So, last week, we talked about the value of having an understanding of your own identity as an artist. In the last year, I’ve found two invaluable assets in this process. One is having a great therapist. The other is connecting with your Tribe. When I started this whole blogging adventure, I didn’t have a clue what was meant by “your Tribe.” I knew Kristen Lamb talked about the idea.
Heck, she’s got a whole website – WANATribe – dedicated to helping writers find their tribe and the idea that no one ever truly succeeds alone. I confess, when I first signed up, I didn’t take advantage of it.
I was that stuck up internet prep that looked at a website with hidden benefits and judged it based on its looks. (Shhh, don’t tell Kristen.) 😉
So what am I talking about when I say Tribe?
TRIBE: A Community of Like Minds
Most of us have felt like that awkward teenager with no friends at one point. Many creatives WERE (maybe still are) that awkward person with an extremely tiny social circle. Tell me honestly, does this cloak make me look fat? Anyway…
Going back to last week’s post, Identity – Know Thyself, Heather really knows herself. She knows who she is, and she owns it. That ownership allows her to make a living creating the art SHE wants to create, and presenting it to the people who love her for it. Her husband, her production team, her fans, all of them are like minds to hers in ways that matter. And yet what I find fascinating is that she still felt a need to approach mainstream industry with her work at some point.
Why The Urge To Go Mainstream?
Many of us have it. Perhaps it has something to do with the media culture we live in. We’re surrounded by two concepts that probably contribute strongly. First, credibility. Second, the expert. Let’s tackle them in reverse order. First, THE EXPERT!
At its core, the Expert is that individual who has “authoritative knowledge” of a subject. You know, the kind of knowledge that allows the Expert to look at you and say, “You’re wrong, here’s why you’re wrong, and here’s how I know you’re wrong.” Sometimes, they do so in a polite way, and sometimes they do this in ways that make you feel small and insignificant and childish.
Because they’re the Expert and you’re not. They KNOW the things. And you do not. So what makes an Expert?
Ze Credibility, of course! See, in order for us to listen to someone with “the knowledge,” first we have to actually believe they have “the knowledge.”
Now, in some settings, this works rather well. If, for example, I need brain surgery, I’m going to go see a brain surgeon. I’m not going to go to an acupunturist. (Nothing wrong with acupuncturists. They just don’t have the know-how for brain surgery.)
In the creative world, though, we’re not doing brain surgery. There’s not a specific set of facts and figures that can spell out what is excellent art and what is not. The ones who decide whether a piece is worth their time aren’t the “experts” in the industry, they’re the consumers of the product.
Remember what Heather said about her budget? She has no mass marketing budget, no insider connections in the music industry.
We Need Our Tribe, Not The Mainstream
So how do we find our Tribe? Exactly the way Heather did. Go to functions that interest you. Reach out to people who create things that draw you in. The Tribe is not just your fans, either. It’s EVERYONE who’s instrumental in your success. The Mentors, the Friends, the Fans, the Collaborators.
I’ve had no more poignant example of this than last night. I got home to find a package on my doorstep. I hadn’t ordered anything, but I was expecting a copy of Pemberly: Mr. Darcy’s Dragon. I had the privilege of proofreading it. And lo and behold, that’s exactly what I found in the cardboard. Never in my life had I felt such a sense of accomplishment as I did holding that paperback in my hands. That experience would never have occurred without my actively seeking out MY tribe.
Nor would the new project in the works with an artist friend of mine. More on that as it develops.
Nor a thousand other conversations, connections, or experiences.
Because we’re not worried about “Experts.” We’re concerned with each other’s success – as authors, as artists, as people. And I’m not talking making money, I’m talking repeated experiences with that feeling of holding a completed project that either you helped with, or you created. There’s no feeling like it in the world.
THAT is why the Tribe is the second Weapon of a Warrior Artist. Because they help us train, practice, and hone the rest of our weapons. You see, Warrior Artists aren’t here to create mainstream media. We’re here to challenge and confront through our art. And to do that, we need a haven of strength to recharge in. That’s our Tribe.