People often think of creativity as something that requires peaceful solitude. In some situations, getting away from it all is absolutely essential to delivering remarkable creative. Quite often, though, the support and input of others can have a major impact on our creativity.

Whether by providing inspiration, motivation, feedback, or information, our creative network has the ability to radically influence our work and well-being for the better. Creative collaboration can make it possible to achieve results that would be impossible while working solo.

If you work as part of a team, then you already have the foundation of a creative network. Nurturing a creative support network outside the workplace is a proven way to boost your creative output. Diverse creative relationships result in much better outcomes.

Let’s dive into the benefits of bringing other people into your creative process and how you can nurture creative networks that will give you the support you need.

The Benefits of Creative Support

There are many ways in which involving others in a creative project is constructive:

  • Inspiration: Other people can spark creative ideas and enhance your empathy by making you aware of experiences outside your own.
  • Ideation: People may suggest angles you have not considered. They can help expand on an idea by asking questions that may not have occurred to you. This process inevitably enables you to cultivate a more curious approach to your work.
  • Problem-Solving: If you encounter problems or are unsure about the direction to go in, the act of talking through the conundrum with someone else can help. Even if they don’t have the answer, having to explain the issue will give you clarity.
  • Complementarity: You can’t be good at everything. If your project needs a particular skill that you don’t have, asking someone to assist is a great way to keep things on track. Asking for and getting help leaves you free to focus on the parts of the project that you’re passionate about. And having a creative network also means finding external talent is much simpler.
  • Feedback: Simply asking someone for their opinion can give you an indication of how a wider audience might react to the project. The last thing you want is to rely on an echo chamber.

There are benefits to getting involved in other people’s projects as well. When you give, not only are you learning by teaching, but you are also adding to your social capital, which can be helpful when you need a favor down the road.

a macro photo of lego batman and lego superman hanging out

The Emotional Side of Creative Support

It’s one thing to have a great team at work. But there is also an emotional side to support that your work colleagues aren’t necessarily best placed to provide.  Perhaps you’re worried about being portrayed as too vulnerable, which is understandable. This concern, however, should push you to focus on generating a professional and open creative support network. The network can, if you let it, provide many layers of emotional support.

Being able to talk to people with shared experiences helps you validate and work through your emotions. They can also remind you of your skills and prompt you to recognize the progress you’ve made, helping you improve how you perceive your self-worth.

Positive social interaction makes you more resilient in the face of hardships. One of the most common pieces of advice for dealing with failure is to establish a strong support network of people who can provide context and encouragement after a setback. Other people can have a tremendous impact on your work and on your creative confidence.

A creative support network can, of course, pose certain issues (see: pressures of social media). However, while seeing what other people are achieving can lead to unhealthy comparisons, it can also remind you of what’s possible and motivate you.

Creative Collaborations in the Workplace

If you work as part of a creative (or any) team, you already have a ready-made creative support network that you can leverage. However, for your creative collaborations to flourish, you need to take time and care to build an environment where everyone feels comfortable sharing their ideas.

Here are a few ways you can empower your team to ensure that everyone is getting the most out of your creative collaborations:

1. Take Time to Discuss Ideas

Even if you have a concept that you’re keen to start working on, try to approach all suggestions and creative ideas with an open mind. Give every idea within the team some space for consideration and discussion.

2. Build Up Trust

Make sure everyone feels comfortable putting their ideas forward. You can do this in many ways, but a great place to start is to challenge yourself to build on other people’s suggestions, rather than dismissing them or suggesting alternatives.

3. Be Open About Struggles

Be open with your colleagues when you hit a roadblock. The need to appear competent could mean you’re trying to hide your struggles. Talking it through could give you the objectivity you need to move forward and will make everyone feel far more comfortable about their own failures or challenges.

4. Equal Potential

Regard everyone as a potential creative collaborator. It can be easy to feel disconnected from people with different jobs or who work in different departments. However, their unique skills and experiences could possibly benefit your creative work.

5. Feedback With Care

Take care with your feedback. Most people feel quite protective of their creative ideas, and others may lack confidence. To ensure you seem non-threatening when giving feedback, make your suggestions intentionally broad,  provide people the time to process them, and (perhaps most interesting of all) temper your enthusiasm.

And, of course, you’ll want to use online feedback tools for creative projects.

6. Provide Structure

You may have colleagues who lack confidence in their creativity and could benefit from structure to help them explore their creative ideas. Using techniques like group brainstorming sessions is a great way to do this.

view from above of a table with three laptops and the hands of people working together

Broaden Your Creative Collaboration Network

Outside of work, building a supportive network of fellow creatives is a must. It’s a chance to talk through ideas, learn new skills, and discuss problems that people in your personal or work lives may not fully understand. Intentionally interacting with people from other industries or with different skill sets is guaranteed to give you insight that you wouldn’t otherwise get.

While it’s possible to get the creative support you need just by occasionally meeting up with other creatives for a coffee, being part of an established creative community can give you a great sense of belonging and validation.

There are so many great communities to join for creative inspiration or conversation. Creative Mornings, Rising Tide, Creative Tribes, United Designers, and Bookstagram are a few we like. There are also the big social media channels, which, with the right hashtags and curation, can be a wealth of inspiration and conversation.

The great thing about the internet is that whatever your needs are, you’re likely to find a community that shares your interests.

Connect and Disconnect

“Creativity is about connection — you must be connected to others in order to be inspired and share your own work — but it is also about disconnection.” – Austin Kleon

Support can be a double-edged sword. Knowing when and how to rely on it is incredibly important.

There are situations where interacting with people can be a distraction. Often, being creative and productive requires deep solo work. So you don’t waste time, you need to know when to ask people to help you brainstorm and when you need to work on the project alone until you’re ready for feedback.

There are also times when you need to ignore what other people are saying and trust your gut. If you have strong or conflicting opinions drowning out your own instincts, you may well take a project in a direction that you’re not entirely happy with (and get the corresponding results). You need to get a sense of when “too many chefs will spoil your broth” and when you need someone to snap you out of your creative delusions.

The amount and type of support necessary will vary from person to person and from project to project. The only real way to get to know what creative support you need is through experimentation.

Grow Your Creative Support System

There’s evidence that being around creative people makes you more creative. Though, you hardly need to read a study to accept that as a truism.

By strategically letting other people into your creative process, you broaden the knowledge base you can draw from, discover new approaches, and get some much-needed objectivity. Of course, there are also invaluable emotional benefits too.

Collaborative creative networks come in all shapes and sizes and can be built within and outside the workplace. A healthy creative network is reciprocal, so you’ll need to put in as much as you take out.

Whether you’re working on a creative collaboration with your team or reaching out to fellow creatives for some one-off support, being generous, open-minded, and respectful are the keys to success.

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