Mary Grace Garis
June 22, 2015 6:00 am

Like the singing muses in Hercules (and um, actual Greek mythology), my friends are goddesses of the arts. They cover the entire artistic spectrum, as illustrators, fashion designers, metal smiths, dancers, photographers, musicians and (surprise!) writers. Therefore things in our lives are never boring…or, you know, financially stable. Not slamming the brave ladies in accounting or law, but with “creative fields” your career path can be far less linear and oodles more frustrating. If you’re also playing on that field, you get it. But you, me, and everyone we know are going to get through this, so long as we do it together.

Here’s a few things to consider when trying to build a positive network of your creative lady friends.

Venting is cool, but remember to follow it up with positive reinforcement

Let’s start on an up note: everything is terrible and I will die alone and penniless. This is a sentiment I receive (and have said) on the regular, a rant that we tend to have mid-project or after a frustrating shift at your night job. It’s healthy to vent out, but afterwords, all anyone wants is reassurance that they’re wonderful, talented, and their gig at the bowling alley is honorable and temporary. You believe it; help your friend believe it, too.

Be generous with your contacts. We all rise together

I’ve gotten by in life because I am (a) mildly to moderately funny and (b) have incredible friends who will vouch for that. I consider this the “tell them I sent you” principle: if you see a friend struggling, and know you can help, help! It takes a minute to say, “Hey, I know the art editor at Blah Magazine, feel free to shoot her a line asking if they need any freelance graphic designers and mention I referred you.”

This sounds easy on paper, but our competitive nature sometimes makes us lock up our address books. Luckily I’ve met so many brilliant, self-confident women that don’t think that way, and although my own career is still nascent, I try to help aspiring writers when I can.

Collaborate when you can

Sometimes you can find mutually beneficial opportunities with people in your network in a different way. Say, for example, your friend’s riot grrrl band is touring LA for the first time. It takes zero effort to forward the number of your like-minded illustrator friend in West Hollywood knowing they’ll hit it off. Turns out the illustrator just finished a piece on a demon-possessed Sailor Moon, and the musician now has both a new friend and the raddest poster for tomorrow’s show.

Um. That specific example may not apply to your life, but you get the gist.

Sharing is not only caring, it can be CAREER-MAKING

There’s a bigger digital currency when it comes to sharing versus liking, a weird difference between active and passive support. I can listen to my friend’s new song and passively “like” it, because, well I like it, it meets my standards of what I find musically pleasing. But by sharing it, I’m making a statement: “This piece of work is great, and I think everyone should listen to it.”

And that idea doesn’t only apply to the digital world. Occasionally I actually leave my house, and I have a few of my best friend’s business cards in my purse…just in case. See, I know she can make a mean-ass broach, but it’s so much easier for someone else to understand when her work and contact information is just laid out like that.

Slay your green-eyed monster with personal productivity

Warm fuzzies aside, I can be unattractively jealous. Like, the actual worst. As much as we try be super supportive friends 110% of the time, we’re all human, and when you’re in a rut, it’s SO rough to be thrilled about your friend’s career wins, ESPECIALLY if you’re in the same field. Whether she got an interview at a publication you both incidentally applied for, or your friend gets their dream job right out of college and you’re still polishing shoes at the bowling alley two years past graduation, tensions can get high.

My advice? If you’re the one staring lustfully/bitterly at your friend’s success, be the bigger woman and stay sincerely congratulatory…but if it’s too hard to stomach, succinct. Too much faux gushing can get passive-aggressive reeeeal fast, especially during a celebratory happy hour. Really, the best thing for everyone is a less-is-more approach.

So in this case, refocus and let this motivate you. Your hard work will eventually garner your own wonderful next experience, and I’m sure your friend will be there cheering you on.

And no matter what, keep a bottle of wine at the ready to bandage the bad and toast to the good

The bottom line is, it’s really hard to make it work in creative fields, but it can be much easier if you simply be there for your friends that know the struggle and embrace the hustle. Chances are, they’ll be there for you, too, and your collective power will lead to stronger personal bonds and professional success. First you’ll get full-time jobs, and next, the world!

(Image via)

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