Better together (why creatives need to stop being hermits)

This story first appeared in the May 2017 Everyday Author newsletter.

Last week, I took an amazing trip to Austin, including two days at the Smarter Artist Summit. I’m not going to go into much detail about the event itself — if you want an excellent recap, check out this article. What I want to talk about, more than all the strategies and tactics I came away with is what makes the Summit special: the people.

Although the event doubled in size this year, the Smarter Artist Summit still retained the same intimate feeling from last year. It felt like a great big family reunion (minus the drama, bees and the weird jello salad your aunt makes). The Smarter Artist Summit is incredible because the people part of it are incredible.

In just two years, the Smarter Artist Summit has fostered a culture of camaraderie and generosity. It’s launched careers, changed lives and helped people achieve more than they ever thought possible.

But this isn’t intended to make you feel like you missed out. You can still experience this collective awesomeness. There are people just like the Smarter Artist Summit attendees near you, and you’re missing out if you don’t connect with them. No matter how much you think you know or how introverted you think you are, don’t underestimate the benefit of getting out and meeting others, don’t discount the power congregating in a non-digital space.

But I don’t like to leave my house! People are scary IRL! I need to stay at home and write in solitude!

In rebuttal, allow me to turn things over to surfer/singer Jack Johnson:

It’s not always easy and
Sometimes life can be deceiving
I’ll tell you one thing, it’s always better when we’re together

From Ice Age cave fires to Ancient Greece, the Italian Renaissance and beyond, thinkers, artists and creators have always benefited from congregating to discuss their ideas and work. Sure, in our modern day, much of this can be replicated online… but it’s not quite the same thing — sort of like the difference between a burger off the dollar menu and cut of prime rib.

That burger is cheap, convenient and easy, but you’re missing out on the juicy wonderland of flavor prime rib offers. It will cost a little more and take longer to hit your plate, but boy is it worth it! Assembling a squad of your own can be daunting and everyone may not be the right fit at first. But once you get to know one another, the results for you and your fellow authors will be exponential.

To paraphrase Mr. Johnson, the life of an author is not always easy. Sometimes success (or lack thereof) can be deceiving. Just remember, you don’t have to go it alone.

There’s something special (and yes, at first, scary) about being in the presence of a person/people who ticks the same way you do, someone chasing the same calling. If done right, these kinds of gatherings, no matter the size, are intoxicating. They’ll make you better, faster than you ever could on your own. They’ll give you hope, inspire you to reach new heights and may be the support that sustains you when you feel like throwing in the towel.

I’m convinced everyone, everyone, can benefit from in-person gatherings. It might take some time and it might be awkward at first, but once you click with someone like you, you’ll wonder how you ever got by before. Whether it’s traveling to a conference or just meeting up with someone at a local coffee shop, take a chance and put yourself out there. If a group like this doesn’t exist in your area, start one! You can benefit from others and, even if you don’t believe it, you have something special to offer them as well. We can do this. And we’re all in this. Together.

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