Get Out of Your Chair – Building community trust
Since the Canimation blog is in its infancy, I’m going to get a wee bit Pollyanna on you for my first post.
The November issue of Britain’s endlessly interesting Monocle magazine included an insert about starting your own small business. Focusing on elements both obvious and obscure, The Monocle Small Business Guide 2009/10 packs a lot of inspiration into a mere 34 pages.
I was particularly inspired by the guide’s assertion that for small businesses, “strong networks and a spirit of cooperation are vital… Reciprocity is the glue that binds communities together and is at the heart of any sustainable local business.”
As freelance writers, we are all running our own small businesses. And let’s face it, writing is a very solitary business. We often deal with people only through e-mail or web-conferencing, or over the phone. It can be a revelation to walk into a writers’ room and put faces to names and actually meet the people we’ve known and worked with for years. In the recent spate of industry Christmas parties, I’ve been reminded how invigorating it is to connect with people in the business and discover that my frustrations are not unique, take inspiration in the victories of peers, and pass on some kernel of wisdom in the hopes of sparing a new writer some of the mistakes I’ve had to learn from the hard way.
And that’s what this blog is all about. Celebrating the wondrous achievements of Canadian animation within our borders and abroad. Why? Because we are a community, and it strengthens us all when we speak as a group and stay more in touch and informed. Staying connected is empowering, as is being able to raise a cheer when someone is creating something fabulous. When one of us succeeds, it opens the door a little wider for the rest of us.
All you have to do is get out of your chair. Back away from the computer and look around. Amazing isn’t it? There’s a whole world outside of our heads too! And you get to be a part of it.
Share your knowledge and ideas. Pass it on. Connect with your fellow writers and creators. And while you’re at it, get out of the office and spread your business into the physical community around you as well. Your favourite local coffee shop could make a terrific impromptu boardroom or can deliver for a meeting. The local nightspot down the street may help you arrange a sneak-peek screening of your new pilot or a reading of the screenplay you’ve been working on. Actors love to be involved in ground-floor events like that, and your crew will love a party and a chance to be recognized for their contributions. Maybe the band that did music for your show gigs every Monday night and needs a poster or a script for video. Why not check them out? Investigate and open yourself to the possibilities of community.
Let your friends and family in on your process. They just might spread the gospel of their newfound knowledge, which will in turn create more educated viewers. Go to a movie with a bunch of friends. Fill your soul with interaction and experience and bring that to your work. We can never match the breadth of experience we can bring to our work that a little nugget of knowledge from some else’s experience can provide. Speak at a writing class at your library or arrange an evening with several creator pals to talk about what you do and show some of your episodes. You might be surprised by the turnout.
What I’m suggesting isn’t about proselytizing. I’m talking about reinvigorating the way we look at ourselves. We’re not victims or shut-ins. We’re creators whose work is being seen and enjoyed across the whole, freaking planet. If we work together to create a sense of buzz, and if we allow ourselves to connect with people around us, we can build a vibrant and supportive artistic community. Such a community will yield better ideas, better relationships, and better finished products, as the buzz grows and spreads, like a tingly love vibe of national pride.
There are already a few places to help you jack into your Canadian, writerly community:
Karen Walton’s Facebook group, “Ink Canada,” was the final domino that led me to join Facebook. It was that cool. There is commentary, insight and advice. And they organize regular drink mixers all over.
Jill Golick’s delightful Writers Watching TV is a chance to get sneak peeks at new series and chat with the creators about the pitfalls and challenges it took to and create their must-see TV. The live events are in Toronto, but the Writers Guild of Canada has been posting podcasts of the discussions on their website for all to enjoy.
Over the next few months, we’ll be adding links to Canadian events and writer and animation blogs. If you have any favourites to point out, please let us know!
Now hit the keyboard and get back to work.