In a dwindling number of hours, The Creative’s Workshop will come to a close, meaning that the expansive multiverse of prompts, interviews, daily writings, instructive videos, and earnest, generous exchanges with creative comrades from around the globe will disappear like the finest, fiercest flash mob that ever was, a 5-month-long cross-pollination of poets and memoirists, photographers, illustrators, filmmakers, podcasters and the like, all now packing up and getting ready to return home to regular life.
Except that there can be no returning to regular life. Seth Godin and his team accomplished what I imagine was their goal at the start–to give all of us the chance to know what it feels like to be running with a pack that’s hungry for living their most creative life and to allow the warmth of that proximity to provide nurturing, support and protection of the creative process in ways that regular life doesn’t always do. Even from the middle of the pack, and sometimes pulling up the rear, I know that hunger well. It’s not perfection, I learned, nor genius, that makes the creative life possible. It’s not waiting to be picked. It’s committing to creative practice no matter what–no matter the mood, energy, finances, the pandemic or the state of the world—and generously supporting others in their creative work. When this happens, as I witnessed and experienced first-hand, it expands what’s possible for both the artist, the work, and the world.
The mind, once stretched by a new idea, never returns to its original dimensions. ~ Ralph Waldo Emerson
This might suggest that the creative work must be big, bold, and wildly popular to justify its existence and yet none of this is required. Instead, I learned about the smallest viable audience and how involving this small group of caring others as the process moves along not only supports our creative work but also shapes it, honing it and crafting it in ways that enhance both the process and the creative offering. I heard many creative success stories over the course of the workshop and at least as many about disappointment and failure. The open, encouraging climate made it easy to have these kinds of exchanges and, with my eye on the clock and knowing that this level of generosity and candor is an all-too-precious thing, I found myself seeking them out and then watching the effect of these contributions on my own work. I’ve determined that I like creating in spaces where fear doesn’t get the final word and so many of us spoke so directly about all that would hold us back if we allowed this to happen.
I’ve been in two different workgroups with members from 5 different timezones for the better part of my time in TCW, one focused specifically on the business and practice of artmaking and the other an eclectic group of writers, filmmakers, professors, and coaches. We’ve made plans to continue working together after TCW closes down and I’m glad about this. There are parts of that multiverse that I’m not willing to part with, components that would be the ideal cornerstones for The Well Within Workshop. Here’s an example of just one, illustrating the tenet that you’re either working to make something happen or working to make sure that it doesn’t: Early on in the workshop, I’d commented in one of my written exercises that I very much wanted to read more but that I found myself struggling to find the time. I got a reply to this post from Helena, a TCW participant living in Sweden, who suggested that I needed a “Reading Retreat.” I responded that I absolutely did and then I asked, “What’s a ‘Reading Retreat’? Helena let me know that she had no idea but trusted that we could come up with one. And we did—we arranged to meet over video chat every Monday morning from 8-9:30 a.m. (the middle of the afternoon for Helena) to read together. Sitting silently in our respective spaces with our respective books, holding quiet space for one another in our co-created virtual library, has indeed been a retreat like no other. Anyone can do this. There’s no magic to it. Nothing complicated and it costs nothing but time, though technically the time is spent either way—I’d spent plenty of time bemoaning the fact that I didn’t have enough time to read. Maybe you don’t have a free hour and a half. Anya, from Seattle, for whom the start time for Reading Retreat is a bit too early, joins for the last 30 minutes. Works for her, works for us. A dedicated 15 minutes can work, too.
Who’s in your pack? In what small and not-so-small ways are you supporting your own creative work and the work of those who travel along with you? Are you offering the level of generous support that you’d love to receive and when your creative kinfolk offer their kind appreciation and championship, are you able to welcome this, to take it in? From where you sit right now, can you picture where you’d want all of your creative efforts, ideas, and kinship to land? Can you see it like it’s already here?