Giving Back to the Creative Community

No one is self-made. Everyone benefits from the help of others, whether simply being inspired by their work or creations or getting direct assistance from them. There’s a risk to self-improvement, that we could become so focused on ourselves that we forget about improving the world for others. As I realize more and more clearly the privileges I’ve had in developing my career and life, I think about how I can give back to the people and places that have brought me to the happy space I am now. I’m not formally-trained in graphic design, aside from a few┬áno-credit community college classes – I’m community-trained. What can I do to give back to my fellow creatives?

As a graphic designer, I owe other creatives for their inspiring work, generous free textures and stock photos and typefaces, and helpful tutorials. As a writer, I’m learning from writers who share wisdom about the craft as well as business advice.

Giving back is an active form of gratitude, a way to make my appreciation public. Staying silent about the help I’ve had shaping my skills and lifestyle devalues those contributions. It might go without saying, but don’t make it go without doing.

Ways I’m Giving Back to the Creative Community

I hope that the things I discuss on Cascadia Inspired provide useful thoughts and resources for other creatives. I try to help my fellow graphic designers and artists directly by giving away free textures. In my design and writing, I try to be generous in linking and adamant about attributing credit. I buy art prints from early career artists, as well as indie comic books. I also used to write graphic novel reviews.

What More Could I Do to Support My Fellow Creatives?

I could support other graphic designers and artists by:

  • mentoring entry level graphic designers (though I’m probably not far enough into my career to be of much help) – or lead a class for teens (I tried to organize this in the past and it fell through, but maybe worth another shot)
  • advocating at my work for buying more typefaces by independent typographers, and buying more typefaces for my personal work
  • contributing stock photography to the public domain
  • attending local art shows and open houses

I could give back to the writing community by:

  • becoming a beta-reader
  • volunteering to read slush
  • reviewing short stories (especially by early career writers)
  • seeing if there’s a helpful topic I could speak about at Norwescon, or volunteering to help run the con
  • buying more books (as a library lover and someone who doesn’t re-read books, I’ve been reticent to buy books in the past – I’ve noticed that having a kindle has made me more apt to buy books, especially for vacation reading)
  • leaving helpful reviews instead of just a rating ;)

Moving Forward

I need to balance giving back with creating – but need to remember that giving back is always worth making an effort for. I will probably pick a few items from each area to make an effort on this year, and see how I can improve next year.

How can I incorporate giving into my routine? What other ways to give back can you think of that I’ve missed?


Particular thanks to Chris Guillebeau, James Clear, David Cain, and Leo Babauta for sparking my thoughts about giving. And thanks to Chuck Wendig and Delilah Dawson for being a couple of those very sharing creatives.

Because it can’t be said enough – I’m thankful for the work and generosity of many in the other aspects of my life – but especially thank you Mom & Dad!!!

About Tracy Durnell

Seattle-area graphic designer and SFF writer inspired by the Pacific Northwest, crafting a sustainable and intentional life.

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