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« Because I am Clearly an Expert on Style | Main | Warm-up »
Wednesday
May182011

Sign Me Up for Alchemy

Fred Hicks asks:

What’s your take on the balance between the single cohesive vision of a sole creator vs. the alchemical value of collaboration? Where does each approach break down for you, and how do you think it should be addressed?

This is a tricky one, particularly because of how bound up in perspective and interpretation it is. I’m working on a novel right now. If I tell someone about it and incorporate a suggestion they make, am I still following a single vision? I’m also writing it over an extended period of time. When I finish the final chapter, my understanding of the story is going to be very different than when I started it, months before. In what sense is my vision cohesive?

It should be fairly obvious that I’m going to come down on the side of collaboration, because that’s how I see the world. If there’s more than one person involved in a project, there’s going to be some amount of collaboration. I see even projects that I work on “by myself” as collaborative; it’s only a question of degree. I don’t know what a non-collaborative process looks like. I suppose that if you locked yourself away and created something in isolation, in a very short period of time, without ever telling anyone else about it, then that would qualify.

Now, to really address Fred’s question I should talk about how it’s really a sliding scale, so I will. I believe that effective collaboration leads to more innovative results. The more you collaborate, the more creative the outcome. It’s also likely to take more time and effort. So the real balancing act is between how much time you have and how good you need the result to be.

Notice that I said effective collaboration. Many “collaborations” are really one or two people telling the others what to do, which is coordination at best. These sorts of projects are where you’re likely to run into problems of competing individual visions, which results in something neither cohesive nor alchemical. To effectively collaborate, the people involved have to develop a mutual understanding, fully participate in the process, seek inclusive solutions, and take shared responsibility. Doing these things is what takes both time and commitment. It’s also what creates that alchemical value that I believe so much in.




Update

Fitness: Biked 8.25 miles
Writing: 270 words, 265 average

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