camaraderie (n.) – a mutual trust and friendship among people
Art is such an interesting thing. It has the opportunity to bring the whole world together, and also can stir erroneous competition. Healthy artists will lend themselves to creating art which serves the first; unhealthy artists will take it upon themselves to prove their worth to the second. I’ve absolutely taken advantage of both opportunities one or two times in my life.
The act of creating is such a personal thing. When I started writing and recording music, sharing it wasn’t a big deal. After a few nerve racking shows, I finally got the hang of playing and I really enjoyed it. In my home town of Spokane, we had quite a few solo artists and we would play together often. There was a mutual respect for each other and what we did and a mutual support in promoting our work.
When I moved to Charleston, South Carolina and started working with a producer, I found out how much I had to grow and learn. In the beginning, I was unwilling to let go of my own music. In fact, I wasn’t a fan of co-writing, at least not the songs I played on my own. I thought it meant I wasn’t good enough to write great songs by myself and somehow would put me behind, racing toward being noticed. I fought my producer on lyric changes because I didn’t want to be seen as incapable. What an absolute horrifying idea to see any other name but my own in that “written by” section in the liner notes.
Thankfully, my producer (named Neil by the way) was kind and willing to help me see the benefits of working with others to make something greater than what I started with. And slowly, as the songs took shape, I couldn’t help but admit I liked them better than the first draft versions. Neil helped me to see that true camaraderie could take good things and make them amazing. I simply had to be willing to let go of my expectations. Now, I love co-writing, and I wouldn’t have seen the beauty of it without Neil’s encouragement.
The desire for the credit as an artist doesn’t really go away, though. Sometimes, when I’ve written a great song on my own, this hidden little menace tries to convince me that I shouldn’t acknowledge the people who helped even a little bit. I wrote it all! I deserve it all! it would say. It takes a lot of humility to give up your own need for recognition to create something for the greater good, even if it took critique to get you there.
I’m so impressed by the small arts community here in Greenville, South Carolina where I live right now. I used to work in a coffee shop in that part of town and our Village artists would frequently come in to take a break from their work or network with other artists. I was always so amazed that the majority of them seemed to be so supportive of each other. One would give up time to help another set up their studio. One would invite another to come learn a new skill or practice skills with instruction. Shows were always cross-promoted, and each artist made an effort to consistently support their fellow artists on social media. It is truly beautiful and inspiring.
Artists operate in health when they’re doing what they were created to do and have support doing it. We are able to lift up others doing the same thing when we know that there is purpose for all of us to contribute. Camaraderie among artists is truly something special. A lot of trust must live and work in that space where artists feel free to share, free to give input and free to take critique. When we embrace a community of artists, it makes us better artists ourselves. Competition only brings out the negative and what good would that do for the world?
How do you build community and form camaraderie among your arts communities? I would love to read your responses.
Read the Intro Post: A Journey of 31 Days