I Had to Move to San Francisco to Find My Creative Tribe. How Can You Find Yours?

When I was a kid I wanted nothing more than to live in the big city. I grew up in a small town in rural Michigan, in a farmhouse, literally surrounded by cows and cornfields. So when I fantasized about the future I imagined bright lights and millions of people. New York City was my first choice, followed closely by somewhere awesome in California.

Well, I did end up moving away. First to Ann Arbor when I was 17, and then onto Seattle when I was 21. I ended up in San Francisco by the time I was 25. Each of these places was difficult to adapt to and navigate. Housing was expensive, parking was sometimes impossible, and I had to be aware and vigilant in a way I never had to in my small town amongst the cornfields.

Also, I have always been a Highly Sensitive Person, and an introvert. So the bustling crowds on the sidewalks were both stimulating, and extremely draining. The rush of a city going nonstop 24-7 was incredibly exciting, and also too much. I have now lived in cosmopolitan, eclectic, artsy cities since 1996 and the struggle has never gotten any easier. For over 20 years now I have been torn between loving my chosen city and wanting to run as far away from it as possible.

San Francisco has intensified this inner conflict like no other city, especially in recent years.

Why do I go through this turmoil? Why don’t I move somewhere with reasonable rents and spacious backyards? And maybe most importantly, why have I always, always  been drawn to cities like this from the time I was very young?

Because that’s where the other creative people are.

It’s no coincidence that my journey happened to unfold along an Ann Arbor-Seattle-San Francisco line. If you look at these three cities, it’s obvious what they all have in common: A high proportion of weird and innovative people. A high number of artsy, funky little cafes, music venues, galleries, and a vibrant street scene. An openness to diversity of all stripes.

In my little town in Michigan I felt like I was the only weird person. And I was so bored on a daily basis I felt like I was slowly smothering to death.

But it wasn’t until many years later—over 20 years, in fact—that I realized this is because creative people NEED to be around other creative people. We need the random interactions, the constant exchange of ideas, and the exposure to the things other creative people are making with their hands, their voices, and their minds. That’s how we recharge our creative powers and it’s the surest way to tap into brilliant inspiration.

However, it’s also a sobering fact that not everyone can live in San Francisco. It’s expensive as hell here and even a lot of the creative folks have had to move elsewhere these days. So what do you do if you can’t move to a creative epicenter?

You turn to the internet.

Creative people are coming together online like never before. We are clustering around forums, blogs, social media conversations, and virtual movements. It is now possible to live in a town out in the middle of nowhere, population five or less, and still make a deep connection with a community of creative people who will listen to you, “get you,” and drive you to create more every day.

My friend and colleague, Katy Morgan, is holding a free online summit this August called Inspired Connections, and it’s all about how to use the power of story to build (or find) a community of creatives that will support and inspire your most creative work.

Katy interviewed me for the summit and we talked about:

How to find people who actually support you as a writer
How to start sharing your writing with others
How to use your personal story to jumpstart your own creative power

So, if you…

Feel all alone in your creative journey
Need more friends who are HSP, intuitive, introverted, or highly creative
Are ready to take the next step in your creative life

Then this summit is definitely for you. It’s starting August 2, it’s absolutely free, and you have nothing to lose. We’re lucky enough to live in a world where you DON’T have to move to San Francisco to find your people, you can just jump online.

You should take advantage of that.

I’ll see you there.

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  • Reply Lynne 7 August, 2017 at 11:03 am

    Lauren, I grew up near SF (north Peninsula), attended UCSF nursing school, worked here. Family connections in SF. I love San Francisco, its neighborhoods, and its vibe. You are so fortunate you can somehow “make it” in this City. Thanks for letting us know about this summit, although it’s past for me. Your blog entries are exceedingly helpful to me. I’m enjoying your book too, as an INFP/J writer. My major writing project is inspired by family history and nursing and San Francisco. Lynne (Sacto)

    • Reply Lauren Sapala 7 August, 2017 at 11:37 am

      Thank you so much for the kind words Lynne! And I am so glad you’re finding the book helpful 🙂

  • Reply Jennifer 9 August, 2017 at 11:50 am

    I have a similar story: grew up in a small town in Michigan with a cornfield in my backyard. Moved to Kalamazoo for college, then Ann Arbor where I served espresso at Zingerman’s, which became too expensive so back to my parents home for a few months, and after a couple other stops in the Southeast, onto Seattle where I’ve stayed. California looks great but so many are moving up here from there and I have not been given a sign or reason to go. And despite my grand city living, I’m loving the Inspired Connections Summit.

    • Reply Lauren Sapala 9 August, 2017 at 2:40 pm

      Wow, we really have traveled a similar path! My little town was an hour west of Ann Arbor and about an hour and a half east of Kalamazoo, right on I-94.

      • Reply Jennifer 5 September, 2017 at 4:22 pm

        I am reading your book Lauren (some topics I know well and others, not as much but you are thorough in a way that is astounding!) and am putting out a message to any Seattleites that stumble onto these comments that I would love to start an INFJ writer group or a spiritual group (maybe a mashup of both; options are open wide). Reply here if interested.

        • Reply Lauren Sapala 5 September, 2017 at 4:49 pm

          Thank you Jennifer! And please let me know if you’re successful putting together the group. I would love to send you free copies of The INFJ Writer to hand out to people. 🙂

  • Reply Melanie 19 August, 2017 at 2:29 am

    I fell in love with San Francisco instantly when we visited two years ago. (And New York!) I’m also an INFJ and HSP and I felt so alive walking those streets, taking the busses and subways with people from all walks of life – especially the creatives, and people who just embraced who they were. I could only do that for a few hours though, then we had to head back to the hotel for a recharge before venturing out again. Staying in winelands country in South Africa is lovely, but I really do crave that creative energy – everyone is super conservative (and a little judgy) here, it get s a little frustrating. I’ve subscribed to Katy’s summit – hopefully I’m not too late!

  • Reply Josh Fitzwater 1 September, 2017 at 3:36 pm

    You’re lucky to have found a city where the good you have can keep your energy up. I’ve tried and can’t live surrounded by thousands and thousands of people in such a small area. So, I’m in small town three-and-a-halfish hours east of San Francisco. I’ve tried using the internets for a creative center, but it’s never worked. I constantly feel like I’m defending things like purposeful “misuse” of the language. (I like sentence fragments and ending sentences with prepositions and adding action in the middle of dialogue.) Do you have any recommendations of web-sites to start with? (Inspired Connections is over and the site is blocked by work.)

    • Reply Lauren Sapala 5 September, 2017 at 9:02 am

      Hmmm…are you an introvert? One of my favorite websites is Introvert, Dear. I always get a boost from reading the various articles there.

      • Reply Josh Fitzwater 5 September, 2017 at 2:13 pm

        Oh, yes, I’m extremely introverted. I bounce between an INFJ and an INFP for Myers Briggs.

        I’ll check out Introvert, Dear. Thanks.

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