I have a great friend I’ll call W for writer. We worked together for six years in marketing at a high-tech company and respected each other very much. I wouldn’t say we were “friends” at the time; in fact, we didn’t always agree on everything at work for a long time, until our last year at the company. We were thrust into a difficult project together and realized we made a terrific messaging team. We both left the company soon after, and it was then that we realized we had something even more meaningful in common: we were both artists struggling to do our art.
I was in the middle of working my way through Julia Cameron’s The Artist’s Way three years ago when W and I had lunch one day. I recommended he pick up the book. It resonated with him as much as it had with me, and a friendship and kinship developed that I’m sure will last a lifetime. Today, W and I meet regularly to discuss progress (or not) with our art (my painting, his writing), how we go about practicing the art of marketing at work (or not, depending on the week), and how to make our dreams and aspirations achievable. W and I nudge each other to face truths, but we do so in a very kind, supportive, and gentle manner.
During our last lunch, we wondered aloud if we are too kind, too supportive, and too gentle with each other. We joked that we should step up our interactions to “gentle goading,” and, after some silence on email ensued over the next few days, I joked that I was stepping it up further to harassment. This comical exchange got me thinking about the role W and I play for each other. We’re not each other’s mentor. We’re not teaching each other or guiding each other. We’re not coaches either. We don’t cheer when things go well or get down to business and problem-solve when things go wrong. And we’re not advocates or champions – we’re not promoting each other or our art to others, even though we adore the art each produces. While we don’t need a label, I’m seeking one because I think every artist needs their W.
I think we are artistic mirrors. We are able to reflect each other’s artistic joys and anxieties with no judgment whatsoever. We help each other get out of creativity funks, we share books and insights we’ve read that almost always lead to a revelation of some sort, and we talk about our ups and downs, always offering gentle counsel, even when it’s the same issue time and again. It is two-way trust. Neither of us monopolizes the conversation or loses patience with the other.
An artistic friendship such as this is powered by mutual respect, empathy, and a shared vision. W makes me want to be a better artist, a better marketer, to pursue my dreams…without feeling bad about myself if I’m not hitting it on all cylinders. Said plainly, W just gets me as an artist and I get him as an artist. We are very lucky.
How about you? Do you have a deep artistic friendship that keeps you motivated, inspired, and grounded?