Tribal creativity

While it’s true that some authors (and probably other creatives) do their best to hide in a writing cave or retreat to an ivory tower, most creativity cannot be wholly attributed to just the person doing it. None of us exist in a vacuum, and those of us who try to, probably do ourselves more harm than good.

We’re all influenced, by the ideas and creativity of other people, by critical feedback of our own and other people’s work, by our teachers and peers in all kinds of subtle and less subtle ways. Even at times when we think we’re being totally original, the fingerprints of those who shaped us are all over our efforts, and this is a good thing. It is in no small part because ideas flow between us all that we have a shared context for also understanding each other’s output.

When there is more creativity about, that becomes a self feeding thing. You read a book, and it inspires you to create a painting, and someone else sees the painting and writes a song, and another person dances to that song, which inspires someone to write a poem…. and on it goes. Not always in such a tidy way, but ideas feed ideas and in an environment rich with inspiration, it is a good deal easier to become inspired in turn, and do a thing. That thing may be a cake or a blanket, a short story, a herb garden – inspiration manifests in many ways.

Meanwhile alone in the ivory tower, I would have nothing to feed me. Granted, there are no distractions, but there are also no inspirations. It’s just me and the inside of my head. Maybe I’m able to keep pulling things from there, maybe I have a lot of old experience to draw on. I have nothing to excite me into new styles or forms, and no one to measure myself against so I could notice if I am stale and tired, clichéd, obvious… If I sit in my ivory tower, I don’t have a tribe and I don’t belong anywhere. It’s a lonely place.

If my tribe is just authors, I risk the thinking becoming a bit incestuous. They same would be true in any tightly boundaried community. Too much worrying about copying and not copying, too much awareness of whose sales are good and whose are not and who got the most stars and who the fewest. If I am the best poet in a tiny community of poets, I might develop a distorted view of where I am with my craft and life. I might come to forget that there is more to life than poetry, and that not everyone cares about it anyway.

Being part of a creative tribe, means engaging with, recognising and valuing all kinds of creativity. I am deeply inspired by the beautiful woolcraft many of my friends undertake. I love the music talented friends write, the art of the many brilliant artists I know. A fabulous cake is no less an act of inspiration and creativity. A beautiful space to gather in. The examples are many. There is more to life than words. There is more to creativity than the small areas in which I have some skill. The more I open myself to what other people are doing, in all its glorious diversity, the less precious I feel about my own stuff, and the more inspiration I find to work with.

I do not create in isolation. It is the experience of other people and the exposure to other ideas that allows me to do what I do – more and less original at different times, but always rooted to some degree in community, relationship and shared experience.

About Nimue Brown

Druid, author, dreamer, folk enthusiast, parent, polyamourous animist, ant-fash, anti-capitalist, bisexual steampunk. Drinker of coffee, maker of puddings. Exploring life as a Pagan, seeking good and meaningful ways to be, struggling with mental health issues and worried about many things. View all posts by Nimue Brown

3 responses to “Tribal creativity

  • Running Elk

    …which is why, when they claim themselves “solitary”, my instinct is to wander off… How can they hope to become more than a parody of an idea of them-self, without the touchstone of a wider community?

  • Christopher Blackwell

    Somewhat the same in networking ideas. It might only be part of the idea that catches, but then that blended with a bit of another, in turn again only part blended with another, that in turn may create something totally new.

    I have as a war veteran always thought an idea is a lot like an unexploded land mine that may explode way in the future after you thought that idea had died and been forgotten. That makes my duty to toss out as many ideas as possible so that one, or part of one, may start something new.

    It is the same reason that I may encourage another person who has an idea that personally I think is impossible. Even if it is now, who knows about later on, or at least part of it.

    If enough people toss out enough ideas, even cross pollination may help create new ones.

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