“Hey Ollin, could you give me some tips on how to build a community of creative individuals like you did for your blog, Courage 2 Create?”
For more than five years on this blog I have talked about the benefits of building a strong relationship with your community. Connecting with people is so essential to who we are as humans beings, not only as creatives, and we suffer greatly if we don’t have this type of connection.
In her book, Daring Greatly, Brene Brown, a shame researcher, says that our lack of feeling connected with people can cause us to feel shame which leads to suffering.
Brown says we are “hard wired for connection” and we seek empathy wherever we go in order to rid ourselves of feeling ashamed; and if we don’t get a shot of “empathy espresso” at least every once in a while, our life starts to feel awfully lonely and unfulfilled.
Therefore, building our own creative community where we can feel that “empathetic touch” often is so important to our overall health and well-being.
Building a community is also essential to all creative endeavors because being an artist sometimes requires us to be alone as we focus our time and energy on our creative work but as creatives, we still may need develop an audience or fan base for our creative work. Or maybe we need to find mentors, guides, or creative partners to help our work reach its highest potential. Therefore, establishing a connection with a community that can support our creativity is so essential to not only our health, but our success.
Being able to achieve all of this lies in our ability to create a healthy, thriving community.
Over the years I’ve included community-building tips inside many of my blog posts, but today, for the first time, I would like to dedicate an entire post just to building a thriving “creative community” of your very own.
(For easy reading and digestion, I’ve structured this community building post in an easy-to-read question and answer format.)
A Beginner’s Guide To Community-Building
“What is a ‘creative community’?”
A creative community is a community that has the collective goal of having every person within the community following their passion and fulfilling their purpose in this life.
A creative community views life as a journey of self-discovery and self-creation. Whether they are religious or not religious, or simply “spiritual,” members of a creative community truly believe in the humanistic principle that we are all here to serve the greater good and in order to push all of us further to greater and greater heights of success, health, wellness, and peace.
You can call a creative community a “conscious community,” or even an “enlightened community.” These communities can be non-profit organizations, blogs, businesses, clubs, creative writing groups, or even groups centered around sports or exercise.
No matter what the focus is, an enlightened / conscious / creative community is self-aware: it knows it is interconnected and it knows that the self-evolution of every individual involved is necessary for the collective-evolution of the entire human organism to take place.
Discussions within this community are respectful, even if there is disagreement. All discussion helps to clarify, engage, explain, and add to the conversation.
Creative communities DO NOT—I REPEAT—DO NOT encourage negative or hateful attacks on personality, or toxic behavior that some may call “trolling.” Discussions within a creative community always begin from a space of mutual respect and honoring of everyone involved.
Discussions, therefore, are rooted in love and not fear. The community seeks to enlighten individuals or challenge them, but none of this is rooted in fear, in tearing down individuals, or creating a difficult environment just for the sake of drama or perpetuating a sense of conflict for no apparent reason.
The creative community can always bring awareness to behavior or attitudes it deems toxic to the greater community in order to empower individuals who have been oppressed or victimized due to this type of behavior or attitude.
Also, a creative community must always be facilitated by a wise, strong, humble but powerful leader. Humility is important, for the role of the leader does not mean that this person is “better” than others, it just means he is playing the role of a facilitator. Others in the community must have this understanding, too, so they do not unduly make a “guru” or “idol” out of the leader and put him on a pedestal that she does not deserve, for we are all equal in importance even though we may have different roles and have different skills we contribute to the collective.
“How do I create a ‘creative community’?”
If you wish to build a creative community, you must first be honest with yourself: do you feel yourself being the leader of this community, or just a follower? If you see yourself merely as a participant, then it is important to begin with that intention. Understanding that your role as leader in the community is temporary and knowing that you must be ready to relinquish the role once the more appropriate leader, a person who wants to be the leader, appears and takes your place, is very important.
Also, when intending to create your community, you must have balance: your community is stronger the more diverse it is; therefore, it is important to have a balance of male and female members, a balance of individuals of different races, sexualities, and backgrounds. A great way to do this is to always have a diverse group of members in mind whenever advertising or promoting the creation of your community. Make sure that any discussions, workshops, events, blog posts, etc are all geared to a diverse group of people.
Be sensitive always, and always seek to engage and respond to your audience.
The first step to building any community is to begin small, with people close by to you. Find within your own circle of friends, relatives, co-workers people who are like minded and who will benefit from being a member of your community. Explain to them what the community is about so they know whether they want to participate or not.
Remember that any type of community is not about you, it is about the whole, therefore, make sure it is clear what it is being given so that the people participating know what it is they will receive for their time and energy involved in the community.
A virtuous cycle must be created for any creative community to thrive.
If you once experienced great involvement in your community, whether it is a blog, a group forum, or a writer’s group for instance, a great way to find out what is going wrong is to ask members of the community for feedback.
The prime way to create a community is to offer something of value. Keep offering something of value and, through word of mouth, the word will go around that your community is one that people ought to be involved in because it will truly benefit them.
Finally, make sure it is clear how one can continue to be connected with your community in different creative ways.
“Why do I royally suck at building a creative community?”
I know, you are probably going to tell me: “But, Ollin, I tried everything you have suggested and still my creative community isn’t growing and/or still doesn’t exist!”
I would ask yourself a couple of questions if you are still struggling building your community:
1. Are you a community “leader” or a “follower”?
Followers can initiate the creation of a community, but they are often more easily able to join a pre-existing community and help to shape it in ways they think would improve that pre-existing model.
It is not uncommon that a follower begins the creation of a community that does not already exist, but know that followers tend to have a more challenging time developing a community from scratch. If you feel you are more of a follower than a leader, and you are struggling to establish your community, then I suggest you go looking for someone who is more the “leader type.” They will be able to assist you better because they will have the skills and experience necessary to spearhead the creation of the group.
2. Are you trying to seize an opportunity or are you following your passion?
Sometimes people want to build a community because they see it paying huge dividends in the end. They might see a trend or a “money-making opportunity” and so they stake their whole self into the creation of a community they hope will earn them big bucks.
Although this could work sometimes, if you are currently struggling with this type of community, it is likely because you are not passionate about the community’s central purpose. Without passion it is very difficult to sustain a thriving, long-lasting creative community.
Every leader of a community needs to have a deep, abiding passion for the community’s central purpose: this vision, this passion is what inspires the followers to keep engaging and keep participating in the community.
If the leader lacks passion and vision, then all members of the community will eventually leave it, they will intuitively sense that the passion exhibited is fake and the true purpose of the community was always to “use” its members for some selfish end.
This approach, as you can now see, goes against the law of karma: pretend giving, or giving with the intent of getting something in return, is like “pre-emptive receiving.” You are not honestly giving to your community, you are only giving to it because you hope one day you will get something out of it.
If you are struggling to build a thriving community, ask yourself:
“Am I giving to my community from a base of selfishness? Or am I engaging in selfless giving?”
If you are honestly giving without thought to how it will benefit you, you will find that what you give will return to you in kind—instantly.
This is a paradox, I know, but it works.
3. Are you being patient?
Building a community is not a short-term endeavor. It is a long-term endeavor. It is not a sprint, but a marathon. A very long, tedious, involved and slow marathon. If you are not a marathon runner, don’t join the marathon.
If you are a sprinter, then you are more likely to be a follower who wants to join a pre-existing community and shape it in a way that you think would help improve the already-existing model.
If you simply can’t stand how long it is taking to build your respective community, maybe the “building” part isn’t of you. Maybe you would be better at “adding” to the pre-existing model already established within other communities.
4. Are you being resourceful?
Many community builders have grand ideas about how their community should grow and prosper. For instance: they believe they must go half-way across the world, or pay some “expert” a hefty amount to make their community grow rapidly and efficiently.
In the end, the most successful community builders are very resourceful. Instead of looking “up” or “ahead” of them for how to begin building their community, they simply look “here” and “around” them.
Successful community builders think locally first, before they think nationally, or globally.
All the most popular and best communities began locally by community leaders who recognized that the community they were trying to build had to start within their own backyards—because trying to build it in a backyard on the other side of the world would require far more effort and time—time and effort they did not have.
If you are struggling to build your community, have you asked yourself if you have utilized all your local resources first?
Look around your own group of friends, family, and even your fellow citizens to see if there is anyone there who thinks the way you think and would like to participate in the type of community you are building.
A great community leader takes that initial lesson of resourcefulness with her no matter how much the community grows, which is an essential strength of any successful community leader.
This leader will never “freak out” at losing members, or seeing a community he helped built going through a crisis, because he can always look to those around them for the answers. He is resourceful and knows that all the answers to keeping his community healthy are not “over there” but actually right here where he now sits.
Community-building is not some sort of mysterious, magical skill, it is actual a very personal, practical skill that is mastered best at the local level first, where the lesson of resourcefulness is learned. And resourcefulness creates a strong, wise leader who always remains grounded and confident no matter what the community he helped build is going through.
4. Are you relying on the community to give you something they can’t?
The last classic mistake people make is relying on the community to give them something they can’t.
Many falsely believe that if they become a leader of a grand community they will suddenly feel more important, more secure, more capable, and more “special.”
This is the “fame monster” who says that only in fame can you find your worth or value.
If you were building a community to help validate your intrinsic worth and value then you have set yourself up for failure.
No community could ever give you something that only you could give yourself: a sense of self-worth.
If you were hoping that being a leader of a grand community would give you that sense of “specialness” then give up the effort to create a thriving community for a moment and look within instead:
Can you find your sense of worth within? Can you honor yourself instead of waiting for others to honor you? If you want to be famous, ask yourself, why is that so important to you? Would fame without being of true value to others really fulfill you? Or does it matter to you more that you are valuable, than whether or not you are famous?
Sometimes the culture overemphasizes the popularity of our community leaders, as if to say that it is in their fame that their value lies. But no successful community leader ever became famous without first offering value to the members of the community they have led.
5. How long and how often should I work on community building?
Again, this depends on what kind of person you are.
If you are a natural born community leader, then you will have an intuitive urge to always help the collective. It is very simple: whenever you feel you must help the community, trust that urge, and do something to help it. No matter how small the action is, it helps.
Community leader-types will often suffer if they are in a job or in a situation in which they cannot give back and help their community on a regular basis. Many of these types will often abandon their current professions and even take a pay cut just so they can spend most of their time and energy building, energizing, healing, and helping their communities.
“Community-follower” types, on the other hand, are less likely to have a constant urge to assist or help their communities. What they will often feel is a need to be a “part” of something bigger. These individuals will often have an urge to join a group, or take a class, or volunteer, just so they can establish some sort of connection with their community that is outside of the traditional “what’s in it for me” mentality of the rest of their lives.
All of us, at some level, have this innate desire to give to our communities. We sense, deeply sense, when this community is suffering and we seek to give ourselves to it because we sense the individual is connected to the whole.
We must remember that giving to our communities in whatever form does not AT ALL mean doing something against our beliefs, boundaries, limits, or even against who we naturally are as people.
We can be ourselves and still give something of value to the community. In fact, being who we are is the first gift we can give our community.
So, if you are holding back a part of your shine for fear it will damage your community, you must remove that false belief: your community is actually suffering because you are holding back out of fear.
Unleash your natural gifts to this world. Be who you are and who you are will naturally re-energize and revitalize the community.
Your community has been praying and wishing for someone like you to exist. You are, in many ways—in more ways than you know—an answer to their prayer.
Honor that, and then give from that place of being whenever the urge comes to you.
Never overextend or exhaust yourself to help the community. The community needs you to be happy, healthy, wealthy and fulfilled. You can’t give back if you don’t have anything to give.
Depletion doesn’t help anybody. Fill your cup and let the overflow land on those in your community who need it.
“Do you recommend any books on community building?”
Yes, of course:
Daring Greatly by Brene Brown
Conscious Capitalism: Liberating The Historic Spirit of Business by John Mackey
Never Eat Alone Keith Ferrazzi
And finally, my eBook, which has a section of community-building in it:
The Courage to Live by Ollin Morales – you can purchase it here.
If you have any other questions about community-building, I’ll be happy to help answer them in the comments below!
Today’s Courage Exercise
Start building your creative community.