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  • Writer's pictureKara Maddox

5 Reasons To Trust Your Creative Community

Mural by Michael Reeder - Photo by Kara Maddox

Open, dynamic, intuitive & dependable – this describes the professionals dedicated to mentoring Johns Hopkins students through their Master's in Communications program.

I had the opportunity to work with many industry leaders through my studies with Hopkins, and while each professor brought new and creative ways of leveraging our online landscape, each valued my drive to do things differently.

Creativity matters to them, and that, by far, is what resonated most with me. Here's how I got started with KJMdigital, why creative communities matter, and how you can use this info to make a difference in your niche.

The Back Story

I applied to JHU’s program back in 2014 to boost my writing skills. I’m a writer at heart, and I wanted something more. I knew I was missing necessary tools in my toolbox. In fact, what I was looking for was how to better connect with people I looked up to - and how to create something truly worthwhile.

I had gotten into script writing after a six-month writing binge drafting my first novel. The writing part wasn’t the problem; it was the structure – the roadmap to story - and the reason why I wanted to write...why had I chosen writing?

Over the last four years, I met some inspirational people that helped me figure this all out - all without knowing it. They gave me the backstory I needed to understand why we want to communicate. All those years ago - before formal languages were created - why did we feel the need to reach out?

The answer is connection.

And looking back, it was a string of connections that lead me here, writing to you today. One of the ‘pillar’ moments was taking the final Practicum course with Dr. Debra Davenport (Dr. D.) my last semester.

connection through communication

See, my experience with school had always been rushed. Growing up just outside Chicago, I had the opportunity to attend a large, public high school with just under 4,000 students.

While my memories of Lyons Township are good ones, the course load, expectations and competition was killer. It was hard - really hard - just to keep up.

Let me re-phrase that – I’d like to go on record and say my first year at the University of Georgia was significantly easier than my last two years of high school.

That’s not a dig at UGA – but a testament to the public-school system in my neighborhood. It was competitive, it was scary, it was why I focused more on finishing than enjoying the journey.

1. Creatives Value The Journey As Much As The Ending

My experience with Hopkins was not rushed – I was no longer focused on finishing my degree as fast as possible; I was focused on the things that count – building relationships, honing necessary skillsets, learning to research, enjoying life as an professors helped me see this.

Think of a concert. Chances are, if you've gone to one (good grief I hope you have), you know you're not going just to listen to the last song - or to buy a t-shirt. You go to listen to every song, to join in the experience, to make connections with the fans around you. Your life is like one big concert.

Don't forget to enjoy the music.

My view of school changed - my goal was no longer a piece of paper to hang on the wall; it was preparing myself for the real world, really reflecting on what it is I want to do with my life, really identifying what matters most to me and why. I wasn't after a carrot, a prize or a degree. I was after the adventure. The creative community reminded me of this.

2. Creatives Give Good Advice

Speaking of adventures - have you ever won a door prize? I hadn’t until I followed Dr. D.’s advice – she tapped the first domino that lead to some pretty interesting meet-ups - my favorite being a quick convo with Curtis Daniel, the owner of Patchwerk Recording Studios in Atlanta.

I'm researching how physical space impacts creativity, and I was lucky enough to visit some of the most creative spots in the southeast. What struck me about Patchwerk was their willingness to allow their architects to express themselves while adding onto the studio.

Their creative vibes added to those of the space, and it all started with a window - I had asked "why not a rectangle or a square?"

Emmai Alaquiva at Patchwerk - photo by Kara Maddox

Before all this, what I needed was guidance, and Dr. D. was spot on. I had asked how could I get more involved in the communication field? How could I meet professionals like myself? She suggested IABC – the International Association of Business Communicators.

I signed up and never looked back.

In fact, I spoke at Connect18, IABC's regional conference in Nashville a few weeks ago. Not only did I have the chance to meet fellow communication professionals, but this is what started my quest for studying the relationship between creativity and physical space.

I had the pleasure of meeting Yoli Mara, owner of Welcome to 1979 Studios. A blast from the past, this studio is like no other - they work with some of the best, and they restore MCI Tape Machines through their sister company, Mara Machines - oh, and they're housed in a former record pressing plant with a two-story studio slide. Creativity at its finest!

The Side To Greatness @ Welcome to 1979 Studios - photo by Kara Maddox

You see, a big part of the journey is trust – trusting in yourself and trusting in the process. If I hadn't asked Dr. D. for advice, I would have never signed up for IABC - I would have never presented at Connect18 - I would have never met Yoli or Curtis.

3. Creatives Can Help You Build Trust

Looking back, attending the IABC luncheon was another step to making meaningful connections. I won the door prize not because I’m lucky, but because I had connected with the woman who pulled the cards, Uli Dendy - CEO of TrueLanguage.

I trusted Dr. D., and in the process I won salami - (well, technically I won a whole bunch of foods from all around the world - I just really liked the salami).

The point is I’m learning a lot about how to find my niche – and how to really be creative in my own way, and a lot of it is about making those meaningful connections.

One connection I made through a KJM Teammate, Sherry Wynn, is Allen Gannett – CEO and founder of Trackmaven, now Chief Strategy Officer of Skyword.

He wrote a book that came out a few months back - The Creative Curve. We talked about it in an earlier post HERE.

Gannett helps the average artist better understand how the creative process works. The truth is so many people give up too soon. They know deep down that they have this urge to express, to create – we all do.

In fact, I think we're all born innately creative, and overtime, we're conditioned out of it.

We see the feats we want to overcome, the towers we want to build, the people we want to meet – we see the end goal when we’re young, but we never really know how to get there.

And school only gives us the pieces, the single notes – that’s it. It’s you who must figure out what to do with these notes, how to choose your tune, find your key and build your rhythm - and that’s a good thing. First, you must trust yourself.

4. Creatives Show You How To Use Your Notes

If you’re lucky, you’ll find someone who has come before you who can help. Someone to pass down the wisdom that was once passed down to them. For me, this was Professor Kelly Hur. She is a fire cracker – a go getter, a breath of fresh air. She planted the seed for KJMdigital almost three years ago.

I took three courses with Professor Hur, and each course helped me better understand not just how to develop authentic connections, but why these relationships are essential in the "music - making" process. And Kelly did this by showing, not telling us.

It was through her respect for us as students that I realized I can learn something new from every person I meet.

Professor Hur helped us organize digital teams – even start our own agency – to practice the necessary internal communication structures needed for any group to perform well.

I hadn’t thought about that until then - communication professionals must consider two forms of communications at all times - the internal and the external.

Internal & external communications

And the best way to navigate both is a map – or what I like to consider a common key. This key is made of your core values, and those values govern how you communicate both internally and externally.

For us, it’s autonomy, flexibility and radical transparency. Those are the three values that keep us straight both within the KJM Team and when working with clients.

Professor Hur helped us understand this idea. In fact, she’s met with the KJM Team many times post-graduation to help us work out the kinks. She reminds us there’s a person behind every screen – a reminder I won't ever forget.

5. Creatives Build Community

And finding these community leaders is essential. Gatekeepers, people who will help you if your heart is in the right place, both inspire and educate.

Allen Gannett says we need four types of people in our community – someone who can mentor us, someone who will challenge us, someone who will inspire us, and someone who will promote us. In fact, Gannett knows A LOT about tapping into this creative network – here are a few points to remember:

Allen Gannett's The Creative Curve - infographic by Kara Maddox

The final mentor I’d like highlight is Anna Torrens Armstrong – the first professor I encountered in the Hopkins program.

Dr. Armstrong, like Professor Hur, is a huge proponent of face-to-face time. As a brand-new student, I felt a little bit better watching her weekly updates. And first impressions count. Without her, my time at Hopkins would have been very different.

Dr. A. set the right tone by encouraging me to explore creativity. Back in 2014, I even published a post on Creativity in Communication for the JHU Communication Career Blog. That was my first published piece - ever.

That’s the thing – when we make a big decision, like starting a new agency or creating something new or even meeting a new person, it’s natural to second guess our choices.

It’s that trust – trust in the process, trust in the community, trust in the tune of life that really helps solidify our steps.


Interested in how we got started? Check out our Hopkins webinar below. We talk about what it's like entering this online landscape, how we all work together in our 'cloud' and why real relationships are what matter most.


At KJMdigital, we want to connect artists to businesses and businesses to communities. And the KJM Team works because our mission and values align with what we value - radical transparency, autonomy and flexibility.

Interested in learning more? Get our bi-weekly posts sent straight to your inbox by reaching out! We are always here to help!

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