Why It's Impossible to Create Without Community

By Erik Peterson

There is a deeply held conviction in our culture, a belief that runs so deep that we are often blind to its underlying presence. It can affect every aspect of our lives - from our art, to our work and our relationships. 

It’s the belief that we are all alone, that it’s “all up to me” when we embark on a creative task or journey.  

There is a positive side to this - namely, that as Western individualists, it’s part of our inherited DNA and mythology of the self-made man or woman. There are certainly powerful virtues present here - of personal responsibility, work ethic, and perseverance. However, I am afraid that this predominant ethos has robbed us of something even more powerful, which is that of community. That is, the power of not having everything figured out, the power of feeling one’s own need, and the power in receiving that need in the gift of another. It is the essence of being human.  

This is the way God created us - to be in community with each other. 

The reality is that we are connected, even when we think we are not!

Now, how does this relate to creativity and art-making?  

It matters immensely.  If you are stuck in any way in your current creative pursuit, then perhaps underlying this is the stubbornly soaked belief of the solitary pursuit… “I just need to figure it out by myself.”  

What can free us from this heavy burden?  It’s the burden of my own self-importance, my own need to prove something to myself, and to avoid the discomfort and vulnerability of inviting help, a lighter way.  

Do you fall into this trap from time to time like I do?  If so, great!  Now we are not alone in our struggle!  

Here is a freeing idea:   

Your art isn’t actually yours, per se.  It’s part of something bigger than you.  Which means that you are supported, at all times.  

Consider who you are as an artist.  Chances are, you have been inspired hundreds and thousands of times by other artists.  You saw their work, got energized, and started creating.  Even in the countless hours, you have put into your craft, were you ever really alone, then?  Perhaps not directly, but the influence and instruction of your teachers weaved its way through your fingers onto your canvas, into your song or poem.  

One of the ideas that inspires me to create from this place of community is that, in my chosen field, there are thousands of artists who have gone before me, both dead and alive, the vast majority of whom I will never meet!  But I know they are out there pursuing their craft just like the thousands before them.

So I can see my place now in this beautiful community, I can see that I am part of a lineage of writers and creators, I am initiated into their everlasting school and fellowship.  This knowledge strips the self-importance from my small acts of creation.  For those simple acts are but a drop in a vast ocean.  Instead of trying to prove that my work is an ocean, I now get to enjoy all the benefits of smallness and all the benefits of being part of something far bigger than myself.   

One of the practical ways this can benefit us is that it allows us to create imperfectly, from a place of support rather than striving.

Remember, our creative friends in our chosen fellowship are all doing their part too making beautifully imperfect creations.  And there is room for all of us to grow and learn, together.  And of course, share some good meals and laughs while we’re at it! 

At The Grove, we get to be this kind of community doing the messy, exhilarating and joyful work of creating together.  Wherever you are today, know this - God is with you as you create, we are with you, and you are with us.