Let’s face it, collaboration is one of those words that can leave a bad taste in one’s mouth. Who hasn’t had the experience, in secondary school or college, or even at work, of being given a group project to do? Inevitably, there will be the same group dynamics: the Laid-Back Slacker, who just wants to let everyone else do the work; the Overachiever, who is guaranteed to get the project done; the Whatever person who happily takes the path of least resistance; and likely a mélange of other people who show up because they are forced to. Note that most people in collaborative concoction can think of about ten thousand other places they’d rather be, and will only contribute when pressed to.
To be honest, this is what comes to my mind when I think about collaborating on a writing project. I admit it: I’m a one-woman show with writing, at least with my bread-and-butter writing of nonfiction for kids. I can easily get frustrated or impatient with the collaborative process, because I just want to do it myself and have control over the outcome. I was always the Overachiever group member, and it sort of permeates your attitude after a while, once you get over being pissed at all the people you have to pick up the slack for. If it was my grade or performance review at stake, then I might as well make damn sure it was a good one. And simply put, it’s a lot easier to get something done on your own than by committee, even if it does negate the whole point of a collaborative project.
But with the advent of 2016, my colleague Tedrowe and I embarked upon a collaborative writing project that is, in fact, far more purely collaborative than anything we’ve done before. And the dynamics here are very different, since Tedrowe is certainly not a Slacker or a Whatever person, and in fact, asks quite a bit more of me than I am accustomed to putting into my writing, which has ejected me from the comfort zone of my Overachiever role. I can’t wrestle the project away from him, nor would I, but wow…the temptation persists.
So…what has this new collaborative effort taught me about this kind of writing? And about the writing relationship between Tedrowe and I? Are we managing to still speak civilly to each other after a stint of writing? Or snarling and circling each other via Skype, teeth bared, fighting over every word? And is there value in collaboration, for any of us, or is it just a necessary evil?