I may have fallen out of practice at being social, but I never really learned how to be socially productive. How to work in groups. How to collaborate. I solo MMOs, I don’t even bother to buy games that are multi-player only. In school and at work I never worked well as part of a team – except when I was the distant|hated manager of said group activities. (I know how to make a group of people work; I don’t know how to work well within a group.) I don’t deal well with politics, drama, dishonesty (& other commonly accepted unethical practices), power struggles, and other bizarre & unhelpful things that seem to abound in most group activites I’ve found myself involved in. So I naturally continue to avoid them – or at least to avoid seeking them out, generally.
I’m a writer, I’m an artist, and these pursuits are -generally- solitary ones. In November I do like to go to NaNoWriMo write-ins & sit around with other writers, each of us writing our own things… Every month I like to go down to the Phoenix First Fridays Art Walk downtown and show my art alongside other artists. Every year or two I like to redesign each of my websites a bit (or totally, as I recently did with modernevil.com), but I just sit in front of a computer (or two, or three) for a couple of days for that – usually not talking to anyone about it until, days later, I finally lift my head up from a completed site and show off my work. If there’s a way to do these things in a group, socially, collaboratively, I … I don’t know it.
Right now I’m sitting at #createliveaz, surrounded by creative people. There are people painting, illustrating, drawing, crocheting, writing, playing music, working on laptops, but mostly they’re chatting. I’ve met most of the people here at one social event in the valley or another and, barring that, on twitter. Yet I can’t help but feel left out. This is partially my fault, I know this, I’m not the social butterfly I once was. I’m not pro-actively seeking out social engagement. And when the ‘cool kids’ came over & asked to take a seat, they didn’t mean to sit down with me and my wife and our creative activities, they meant to take the chair across the room to sit with the other ‘cool kids’. ((Update: A couple of hours in, a really nice guy from among the ‘cool’ crowd brought one of the chairs back and actually sat down to talk. A little later another joined the 3 of us for a few minutes.))
Why are we here? Why did we drive 100 miles (round trip) to Gilbert and back to hang out in a coffee shop with people who wouldn’t go to the trouble to walk across the room to talk to us?
I’ve had quite a few comments from various other creative people over the last many months that have suggested to me that I was conspicuously absent from their perception of the “Phoenix Arts Scene” – and that have given me the impression that becoming more involved would be beneficial to my ongoing work as an independent artist. I’ve been reading (a lot) for the last couple/few years about “social media” and how the internet is changing the way creative people connect -with their audiences as well as with other creatives- and how this is creating new ways for independent creators to find success… most of this reading has mentioned collaboration or has stated outright that it is being involved in a community of creatives that generates success, rather than mere disintermediation, instant, global communication, and the other great things the internet allows. So, as reluctant as I am to deal with all the garbage connected with people in groups, and despite my being unable to see (right now) how it is I might be able to collaborate with other creative people in any meaningful way, I’ve been looking into it. Thinking about it. Trying to figure it out. And attending events like Creative Connect and #createliveaz and Ignite Phoenix, to see if I can make any sort of connection with local creatives, and/or learn anything about how they work together.
Current status of these efforts: No f_cking clue.
I haven’t given up on trying to figure it out, but … right now I don’t even know how to know, so I’m chalking ‘Collaboration’ up as yet another thing I don’t grasp. (See also: ‘Scene’ – I hear the word and imagine a childish “cool kids only” club for hipsters where they strive to be “counterculture” for no better reason than “rebellion is cool” — yet when people actually use the word, it sounds like they think there’s something of genuine value to be “part of the scene.” I don’t get it.) As always, I encourage anyone who thinks they can give me any helpful/useful/meaningful information that might help me understand (or better yet, to collaborate – perhaps I could learn through experience?)… Please try.