Last week I attended the April Support, Inspire, Refresh event run by Arts Well CIC in Penryn. These events are a monthly facilitated peer support session for creative practitioners working in the space of arts, creativity, health and wellbeing here in Cornwall, to give an opportunity for networking and connection in the field.
As a self-employed writer, coach and workshop leader I enjoy many of the amazing freedoms of freelancing, but also shoulder a lot of the stresses and moments self-doubt on my own. Jayne and Vicki from Arts Well spoke to many creative practitioners and found that this was a really common experience. When asking creatives what they felt they needed for support, the repeated answer was connection and an opportunity to talk to others who are involved in similar work. As well as gentle networking, the creative sessions are an opportunity to enjoy the benefits of creativity for wellbeing ourselves, as well as the chance to sit back and be a participant in a workshop rather than the host!
April's session was run by the lovely Laura Menzies, a local artist from Penryn who I had the pleasure of meeting a couple of years ago when she attended my writing for self-employed women course. We hadn't seen each other in a long time but have stayed loosely connected through the power of Instagram, where I see her beautiful paintings and details of upcoming exhibitions.
Laura often works in oil paint, but for this two hour session we were using the more easily accessible medium of collage. Full of colour and printed patterns, this was such a wonderful low-pressure way to create pieces of visual art, whatever your previous skill level in drawing or painting. As practitioners, it's so important for us to remember the feeling of being new to a creative discipline - for me it's being aware of the potential blocks or anxieties people might have around writing. Is there a worry about 'getting in right' or 'being good enough', and what can I do to help ease and alleviate that as much as possible?
Laura introduced a few different techniques and then let us run wild with playful exploration, coming round to chat and inspire us as we go. This was quite different to our February Support, Inspire, Refresh bookbinding workshop where each step was carefully demonstrated and then we copied the process. As a participant, it's interesting to experience both and reflect on the different styles of workshop delivery.
Because the session this time needed a looser kind of mental concentration and was more hands-on, we were able to chat much more as a group. Talking about promotion and event bookings, working in collaboration, and our good old friend imposter syndrome, it was good to realise that many of the doubts and concerns I experience are almost universal and a necessary part of the this kind of work. As sensitive, creative humans, it's normal to feel uncertain at times, and hearing this reflected from others is comforting. The reassurance that we genuinely give to each other is also exactly what we need to hear ourselves.
If you're working alone, self-employed or freelancing, I can't emphasise enough the benefit of finding a tribe to connect with. You might not be doing exactly the same work, but finding other people with similar experiences to reflect with can be so validating and supportive. Even an occasional check-in or online community can be enough to top you up when you need a boost. I'm going to be putting together some more guidance on this over the coming weeks, with ideas of places to connect and share ideas. If you have any ideas or inputs, I'd love to hear from you over on my Instagram - just send me a message!