Many people shy away from networking, simply because the word itself seems to imply something uncomfortable and awkward. And networking certainly can be! I’ve always enjoyed any opportunity to connect with other creative professionals, but since I moved back to Michigan, I’ve found it a little harder. When you share one car as a family (and it’s usually not in your possession), you’re a new parent, you don’t know anyone, it’s cold (the list can go on), it’s easy to find more reasons to stay in than to go out. I’m a homebody by nature; I love to curl up with a notebook, tea, and a cozy blanket. But as this winter stretches out, I’ve found the need for community even greater than I have in the past and I’ve resolved to seek it out.
We’re lucky to live in a time when we can be so connected with everyone who has meant something to us, near or far. My Bowling Green community of grad school friends, my beloved Columbus ladies, my roommates from undergrad, friends from growing up, and those I’ve met on travels are only a click away and we support each other however we can. I keep in touch with friends through email, social media, phone, and even the occasional treat of a video hangout. It’s also important for my creative practice and business to have friends to bounce ideas off of, share work with, and give and seek feedback on new projects. I’m grateful that can happen anywhere. It certainly makes me feel less alone in a place that is very slowly becoming home, but it’s not always enough.
I miss coffee dates and walks around a nearby neighborhood and long talks on the couch with a friend who just stopped by. And moving here as a new parent means that anyone I meet here may know me as a parent first. It’s a valuable thing to have in common with someone, but it is also SO valuable to me to have friends who know the other parts of myself, and can see that me even when there’s yogurt smeared in my hair and a toddler testing how high she can pitch her voice while I pull her down from standing on the coffee table for the millionth time that day.
But things are changing here. People aren’t knocking on my door to become friends with me, but I am heading out. Meeting other moms with their own businesses in a local group, expanding my skills alongside others eager to learn through Girl Develop It Detroit, finding interesting events to attend when I have the time and the energy, taking yoga classes downtown where I live. Saying yes, but only to things that excite me and seem to have possibility. In Columbus, I met two of my dearest friends (and through them a host of other wonderful people who would come to mean so much to me) by attending a dance studio opening I heard about on Twitter. I don’t expect to get that lucky again right away, but I am starting to feel more rooted here, and the warm weather coming means anything is possible.
If you’re feeling stuck or disconnected, try something new. As counter-intuitive as it may seem, I’ve found searching online is the best way to find things happening around you. You can search for local gatherings related to your interest on Meetup.com, find local businesses sharing upcoming events on Facebook, and as I can attest to, even a tweet can lead you to an event you might not have found otherwise. This kind of networking does involve some element of bravery if you’re not social by nature. Be selective, and find something you’re excited about. A class or lecture can be a great way to put yourself out there without having to focus solely on social interaction while still offering the opportunity. And if you can’t find what you’re looking for, consider creating it.
How do you find your creative community?
I’m always looking for new ways to connect, so please share in the comments!