One of my happiest memories from childhood revolved, perhaps unsurprisingly, around books. We didn’t have a television, and before bed, we gathered in the living room. Dad would read aloud, mother would sew or knit. My brother and I would draw while we listened, or I would practise my various needlecrafts too. I listened to Lord of the Rings, Douglas Adams, Alan Garner, Narnia – all manner of classics that fed and shaped my growing mind. It also formed my sense of how best to work.
In my teens, hanging out with other creative folk, we developed something similar – we would gather at someone’s house, bring books, sketching paper, writing equipment. Some of my happiest teenage memories are of groups of us, quietly working in the same space, listening to music, sharing our inspiration. I’ve been able to do similar things of late with Tom, James, and occasionally Tom’s son Cormac (who is a fine musician). Inspiration flows best where it is shared. Creating alone can be an isolating experience if you are a sociable person. Sharing space suits me far better. Such sharing enables collaboration and the movement of ideas, it creates nurturing, productive environments. There’s much benefit in feeling supported and being part of something bigger than just yourself.
The internet offers all kinds of spaces and communities where creative folk can interact. Some of them are inherently competitive, where folks are fighting for resources and opportunities. I don’t tend to go in for those. Most publishers have private spaces for staff and authors – those can be wonderful, sharing wisdom and taking everyone forward through mutual support. There is such a ‘back room’ here at pagan and pen, there is a community underpinning this blog, and it’s something I love being a part of. It’s not the same as working in shared space, but it is helpful and valuable none the less. Many of the spaces that enable people to chat and interact fall short because they don’t offer any way of taking things forwards. Facebook is a nice resource, but it doesn’t lend itself to making. I like www.deviantart.com because there is a sense of community there and folk helping each other improve. Most such spaces are little more than talking shops though, and there’s scope for doing so much more.
My fabulous agent, Killing the Grizzly, is going to launch a new collaborative space for comics folk. I don’t yet know the full plan, but the mission, as described on facebook, is as follows – “bringing together communities as part of the process of creating, producing, and promoting new creative works.” This sounds good to me. It won’t of course be quite as much fun as buying a big house and filling it with arty people, but it could just be the next best thing, and it’ll be far more widely accessible.
(If I am ever disgustingly successful, I will very likely do the big house full of creative folk thing.)