The first time I ever embarked on a creative collaboration with my friends was an experience I will never, ever forget -- a memory burned into the deepest corner of my brain, informing the rest of my life:
It was a tragic, seventh-grade, public school, awkward, adolescent, musical theater production of “Into The Woods.”
Like a plethora of middle school girls of my generation, I was an acne-ridden walking contradiction made up of both acute insecurity and a crushing sense of entitlement, clad in ill-fitted Mudd Jeans purchased from the clearance rack at Contempo Casuals. Charming, I know.
I spent half of the rehearsal process for “Into The Woods” bitter and pissed I wasn’t granted the role of the leading lady (even though my singing voice has the ability to shred the thick adhesive of wallpaper, and I'm blessed with two rhythmically challenged left feet) and the other half keeled over positively sick with nerves over my three lines of dialogue.
As trite as my middle school play might appear in hindsight, it served as a massive, sweeping revelation for little ol' me.
It was the first time I experienced the harrowing intensity, the grandiose highs and the hopeless lows of the “creative process” (puffs rhetorical cigarette and gazes poignantly into the misty distance).
My castmates and I might have been a slew of pre-pubescent, hormone-laden nightmares, but we were rich with passion as we saddled up and earnestly rode the tempestuous emotional roller coaster of creativity together as a united adolescent force.
The bonds we formed in those eight short weeks of rehearsal proved to be the deepest ones I had ever experienced thus far in my 13 years of residence on the cruel, cold planet.
Shortly after the curtains drew after the last performance of our two-weekend run of "Into The Woods," I evaded my short-lived musical theater career, but the addiction of creating art with my friends only escalated.
Whether it’s screenwriting, working on a film set, acting, directing a play or engaging in a musical adventure, the friendships I’ve forged whilst in the throes of creative pursuit are the most valuable, real relationships I've ever known.
So what is it about the immersion of art that intensifies our friendships so? Why do friends who create together inevitably stay together?
1. You suffer through the creative process together.
Nothing takes it out of a person quite like ART. Anyone who so dares to engage in an artistic endeavor is a full throttle, bonafide masochist.
Any artist knows actually completing a creative project is f*cking torture (which is why it’s usually abandoned and left for dead before it's halfway done).
Creating something out of nothing is frustrating as hell: There are no "right" answers, there is no "formula"-- and most frustrating, creativity isn’t a switch you can simply turn on with the flip of a switch.
The most badass, soul-binding aspect of collaborating with a friend is you suffer through the pitfalls of creative hell together. Misery brings us far closer than joy.
You talk each other off the ledge. You remind each other why you’re putting yourself through this.
You keep each other focused, motivated and on track. You believe in the other person’s talents, even when he or she no longer does.
2. Art consumes endless hours.
Contrary to popular belief, working on creative projects is so much more than rolling in the grass with finger paint.
There seems to be an unspoken belief among non-creative types that art is easy, that it's made up of nothing but "natural talent" with zero work involved.
This couldn't be further from the truth, as every single medium of art oozes heaps of blood, sweat and tears.
Art has a way of ever so sneakily consuming endless hours from your life.
Just like you can’t turn creativity on, you also can’t necessarily shut creativity off at the mere drop of a dime.
We don’t stop and return to the comfort of our lives just because the faithful clock reads 5 pm. Our work makes its way into our subconscious and manifests itself in our dreams.
When you’re soldiering through those 18-hour days on a film set, rehearsing for 10 hours trying to find the right chords, on the eleventh hour in desperate search for the right words or waiting for the sky to reach the perfect illuminating 5 am light -- you get to know a person really, really well.
3. You're experiencing a person at his or her rawest form.
Powerful art is derived from vulnerability.
You can’t come from a heroic, self-protected place and expect to create something with a genuine impact (which is why art is f*cking scary; you have to actually feel things. Not so nice things).
When you’re creating with your friends, you're seeing one another at your most stripped down, real, honest, no-bullsh*t selves.
You’re not the closed off, “don’t touch” me hardened b*tches you normally are; you’re revealing what’s behind your calculated facade.
4. Creative energy is more addictive than drugs.
While the creative process can be harrowing and torturous -- it also comes with equally epic, chill-inducing HIGHS.
After all, isn’t this why we put up with the hellish creative life? For those slender moments when it’s nothing but free-flowing bliss?
Experiencing the peaks of a creative high is a buzz stronger than any designer drug existing on the modern market.
Soaring through a creative high with a friend is akin to embarking on an amazing ecstasy trip, except it’s built on a real foundation, not a false druggy one.
After all the suffering, when you finally reach that moment with your creative partner when it’s actually working, when there is a LIGHT at the end of the tunnel of despair, it’s a feeling neither one of you will ever, ever forget.
5. Trust is everything.
It’s impossible for a real, genuine creative collaboration to thrive without an ample surplus of TRUST.
You need a safe space to hopelessly fail and toss around sh*tty ideas free of judgment.
You need to know when you plummet (which you will), your friends will be your safety net.
They will be there to pick up your broken pieces and turn them into art.
6. Friends that play together, stay together.
When you finally get into the real creative flow -- it involves playing. It’s about tapping into that side of yourself you lose touch with as an adult, the part of you that ventured into the attic at midnight to try on your mom’s hideous caftans from the 70s, the seven-year-old you who smeared your sister's black eye shadow on your lips and danced around the yard wildly deranged.
The beautiful part is this: Art gives us the freedom to journey back to that glorious child-like state with our friends, without the crutch of drinking and drugs.
7. You leave parts of yourself in your work.
Everything you ever create attains a part of you and all the people you worked with.
A piece of all of you will forever be embedded into every song, painting, play or film.
You might leave that part of yourself in your work and never care to access it again.
But it will always be there, and like it or not -- all souls involved will be intertwined in the piece.
After all, art can be abandoned, thrown in the dumpster or tossed out into the street -- but it never dies.