls drag on and interfere with the actual work.
Duration of the partnership needs to be decided as well. Will the partnership last for the length of a program or project, or for a set calendar time such as a year? Yvonne and I originally committed to the length of the coaching program, a year, but we both agreed to continue the partnership and renew that agreement at the beginning of each new calendar year.
Accountability? Connection? Critique? Process? Information-sharing? Decide and then stick to it. Ask permission before sliding into other areas.
Whatever your creative needs or work, having someone to share the journey with, who can ameliorate that sense of isolation, can really make the difference between success and failure, between keeping on and giving up.
I’m very grateful to Yvonne and Jen for helping me keep on keeping on. So, who do you have to share your creative path with?