As a creative person, I know that collaboration works. I'm well aware of how important it is to work in a collective to get certain kinds of work done. For me, that collective has only applied to theatre and music, or projects that already have a solid basis. It's not that I didn't think that projects could be written from inception to publication in community; I just didn't have a model for it. Writing was generally a solitary activity. I've had the chance to change my mind about that philosophy through some pretty disparate sources. Here's what I learned from each of them, as well as a change I made to my whole work style.
Avoiding Trainwrecks EP
I am proud of Side Effects. It was a really good first album and I am impressed with what we did on a a shoestring (think, $0 budget). However, I knew I wanted Avoiding Trainwrecks to be better and also different, reflective of the growth I've experienced over the last three years as well as all my new questions. I decided to give myself veto-only power instead of having the total creative control I had on Side Effects, and actively collaborated with my co-worker and friend, Kalen Willits (you can see his work here). While I'll be writing about this more after the EP is released, I know that working with Kalen has opened me up to incredible new musical directions. I had the freedom to write with the knowledge that he would be adding to the music and it opened doors I'd never considered. I turned the visual art direction over to Brett Wulfson of the Wolf Pack Creative Team, and I am blown away by the results and can't wait to show you guys more.
The Inklings and Bandersnatch
I’ve talked about it before, but if you are interested in collaboration, read Bandersnatch. The key difference is that I studied it (as well as the more academic version, The Company They Keep) for a full semester as well as the authors who inspired it. Not only did I fall in love with some of the other writers who hung out with C.S. Lewis and J.R.R. Tolkien, but I learned how well differences can make a person become more like themselves. It was fantastic to learn about collaboration through a case study while in the midst of working collaboratively. It also made the process far less terrifying.
Of course, the biggest thing I did collaboratively was work on Re:Place, a collaborative digital project I did with eight other writers. You can read my reflective post on it here, and see what I contributed here.
and on everything else...
I've started showing people my work much, much earlier in the process, and I've got a list of about four people who get to see stuff on a regular basis. These check-ins do two things: people know I'm working, so there's no more long-term procrastinating on projects I care about, and I don't get irritated with critiques. Now that I have people contributing opinions early on, there's not the feeling of "who killed my baby?" that sometimes comes with harsh criticism on almost-finished projects. That means letting other people speak into the work. I don't have to take their comments; I'm still in control of my writing (an idea very present in Bandersnatch) but now I have opinions and don't have to write into a void. It's made all the difference.