Community is fresh on my mind following this past weekend's Film + Music Conference in Ft. Worth, Texas. If you've not heard of it, it's worth booking your tickets now for next year's event.
My experience as a freelancer has me spending the VAST majority of my time alone. On a typical weekday, I'll help get Anne the Wife and our two boys out the door and off to school/work just after 7am. By 7:30am, I'm at one of my regular coffeeshops in the Oklahoma City area reading, writing, and plowing through emails thanks to a cup of coffee that'll typically be cold before I'm finished. Around 9:30-10am it’s back to the house to continue working until Anne and the boys get home by 5pm. On most weekdays my local coffeeshop is literally the only time and place I'll see someone other than my wife and kids.
Obviously there are production days, errands, and face-to-face client interactions, but having that much alone is something I didn't expect when leaving my last full-time job back in January 2011; Unquestionably I miss having that built in work family. They still hire me as a freelancer now and then and though it's been almost eight years they still feel like extended family members.
My work family now is a loosely connected group of other freelancers, clients, and vendors mostly in Oklahoma City and Tulsa, but also across the country. There are seasons where I'm on the road with clients and crew anywhere from a couple days up to multiple weeks at a time. Those shared experiences allow you to develop stronger relationships, but afterwards you each go your separate ways not knowing if and when you’ll ever see each other again. Thankfully I've kept in touch over the years with those I've connected with across the country and around the world, but it takes intentional effort maintaining those relationships through email, text messages, phone calls, etc.
Events like the Film + Music Conference are gold to me. You're able to sharpen your craft by learning from industry leaders, but connecting face-to-face with other creatives is where it's at. Networking events still make this self-described introvert cringe, but the immediate urge to vomit and curl up into a the fetal position has lessened the more I’ve forced myself to suck it up and introduce myself to new people; It helps to know they're probably feeling the same way at the same time.
I'd love to say that this is an industry based on merit and ability, but it's one of relationships and self-motivation. You’d better believe I read and re-read this New York Times article about How to be Better at Parties before heading off to last weekend’s conference.