If you read the first installment of my post on collaboration, perhaps you are waiting with bated breath (or perhaps not) to find out how this new iteration of the collaborative process has been working between my colleague Tedrowe and I. The short answer is, we are doing well with it, despite my experience with collaboration as being something to be endured, not embraced. We have had a few moments of needing to find our rhythm for working together, for the subtle process of putting thoughts into words in a way that we both agree upon, but the collaboration is growing richer and more fruitful with every session of writing.
It has made me think about collaboration in a new light. As I said in the first installment of this post, I have always disliked collaboration because I had no control over the outcome, and often felt taken advantage of in the process. I have come to realize that writing collaboratively with Tedrowe is not simply about creativity and ideas. Oliver Wendell Holmes famously said of collaboration, “Many ideas grow better when transplanted into another mind than the one where they sprang up,” which is often true, but I feel that there is more to the process than simply creating a satisfying product through some agricultural alchemy of soil and nutrients. It should be a satisfying process as well. In fact, I would say that the process itself has sometimes been more enriching than the product, the writing, we are creating.
There are three things involved in a successful collaboration: balance, listening deeply, and an appreciation of each other’s strengths. Balance involves the delicate play between one voice and the other, one perspective and the other, one’s choice of words and phrases as opposed to the other’s. Listening deeply means paying attention to what we each bring to the writing project, giving it equal value always, and the importance of excellent communication in that give and take of listening and speaking. And of course, the exciting aspect of collaboration is appreciating, or even being captivated by, the other person’s strengths, by how they take an idea in a new direction or evoke a certain feeling or nuance through their choice of words, in a way unthought-of before. It is the beating heart of collaboration, else either one of us would be capable of writing this project independently.
Basically, when everything is considered, isn’t a collaboration really about relationship more than the ultimate product? Obviously we care about the end result of collaboration, otherwise we probably would not have embarked upon it to begin with. But the relationship of those who are collaborating—as evidenced in the process—is just as important in the long run as what eventually comes from that process, and perhaps more so. Those collaborative experiences of our student days are often frustrating because of the abuse of relationships, by those who care only about the product created with minimum effort on their part, and not the process. Appreciating and being captivated by those whom we collaborate with is a positive relationship, and the ultimate reward in choosing to work together. Let’s be honest: the end result might be pretty terrible, but if the process is fulfilling, then it’s not a loss. By honoring the relationship at play in collaboration, we actually achieve more than the end product.
Tedrowe and I began this project collaboratively because we both deeply felt the vital nature of what we are trying to convey. But it is that actual collaborative process, as well as the product, that has turned out to be the most satisfying part. Collaboration is no longer a necessary evil. It is a gift.