Posted by: Viola | June 10, 2015

Connecting to Create: How Community Fuels Creativity

Connecting to Create: How Community Fuels Creativity

by Viola Allo

Over the last weekend of May, I enjoyed the wonderful opportunity to attend a literary conference in Sacramento, California called SummerWords. It was a beautiful and inspiring weekend of listening to writers and connecting with a diverse group of literary artists.

The SummerWords Creative Writing Festival is an annual conference or colloquium held in the summer, usually at the tail end of May and the very beginning of June. It is organized by the creative writing faculty at American River College, a wonderful community college in Sacramento.

The event is held on the beautiful American River College campus and hosts writers from the US and beyond. These writers represent diverse genres of literary art. They are poets, novelists, memoirists, and so much more.

Being around these writers truly inspires me. I absolutely enjoy taking workshops with them or listening to them present on panels that focus on various topics of interest to writers. Often, I struggle with picking what workshops to take throughout the days of the conference, because all the workshops sound so insightful, relevant, and necessary for my writing practice.

Ultimately, what is most enriching for me is simply being around so many writers and artists, the accomplished ones and the aspiring ones, the seasoned ones and the novices, the local ones and the foreign ones, the young ones and the old ones.

I feel connected to these writers because we share a passion for the written word. This is important for me. This sense of connection sustains my work, a type of work that can be incredibly solitary. This connection keeps my writing practice from becoming a form of isolation.

There are so many beautiful reasons to connect with other artists. We are not alone in our commitment to art and being around other artists shows us this shared passion and even a shared vision for the value and place, in our society and personal lives, for art-making.

Connecting with artists helps us stay informed and helps us appreciate our growth as individuals and our potential for growth as positive communities. Connecting with other artists helps me gather energy for the journey of making art.

Staying Informed and Relevant

Connecting with other artists helps us stay informed about what is current and relevant for the times. If we write in a bubble, we might lose touch with what the trends are and what is needed in the world.

We can create from what is most meaningful for us, but if we want our art to make a difference in the world, we have to stay plugged into our social worlds and create work that enhances our communities. We have to be able to speak about current events and include others in our work, making our art relevant to the lives of others.

Appreciating Growth and Change

With each passing year that I attend the SummerWords creative writing festival, I have a better appreciation of just how I am growing and evolving as a writer. I feel more comfortable in the workshops. I am able to grasp more concepts and understand new ideas or perspectives. I can see how much my thinking has expanded to include new ideas over the course of the year since I attended the previous conference.

Seeing this growth gives me faith that I am learning new things every single year and will continue to do so. It gives me faith in the power of art to not only change society but to change people on an individual level. My writing practice and all the reading I do are things that change me, and I can see this change when I sit down in a workshop and feel like I no longer need to make too much of an effort to comprehend new ideas.

This inspires me to keep reading and writing in order to keep growing in my knowledge and understanding. Being around others, seeing how much I know or find accessible motivates me to do more, to try more new techniques or styles in my work, to read about new topics and try writing about them. It inspires me to think of other ways in which I can be creative with my artwork.

Gathering Energy for the Journey

Making art and being committed to the creative process are things that require courage. We have to be brave. We may have jobs, relationships, and obligations to fulfill in our daily lives that do not leave much time or room for making art. We may have struggles and crises, challenges that leave us weary and without much faith in the value of making art. We may have practical concerns that make art seem trivial. It is easy to lose sight of our own creative passions, give up on our projects, and succumb to the pressures of our lives at work or at home.

Being able to stay committed to making art, to expressing our highest creative selves through art, is something that takes courage and strength. The artist’s journey is one of going to battle with the many demands we might face that take us away from our artistic work. And it takes courage to go to battle, to say “no” to distractions and say “yes” to making art. That courage comes from witnessing others on their journeys, to listening to their stories and learning from them how we can navigate difficult choices and stay dedicated to our artistic work and passions.

The Magic of Human Connection

All these benefits of human connection are the reasons why, each summer, I look forward to attending the SummerWords creative writing conference in Sacramento. I look forward to drawing on the sense of community and connection I feel when I am there. I gather the positive energy in the workshop rooms, I give and receive hugs, I share my stories and my journey, and I listen to the words and stories of other writers.

I gather the moments of joy and laughter and shared realizations and keep those moments close to my heart. They will light my way, in the coming year, as I dive into my writing. They will bring me back to the surface when I need air. They will give me a sky that is clear. They will give me beautiful words to bear. And all will be well with the world.


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