Do you ever feel isolated and alone? That your creative juice is slowly drying up as big ideas come and go without ever seeing the day of light?
Are you looking at a growing pile of projects in which nobody has shown interest to, wondering if maybe you are in the wrong field? That maybe it is in fact not your calling?
If the answer to one or more of these questions is “yes”, you’re not alone. But it doesn’t have to be this way.
Your limitations are where your worth lies.
I grew-up in a small town in France, with zero connection, knowledge or understanding of what the film industry is. I was missing out on just about everything: from knowledge to equipment to money… You get the drill.
I worked and saved for years, bought an iMac and a 5 pound-camera and learned how to shoot and edit. But I was still missing the contacts, the peers, that thing we call “network”.
So I went to Los Angeles, and at that point, thought I had really narrowed the number of missing elements down.
Fast forward to four years later. I had won a Panavision Grant, shot a film on film (!), went to San Sebastian and Sundance, met a whole bunch of people from the-waiter-who-wants-to-be-an-actor to the one-who-made-it, and yet, I still felt isolated.
Even worse, I was experiencing a creative burnout.
So I went back to Europe, where I still had zero film industry contacts, to live on friends’ couches in small towns, because I was broke. And then a funny thing happened: I started building a community and finding my creative voice back.
This was made possible because of one change, and one realization.
The change? I turned off the blaming mode. I used to blame what was missing to explain why things were not happening the way I wanted.
I turned off the blaming when I realized that not only my limitations were not the reasons why I didn’t feel fully express, but they actually were where my worth lied.
Living in a small town was not preventing me from cultivating a community and my creativity, my limiting mindset on how I should be living my creative life was.
Once I started seeing my limitations as my biggest strength, I implemented a simple six steps approach. And with time, I started finding like-minded peers on a global scale and my creativity came back.
As counterintuitive as it sounds, in your limitations is where lies the solution to find your community and stay creative, wherever you live, whatever your age and however you primarily make a living.
Spin the half-empty glass story to identify your needs.
Seeing what is missing is always easy, but it’s just the beginning of the process.
Once you’ve seen the glass half-empty, it’s time to assess what you see, or don’t see rather.
A lot of things will be missing, but it doesn’t mean you need all of those missing things.
What do you want to work on? What do you feel is a key priority to make things move forward?
You can’t work on everything at once, pick one thing you want to work on and focus.
Here is how:
Use the Internet as your mentor.
In 2015, you can find pretty much anything on the Internet, you can learn about what only you know you need to learn about, instead of going through years of schooling in areas you are not necessarily fond of.
On Stage 32 only you have access to dozens of workshops, webinars and networking events, along with hundreds of thousands of people to help you build a community and stay creative.
Finding information is not the challenge. Selecting is.
The more specific your need, the easier the decision on whether to work on X or Y topic or cross it off your list.
Maybe you need to talk to someone for your screenwriting research, maybe you need to learn everything about cinematography, or maybe you need to learn about a plugin to achieve an effect.
Knowing what you need will save you time, money, and take your voice to the next level.
Once you’ve identified a need and filled the void, use your hard work to move forward and build momentum.
Here is how:
STEP 1 – ABSORB KNOWLEDGE TO FILL UP THE HALF EMPTY GLASS
Continuing education is absolutely vital for anyone who thrives to excel in their field. But if you want to find your peers and build a creative community, absorbing knowledge is just the first step.
Once you’ve absorbed content, you need to share it. And by sharing, I mean adding your voice to it.
The forms of sharing are limitless, from blog posts, to social media to community sites like this one. What will make a difference is how you share what you’ve learned.
You’ve done the hard work, you’ve spent the most precious currency (Time) to not only find good content, but to select within this good content what you consider most critical. Share that.
STEP 2 – SHARE WHAT YOU’VE LEARNED ADDING YOUR VOICE
Sharing good content is nice.
But curating good content is much more powerful.
That doesn’t necessarily mean opening a blog and writing articles. It can simply mean adding a quote before a retweet, highlighting an inspiring paragraph when sharing it on facebook, or letting people know what type of content it is that you are sharing and why they might find it useful too.
That small extra step of adding your voice, you will help people understand who you are, and what to expect from you. You will position yourself as someone who wants to give back to your community by helping your peers save Time and gain knowledge.
Everybody won’t always find what you share interesting, but those who do will start picking on the type of content you seek and share, and will engage with you.
STEP 3 – TAKE TIME TO CONNECT
Take time to connect with the people who react to what you shared.
And I say ‘take time’ because it does take time to really connect and build relationships.
That means checking people’s profile, clicking on links they share, and spending time getting to know them, just like you would in real life over coffee to get to know someone.
Essential tip: always be kind and never judge someone by the size of their account. Social Media is not a transparent game. Numbers are cloudy and they definitely don’t reflect the human qualities of someone. The only way to appreciate if the human on the other side of your Internet connection is a like-minded peer is by engaging with them.
MOST PEOPLE STOP HERE…
Applying these three steps will lead you to build a community of like-minded peers while nurturing your skills. Neat.
Each step provides benefits, but is also a lot of work. That’s why a lot of people stop here.
But if you do, you won’t be able to bridge the other aspect of your life, the one that I’m guessing is key to your personal balance: nurture your creativity.
Step four and five are the steps that will help you accomplish that.
STEP 4 – TRANSFORM WHAT YOU’VE LEARNED TO CREATE
You need to use what you’ve learned to create. Otherwise you’re just becoming a human Wikipedia.
Of course everything you learn cannot be put instantly into practice, but that’s where your creativity must kick in.
Essential tip: you don’t have to make a film to practice what you’ve learned. If you can, great. But there are a thousand ways you can create quickly and for cheaply, applying and playing with the storytelling techniques and technical skills you’ve learned in step one.
Applying what you’ve learned to create will also help assess where you’re at, what needs refining, if X topic is still relevant to your needs etc.
Creative expression is a muscle, which means it changes all the time. It can atrophy or it can grow, but it never stays still. By using it regularly no matter what, you open up to the opportunity of a gazillion unexpected connections. Those connections are what will lead to ideas, inspirations, creative solutions and what makes ‘our voice’. This step is essential.
STEP 5 – SHARE WHAT YOU’VE CREATED
If sharing what you’ve learned will help you find a group of peers, sharing what you’ve created will help you find your audience. (Sometimes those two groups overlap, but not always)
This step can be scary because it often means sharing work that isn’t perfect, but here are some additional benefits to putting your work out there: it will help you stay accountable when you don’t feel like doing it, it will help you become comfortable with the act of sharing, it will help you learn to talk about your work, it will sparkle yet another layer of connections, and it will give you immediate feedback on what resonates with some and what doesn’t.
If you feel skeptical, I recommend reading Austin Kleon’s book Show Your Work.
Essential Tip: You might not use the same platforms to share your creations and your knowledge. Maybe Twitter and a blog or a FB page will do for knowledge, and a Tumblr and Instagram will work better for your creativity. Or vice versa. Explore the possibilities and see what works best
STEP 6 – REALIZE THE GLASS WILL NEVER BE FULL A.K.A REPEAT
Do not underestimate the power of time and consistency. If hard work is the rock you’ll stand on, patience is the cane that will support you when you get discouraged.
Once you’ve gone through step 1 to 5, step six is the step where you go back to step one and repeat.
Again, and again, and again.
The glass will never get full because as soon as you’ll learn something, you will open a door to another room that will need to be filled with knowledge, creativity and connection. And that’s what makes it an amazing journey.
The first five steps are a lot of work; especially the first time you complete them. And a lot of people abandon when results take a bit more time.
But I know first hand that this cycle works if you are here for the Long Game.
When I started, because I was in creative burnout, I could only apply the first three steps. This helped build a community of like-minded people even though I was living in a suitcase, disconnected from the filmmaking industry.
I developed relationships and friendships with people from all around the world (seriously), I was contacted for jobs, talks and masterclasses, and even got offered a place to stay when I came to London for the Raindance Film Festival!
And I know that this journey of human connection and growth will only stop when I stop sharing and caring.
After I regained my creativity, I implemented the rest of the steps. This has helped people realize that I am first and foremost a storyteller.
More people started to engage with me in creative conversations. People who don’t consider themselves creative showed support and expressed appreciation for what I do. And creative peers made me a space in their world.
Every day I repeat this cycle, one way or another.
You should try it out; it works wonder.
If you’ve come up with your own ways of fighting isolation and creative blocks, I would love to hear from you below!!
About Nathalie Sejean
Nathalie is a story fabricator and creative nomad who founded mentorless.com, a blog for filmmakers and storytellers to nurture their skills and craft. She also offers creative in burnout to reconnect with their mojo and stretch their creative muscle. You can connect with Nathalie on twitter at @mentorless where she hangs out during breaks when moving from step 1 to 6.
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