Further to the question of personal support network, we might call it a creative support network. Or an everything-everywhere-is changing-so-what’s-important-for-me-today support network.
If we think of a Creative Support Network, this means being supported with our creative works, whether that be work as a writer or artist or craftsperson, through things our society have designated as “creative.” But it also can be living artfully through the challenging time we’re in. Navigating this is creative work too. Perhaps not seeing it as creative work is a symptom of the times, which don’t much value stepping back and reflecting. Although we’re not in Kansas anymore (the once-familiar landscape that Dorothy referred to in the Wizard of Oz), the mainstream hasn’t really noticed the landscape has changed. The market and the numbers are the metrics it uses and these keep it unaware of the wider context.
I can imagine people saying, if you’re to be “creative,” why don’t you just get on with it and do the work. Why talk about it?
The reason is that good listening and reflection open the way to the next step. That’s why playwrights “workshop” their new work to people who are invited for that purpose. They need fresh eyes on what they’re doing. Good listening and good feedback are part of the creative process and I would say, the human process. We thrive in a high feedback environment.
But most of us don’t have such an environment for ourselves or even think it’s possible. Thoreau said, The mass of men lead lives of quiet desperation. People usually blame themselves for their sense of abandonment but it’s not an individual failing. Rather it’s a social issue with deep roots. Our consumer culture expects us to play by rules that prioritize consumption and structures a world in which “soul values” take a second place, if they’ve any place at all. Even “creative artists” often work within a paradigm in which success is based on future rewards of recognition and money, rather than on joy in the creation, or on generosity and gift.
People have lived for so long without a supportive environment for their meaning-making that, like a neglected plant, it hangs in the corner of the window without sunshine or enough water.
Good support, happy plant; bad support, sad plant! Good support, happy human; bad support, sad human. It’s not that you do nothing. Creative support also requires your participation at every step, or nothing happens.
The nutrient that people love is live connection with what is true and meaningful. For many people, this might look like traditional religion. It might look like individual meditation and prayer and study.
But for many of us, including me, the oxygen also needs to come from meaning making and sharing with others. And in real time too, not in a workshop you took last quarter, but updated today.
Like taking the dog outside into the world for a walk, it has to happen when it has to happen. Its immediacy is one of its chief charms.