Carol Lloyd on Building Creative Support Structures

“As a creative person, you are a bridge. You connect banal reality to an imaginary land and you allow people to visit this land. It is hard work being a bridge – no one likes being trampled on day and night – but you do it willingly to see the looks on the tourist’s faces as they return from your dreamscape,” Carol Lloyd writes in the book Creating a Life Worth Living. 

I love this quote because I think it’s so true, especially today, when creative people are also expected to be to be connectors on social media and share their vision on blogs in addition to doing their main creative work. There are so many more ways to connect that work with an audience now, and the pressure to do it can be draining and disorienting. Like a bridge needs a solid foundation to stand, creative folks in the digital age need support structures to stay standing and operating. The right supports can give our work wings to fly, and there’s very little chance of soaring without it.

Whatever it is we need in order to feel genuinely helped is completely personal. The way we go about discovering it will be, too. There’s no such thing as a one size fits all support-structure – building our own is essential for having one we feel at home in. 

Lloyd shares three fundamental needs for a healthy creative life:

  • A day job or source of income
  • A daily creative process that works well
  • A network of friendships, family, colleagues, and mentors

These all allow an artist to stay productive, expansive, and able to rise above their own troubles. When the right systems are in place, we’re able to “be creative and happy (even) without success,” she says. So, creative support structures aren’t about finding an agent or a publicist to make you a star, it’s about making sure we have what we need to be happy and feel good about our work no matter what happens. I love that. It’s so key for persevering in our work.

Apart from the basic needs above, a few additional support structures Lloyd writes about are:

A partner. A formalized friendship that serves to keep us focused on the best and most important parts of our lives, gives us objective feedback, helps us navigate our way around obstacles and lets us celebrate wins and mourn losses helps keep us accountable and motivated. Self-partnering is possible (which looks like setting a time for a self check-in meeting every week to review our own directions, goals, and dreams), which is certainly better than not doing anything at all.

A sweet family of ghosts. This is kind of like what SARK refers to as paper mentors, and kind of like what Tony Robbins calls references. That is, internal role models we’ve have read about or heard about who provide us with a blueprint for what we’re trying to do. Our sweet family of ghosts is comprised of role models we hold in high regard who can help us navigate the path of our own creative process. We start by imitating others, after all. Find paper ghosts in biographies, documentaries, movies, etc.

Career advisory board. A group of people who love our work and want to help us seek guidance and resources.

The right “scene.” Professional communities, clubs, classes or social groups that provide us with a way to connect with people in our field.

Beyond these, I’d personally add to this a structure for personal self care. My ability to be effective in my creative process depends on my having a regular morning and nightly routine for turning on and turning off regularly, daily movement and stretching (I tend to feel like being fluid in my body helps keep fluidity in my mind), and a journalling practice for clearing the clutter and getting clarity (I like morning pages). I might also add a personal admin pillar (planning your life might look like writing a to-do list everyday, keeping a wall calendar and filling it out before the start of each month, keeping a bullet journal, etc.) because to feel organized is to feel supported.

Coming up with our support structures is a creative process in and of itself. It’s about life design and vision. It takes time and commitment to our creativity to find out what works at any given time, because none of it not permanent. It’s worth it though – feeling truly supported can’t be faked and can’t be substituted.

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