3 Reasons Isolation Is Disastrous For Creative Professionals


Over the weekend, Facebook was a flutter over a new study from Switzerland. The recently published research suggests that writers have a higher risk of mental illness.

The study by the Karolinska Institutet in Sweden found a link between creative professions and mental illness. Writers in particular are more likely to suffer from psychiatric issues including clinical depression, bipolar disorder, schizophrenia, anxiety, and substance abuse. “We’re also nearly twice as likely as the general populace to commit suicide!” exclaimed Media Bistro’s Pandora Young.

Aside from the “no duh” jokes from lots of writers and their friends on social media, many were left asking the obvious question: why?

Lots of anecdotal suggestions were offered by creatives in my social networks: Perhaps the mentally ill are just prone to write; society as a whole judges creativity as a type of mental illness; writing is cathartic so fragile people are more drawn to it as therapy. But by in large, the most common explanation proposed was isolation. Writing is (typically) a solo task, and choosing it as a profession means spending a lot of time by yourself in front of a keyboard. Not to mention that depending on the type of writing, it can be a soul searching process, something that’s always easier with the support of loved ones.

The fact of the matter is, isolation is opposite to our natural inclination. Most of us would never live in isolation, so why work that way?

Here are three reasons why working in isolation can be disastrous for creative professionals:

1. Humans are social creatures. Creatives like the attention and company of our tribe.

2. Creativity doesn’t require isolation. We feed off of the inspiration and challenges of our peers.

3. Self-employed creatives work best when we’re accountable.

So where should we turn when we find ourselves talking to the cat and still in our pajamas at 3 pm? Some people join Meetups, or networking groups, or enlist expensive life coaches to help us stay on track and meet our goals. But if you’re like most creatives, you need a simpler, not more complicated, strategy for success.

Guess what?! Coworking provides all of these things. Coworking spaces are populated by a diversity of creatives. Not only will you meet people who do similar creative work to your own, you’ll meet people who do creative things you’ve never dreamed of! Coworkers LOVE to share stories of failure and success, which is inspiring to the less experienced creative. Coworking spaces are also adept at keeping people accountable. Most creatives who join coworking spaces report higher levels of productivity almost immediately. Sometimes there are actual weekly meetings where members check up on each other’s progress, and in other spaces the accountability is more informal, accomplished between friends.

If you’re feeling isolated (and maybe a little crazy?!) TRY COWORKING. Not only is it more affordable and flexible than other office options for creatives, it comes with a built-in community that’s dedicated to keeping you sane. Get your free day pass here!

Image via opensourceway/Flickr

Coworking: How To Avoid Fragmentation In The Presence Of Private Offices

Coworking Private Office

As many of you know, Cohere is getting ready to move to our new home: a larger, more versatile space that will better meet the needs of our growing community. Of course, this new facility also comes with a bigger price tag, so I’ve had to spend time deciding the most economical way to make use of all our new space.

Among other things, this means for the first time in Cohere history, I’ve decided to offer private offices. These offices will be separate from the open work space, meaning the members that use them will spend most of their time away from the chatter and sharing that make Cohere such a lovely place to belong.

I know, I know. In the past I’ve ranted that private offices crush the true spirit of community, and to some extent I still believe that. So what changed?

Over the past year I’ve discovered that a) doors and walls, while they may help set the tone, don’t always determine how the community functions; and b) private offices are an easy way to get much-needed money in the door. Also, private offices attract fledgling businesses that are too small for their own space, but could really benefit from and add to the dynamic of our community.

But without conscious effort from both office-dwellers and flex desk-sitters, there’s a risk our community could become fragmented. Isolation is bad for both groups and defeats the purpose of coworking. To avoid that, I put together a quick list of reminders that I hope will help us maintain the level of communication and collaboration we’ve enjoyed in the past.

How To Avoid Fragmentation In The Presence Of Private Offices

1. Keep your door open whenever possible. This small gesture will let other members know it’s ok to pop in and say hi. Quickly.
2. Make a point of chatting with other members on the way to and from your private office. Even if it’s just a smile and “good morning,” it helps.
3. Don’t eat meals at your desk. Give your eyes a rest and venture into a common area where you can enjoy some small talk.
4. Avoid IMs/IRC when the person you’re chatting with is in the building. You’re not glued to your chair. Take a much-needed stretch, and walk over to their desk.
5. Attend social functions and workshops whenever you can. This is a great way to meet members who work different schedules, and you might also learn something!
6. Interact with Cohere members via social media. We’ve got a pretty active Facebook group where people ask emergency questions, share funny links, and respond to community announcements. Being active here will ensure that we don’t forget your name, even if we don’t see your face that often.

Do you have concerns about the introduction of private offices? What are your ideas about how to maintain a high level of community interaction despite closed doors? Share your thoughts in a comment!

Image Credit: Flickr – Cowork Central

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