Even stars get starstruck. I remember hearing David Bowie talk about the time John Lennon dropped in on the recording sessions for Young Americans. He was thrilled at meeting one of his heroes and suggested they write something together – ‘I wasn’t going to miss that!’ he said. The result was ‘Fame’, one of the best tracks on the album (as well as a cover of ‘Across the Universe’ that was easily the worst, but hey nothing’s perfect).
Yes, stars love the limelight and many of them qualify as egomaniacs, but a lot of the fun of being a star comes from the opportunities to work with other fascinating, talented, creative people. Like Samuel L. Jackson telling George Lucas he would play a stormtrooper if it meant he could be in the new Star Wars movie. Or Hugh Laurie enthusing about acting with Stephen Fry, saying it was better than having a front row seat.
Collaborating with others brings out the best in us. We spark off one another and build on shared ideas. Our different talents, backgrounds, knowledge and personalities complement each other. We challenge each other to raise the bar. Sometimes there are tensions, arguments and fights. But when you put a group of gifted, ambitious and fired-up stars to work together, the results are bound to be interesting. I gather the parties are pretty good too.
If you’re lucky you already work with people who have that star quality. Even so, you probably wouldn’t pass up the chance to meet a few more, share ideas and add them to your network of contacts and collaborators. If you’re just starting out or you’ve been stuck working on your own too long, then you’ll be hungry to meet creative partners who can help you take your work to the next level. But where can you find them?
Well, if you’re reading this, then you’ve probably noticed there’s something interesting happening on the internet right now. Call it the Age of Conversation, the Relationship Renaissance, whatever you like. Basically, more creators are hanging out together than have ever hung out together in the history of the universe. Which means there are more opportunities for you to meet and connect and work and party with said creators than you probably know what to do with – yet.
At the beginning of 2007 I was approached by the UK creative industries magazine Creative Review, to contribute to a feature about the web developers WeFail. The editor wanted my view on the psychological implications of the partnership, which was made up of two developers, one in the US and one in the UK, who had met via the internet. In four years of business they had only met in person three times and they made a point of never meeting their clients, as they thought meetings were a waste of time. This attitude, and the fact that they were just two guys working from home, hadn’t stopped them creating work for clients including Eminem, Dixie Chicks, Christian Aid and BBDO. At the time I thought it was an intriguing idea, but didn’t imagine I’d end up doing it myself.
Here at Lateral Action we’d hardly claim to be rock stars, but it may interest you to know that none of us have ever met face-to-face. With Brian in Texas, Tony in North Carolina and me in London, in the normal course of events we would probably never have heard of each other, let alone considered going into business together. But our blogs brought us into contact and over time our interests converged to the point where it seemed like a natural next step to set up Lateral Action. Since doing the Creative Review piece, I’ve also collaborated with Liz Strauss (in Chicago) and Sandy Renshaw (in Des Moines) on an e-book for Successful Blog, and with Cat Morley (in Bangkok) on an e-book for Business of Design Online. A few years ago this would have seemed outlandish to me. Now it feels perfectly normal.
And it’s not confined to the internet. All the usual haunts of creative types – the cafes, bars, galleries, studios, agencies, conferences and shows – are still open for business. Social media is really just the catalyst for the socialising that has always been the catalyst for creativity. Since I started blogging nearly three years ago, my network of business contacts has grown exponentially. I’ve met a huge variety of people doing all kinds of fascinating work. I’ve also made some really good friends. Every time I attend a social media get-together, it feels as though we’ve been somehow teleported down from the Starship Enterprise. I’m used to it now but there’s still something magical about it.
You don’t need a teleport machine or VIP pass to join in. On blogs, forums, social networks and countless ‘real life’ meetups, the doors are open for you to walk right in and join the conversation.
Who Brings Out the Best in You?
Who were the best people you ever worked with?
How did you meet?
What qualities did you bring out in each other?
Where do you go – online and offline – to hook up with other creative people?
About the Author: Mark McGuinness is a poet and creative coach.