There are five key relationships that every creator needs to thrive. While these aren’t always a one-to-one match (i.e. one person, one relationship), they represent key inputs and a continuum of perspectives we all need to support, guide, and grow our creative practice.
Our supporters are the people whose primary investment is in us as people. Their support is unconditional. In other words, they support us whether our creative process, whatever it may be, is deemed successful or not. They keep us working when we have lost faith in ourselves.
Our collaborators are those who get into the creative mix with us. This can mean literally getting their hands dirty with us, or diving in to challenge us intellectually. Our collaborators are also creators and their creative process and outcomes are directly tied to our own.
3. Critical Friend
Our critical friends are deeply trusted peers. They can also be collaborators, but they often work in parallel, not directly with us. These are the people who see our work and our process most wholly and ask us the most challenging questions that push and refine our work. A critical friend could be a very different thinker or work in a different medium or discipline than we do.
At some point, our creative output needs to meet a market or a consumer of some sort. Our supporters, collaborators, and critical friends may tell their friends about us. Our promoters tell everyone who will listen. They step up and are bought into our creative output sufficiently to put their own name on it as an endorsement. Promoters can be developed organically, or perhaps even hired, depending on the creative context.
5. Respected Critic/Doubter
This one may be less intuitive, but our critics tap a different motivation than any of the other relationships here. They may even spur spite, indignation, and a desire to prove them wrong. These may seem odd things to want in our creative lives, but they have the potential to make us better creators. So, these are not the critics we dismiss simply because we think they don’t like us. These are people whose doubt of us matters to us in some way. In fact, it can even work if we are our own biggest critic/doubter as long as that motivates us rather than neutralizes our creativity.