Monday, April 07, 2014

The Importance of Collaboration and Being Connected in Creativity

by Dana Witte

The relationships in our lives that fuel the creative process are key, and the importance of a group of like-minded, supportive creators cannot be underestimated. Connections you find that are deep and positive are a rare gift. Some connections seem to initially light a fire, but become competitive or incestuous, and eventually burn out. There seem to be some key underlying factors that are inherent in our cohort, a group that works to build individual and collective creativity in its members.
  • Readiness. Boy meets Girl. One or the other, or both, are not ready for a relationship. Time passes. Each goes through a variety of experiences that shape them. They meet again, years later, and, if all the stars are aligned, they may then be ready. We know this story. It is not reasonable to think that one champion could bring the creative process forward to his/her staff members and have it take off. We all need to be in a place where we are ready to first embark on the journey ourselves, and then to bring the process forward with our students.   Each of us chose to put ourselves in a graduate class that focused on creativity in education.   We all came to the table with teaching experience and a desire to move both our personal and professional creative practices to a new place.
  • Trust. The members of our collective shared experiences that were constructed to be personal and to elicit self-reflection. If we took the tasks to heart and sincerely risked in front of the group, there was an inherent vulnerability. We all entered into the experiences with openness. If we had not gone through that process together, the result would not have been the same. The trust that became the foundation of the group was built on acceptance and lack of judgment in moments of fragility. From that point forward, each of us was able to grow. Because we were all interested in self-instigated creative development and the creative process, we were able to accept the variety and individuality of our pursuits without competition. There was, and continues to be, a lack of judgment. Feedback about the work was for the sincere sake of growth, and was ‘plussed’.   We celebrated one another’s creative accomplishments and revelations.
  • Respect. There is an unspoken understanding within the collective that we honor each other and bring the very best of ourselves to all of our interactions. There is an expectation that there is positivity. We may not all be able to contribute the same amount to group pursuits at the same time – busy lives demand flexibility – but there is respect for whatever contributions are possible. There is no room for negativity, no jockeying for power, no side-bar conversations. There is a purity within the interactions that comes from a sincere desire to keep the magic happening. We each choose to preserve the integrity, and are intensely aware that having six people to back us up as we sustain our creative efforts is unusual and special.
A year after our coursework was completed, our group is still tight. A group text feed includes seven members whose input is ongoing. It is a lifeline for our creative selves and for personal challenges. Members have gone on vacation and turned off their phones for a weekend, only to return to 137 texts that document lives, best practices in teaching, and explorations in creativity. We meet formally every few months, with some members driving long distances to participate. Our group began with intense face-to-face interactions and experiences. While the texts allow us to reach out to one another frequently, coming together as a group is what really grounds us and is the foundation of our desire to sustain the creative development of our practices and ourselves.
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