I’m pretty sure this has a LOT to do with those group projects in high school and college where there was a lot of in-fighting, haggling, and at least one group member who did nothing and still garnered the “A,” but I’ve never really been a fan of creative collaboration.
You might not be able to tell from what I’ve written to date, but I kinda have a mind of my own.
I’d rather do it myself and fail on my own than depend on someone else for creative inspiration, and this is particularly true with writing projects. I mean, stubborn attitude aside, how do people collaborate on a written work? I don’t understand how two people write a novel together…does each write a chapter? Do they sit in a room together for months on end, brainstorming out loud until they both like and agree on a sentence? Sounds a bit painful, if you ask me.
Which is why I’m still a bit in awe of the fact that I jumped to collaborate with a friend on a writing project, especially when she said at one point in the discussion, “But I don’t write—what am I supposed to do?”
What started out as an idea for a cookbook turned into a blog (http://TwoChunkyGirls.wordpress.com) that has been a learning experience and an eye-opener for me.
How do you write with another person? Very carefully.
Just kidding. If you choose the right person, writing together (or doing anything together, really) can be a lot of fun and a totally new experience.
Once you get over the hurdle of the logistics of collaboration, that is. Heather (the other Chunky Girl) and I have been experimenting with different formats and methods for writing our blog: sitting together in a room and actually going sentence by sentence together; chatting incessantly while a voice recorder is running and stringing together the five minutes of deep thoughts that emerge from hours of conversation; interviewing Heather’s four-year-old daughter for funny quotes when we are completely at a loss; copying and pasting our text conversations for the world to read; writing back and forth over email until we had a completed blog post; each writing separately on the same topic and posting them together, blindly.
We still haven’t found the perfect method. To be honest, the “right” way for us to work is whatever our schedules allow—do we have time to hang out together? Are we relegated to email and texts for a couple of weeks? Did something happen that we want to write about? Do we have to mine the depths of our friendship to find something new to say?
As a duo, we’re still feeling our way through the blogosphere. But for me, individually, writing a blog with another person has allowed for a complete change of pace from my usual working style. Collaboration provides me with a number of benefits that my individual writing projects don’t.
Honest feedback. Having an editor red-line an article is one thing; most writers come to the table prepared to professionally defend their words and thoughts to a person that they work for and are financially beholden to. But when I write a blog with Heather, and she asks if I really want to make public some private thought, or when she points out that our very first post was taking too long to introduce who we are and why we were writing a blog, it’s enlightening. No, really, it was. She is probably reading this right now and doing a Crystal Light spit-take. But if Heather questions something I’ve put in writing, I know it’s with my best interest at heart.
A different way of thinking. Heather knows me better than most, she understands how I think, she knows where the bodies are buried. As I said, when she questions something I want to write, I know I should probably re-think my comments. Plus, because she doesn’t have a professional writing background (and because she will willingly and proudly tell you that she doesn’t read), she is truly reading a draft like a reader would. If something doesn’t make sense to Heather, I know other readers won’t get it either, so I trust her feedback. Plus, I know she won’t hide the truth but she also won’t be unnecessarily harsh. Nothing could encourage creativity more.
Not bearing the pressure of new ideas alone. This, right here, is the number one reason any creative person should consider collaboration. It was such a thrill to have someone else in the room sharing the burden of coming up with an idea. Even after we had written our first post, I reverted to my single-minded, tortured writer frame-of-mind and stressed about what we would do next. Suddenly, an email appeared in my inbox from Heather, the first line of which said, “Here’s an idea I had for the blog—you probably have to wordsmith it but you get the meaning.” Not only was it a phenomenal idea that I never would have had, the writing was perfect as it was—I didn’t change a thing. It’s very freeing to know that I am not responsible for every word we write or for every topic idea. It feels like my birthday every time I receive an email or text with the beginnings of a blog post—with that pressure off I am free to tweak the idea and do something creative with it and that kind of makes me want to do a cartwheel. If I was the athletic type, that is.
Someone to share success so it doesn’t sound like bragging. When the number of page views on the blog increases, or when we get complimentary comments posted, or when there is suddenly a “buzz” about the blog, it’s amazing to have someone to turn to and go “Squee!” Not only won’t your collaborator think you’re egotistical, but they will genuinely understand and take pride in tiny little achievements (“We got two ‘likes!’”) that other people, no matter how much they love you, are not really all that interested in.
I suppose this might sound like a blog entry that belongs on Two Chunky Girls rather than My Accidental Muse, but really, this is where it belongs. I highly recommend partnering with another writer, artist, entrepreneur, or simply a friend on your next project. Not only will the experience mostly like result in a successful (and fun!) “masterpiece” but it will probably change the way you work individually from that point forward.
Or there will be a huge catastrophe and hilarity will ensue.
Either way, you win.