To my mind, there is nothing quite like spending hours with valued collaborators and friends, sharing ideas, working on projects, and simply creating. I had the privilege of doing exactly that recently. Few pastimes are as satisfying as being in the groove with a concept, philosophizing and visualizing in equal measure, going from "What is this piece saying?" to "What if that movement looked like this?" in a moment's turn. It's a rush and a joy.
When you find people you connect with personally and creatively, you keep them close. You take every opportunity to stay involved in each other's work and make art together whenever you can. This isn't some great insight. Find people you genuinely like, trust, and click with artistically, and you're blessed with (hopefully) longtime collaborators.
But it's not just about friendships and close connections. You can only have so many of those, but it takes more than a village to create a lifetime of art. In what we all hope are lifelong careers, theater practitioners especially will work with hundreds or thousands of professionals, and performers will interact with even more audience members. The truly successful artist forms positive relationships with these people, too, that are not necessarily deep but nonetheless create a bond.
I've seen several examples of this over the last year. One artist proved how effective it can be to just be genuinely nice to everyone who approached him and I watched as a fan base steadily grew (and tweeted and told their stories on message boards). Another artist used his genuine interest in people to speak to fans in each city he toured about their local arts programming and expressed interest in seeing it for himself, thereby extending his reach to nearby smaller towns. Some towns have commissioned work from him, some have booked his band for gigs, and some of the fans keep coming back to his big city shows because they feel a stronger connection to him and his music.
The important note in both examples is that it's all genuine. These are people who are using their natural personal qualities to further their art outside of the studio. Networking isn't new, but doing it meaningfully and with those outside the profession might be. When people or organizations feel that they have an investment in the success of your work, even if it is only because they like you, the lengths to which they will go to support you multiply.
How can you use who you are to build both kinds of relationships? Who is invested in you?
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