Since the invention of technology, each new tool – device, software, app, platform was created and designed to do two things, make life easier and connect us faster, so we collaborate and share ideas and information. Yet, communication today has gotten more complicated because we want things on our terms. My 3-year-old grandson is constantly saying, “me do it.” It was why man took the first bite in the Garden of Eden. We wanted to know and are curious by nature and didn’t want to be constrained. (I find it interesting that we refer to digital data capacity as a gigabyte).

We are independent creatures.

While God created us for community and to socialize, our human nature is to do things alone. When it comes to team or group projects, we tend to move away from engaging with others. It gets complicated, messy and we don’t get things our way all the time. I tend to be fiercely independent. In school, I was always frustrated when I was assigned to a “group” project. There always seemed to be one person who was challenging to work with or never pulled their weight. Most of the time, someone (usually me) ended up having to do their work at the last moment, or the whole group suffered from a lower grade.

As a producer working in the highly competitive Hollywood industry, there is no choice. You must collaborate. Just watch the ending film credits, and you visually see it. In the big leagues of Hollywood, however, if you don’t do the work, you are on the street when the next project happens. Re-booking a job because you performed and delivered is what keeps you alive and working. Second chances don’t happen because there is always someone in the wings ready to take it. In business relationships connecting with multiple team members, suppliers and manufacturers aren’t much different.

Technology has changed how we play in the sandbox.

Apps, platforms and other tech tools are designed to make us better at working together. As we work on creative endeavors, choosing who we want to let in – work and connect with, comes from trial and error. We decide most often from recommendations or our own personal observations and relationships. Most professionals, including myself, like to work with others who are constantly pushing forward and who challenge and inspire creativity because it enables us to do better work. However, that means letting them into one’s personal space and exposing flaws, failures, and vulnerability.

Artists and creatives are sensitive.

The reality is, to be a truly great artist, one must open a vein and bleed sometimes. Not physically but emotionally. It’s easy to copy others and follow the popular culture, but true artists and creatives must expose their identity and thoughts. It is where most great artistic work comes to life. But it takes guts. It means being open to criticism, knowing who to listen to, and, sometimes, who we need to toss out of our sandbox. It is often why artists and creatives like to work by themselves. Creatives often hide their work until they can bravely expose it to someone they can trust. In today’s overexposed social media and internet culture, once it’s out there, it can go virally good or disastrously bad.

Workspaces (sandboxes) have considerably changed since the global shutdown of the pandemic.

The pandemic has forced us to work from home and in seclusion. For many, it has been a plus for many reasons, but particularly for creatives who might not have been able to work well in an open and exposed office situation. Today, creative teams have had to learn how to work in isolation and then reveal their work through online video conferencing platforms – Zoom. New creative “friendships” have had to be forged, creating new challenges.

I watched a short film recently about a creative female who was a new company hire. She was required to connect through video conferencing for team meetings but kept her video screen dark for the first several meetings. She told them that she had internet problems or that her computer was having issues. She was afraid the other creative team members watching online would judge her because she wore a hijab, which compromised her work on past jobs. They saw her religious attire and not for her creative and professional work. What someone looks like has been battles that the physically disabled have had to fight for years. Yet, many have proven to be exceptionally creative when given the opportunity.

 How do we keep creativity and community going in isolating environments?

Keeping our sandboxes open and welcoming is essential to our progress and growth. My “me do it” grandson will be the young creative of tomorrow soon. Educating and exposing the next generation to the best practices and collaboratively working with others isn’t just important. It is essential.  Mental and emotional health are on the table as relationships are vital to maintaining our creative and artistic processes and solving big problems. We need each other – community and collaboration. As frustrating and messy as it often becomes in life and work environments, God commands us to love one another as He has loved us. That means even when others don’t think and do things the way we do. Our communication tools may have improved over the years and created complicated conversations in many ways, but it is up to us to keep relationships respected and connected.