Artistic Community

In Musings on September 5, 2010 at 5:31 pm

I recently came to the stunning realization that not all of us have the same level of social needs (okay, I learned this a long time ago, but the lesson always comes home anew). When I moved from my rich, full community in the north bay area more than four years ago to a town in the south bay where I knew not one person, and worked by myself from home, the impact of loneliness and disconnection was overwhelming. I hadn’t realized how precious and crucial my physical community of writing friends and colleagues was until I didn’t have it at my disposal any longer. Other people I knew were okay with being a stranger in a strange land, but for me it was like asking me to live in a land of permanent night.

I also learned that getting to know a community, making friends, is not as easy as being a social person. I didn’t feel I could just go befriending the people behind the store counters where I shopped down town (not at first, at least). I couldn’t stop someone in an aisle at a supermarket and tell them they looked like someone I wanted to know. Introducing myself to strangers is, for this relative social butterfly, actually a kind of embarassing experience akin to adolescent dating (Will you be my friend?). The only way I knew to make contact was to get a job outside my home office, even though I didn’t “need” to.  I took a job in the local bookstore, which also happened to be in walking distance from where we lived. And it was a good start. I at least knew people who could refer me to a good restaurant or a mechanic. People who would listen to me talk.

But it still took awhile. I’ve lived in my “new” town almost four and a half years. In that time we’ve gone on to have a child–our 2 year old son–which involved another period of isolation due to the exhaustion of having a baby who was not a good sleeper. And now that he is two, and not so dependent solely on me, I’m suddenly feeling an almost zealous need to get out and create a sense of community again. When we lived in Petaluma I was lucky to be in a hotspot of writerly activity. There was literary culture everywhere, and hundreds of likeminded people to fill it.  I know it’s here too.

But I feel as though if I want it, I’m going to have to build it, this time. One small connection at a time.

What are your thoughts on an artistic community? Do you have one? Want one? Have you built one?

  1. Jordan, you speak to several layers of circumstance that I can identify with–the need for an artist to have time to connect with self and to enjoy the joy of human creative connections; being a mother with a young child; and the frustration of finding out how long it can take in our busy lives to make new friends with other busy people. The building can take longer than we imagined sometimes, but now, unlike the 70’s when I went through some of that, there’s the internet. Yet, real human connection is still vitally important.
    I have built my community in various areas in the Bay Area and online as well, which includes phone conversations with new friends I’ve met on the internet and may never meet in person. I’m pleased to be part of your artistic community online, and wish we could have coffee too! Working in a bookstore does sound like a great idea. I hope you get a discount!
    –Linda Joy

  2. Linda, I’m pleased you’re a part of my online artistic community too! And I would be UTTERLY lost if not for the online world. And, at the same time, I need that living connection of people I get to see in person.

    I don’t work in the bookstore anymore but I am still friends with the owners and visit on a regular basis.

  3. I have been slowly working to find the writing community in my town and bring it together. Each year it seems to get a little easier, due mostly in part to the spread of NaNoWriMo from one writer to another. Last year, we had forty something members in our region alone. This year, we hope to have over a hundred. There is nothing like a write in, with five, ten, or twenty five people each with a laptop or pen and paper putting thoughts, scenes and ideas on the page. It’s beautiful really. I can’t wait for November. 🙂

  4. Thanks, I’m trying. Also, I just got a wordpress account. It seems like there’s a real community here. Its a good thing to see and something I’d like to be part of.

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