Do you have a personal rule about collaborations, and if so, what is it?
Tamara: Don’t enter into it unless there’s at least one other person who knows what they’re doing and is extremely enthusiastic about it. It’s only that type of person who will stick around after the novelty wears off.
Ewen: I haven’t done all that many collaborations, and I’ve had mixed results. In my experience most creative people need at least some prodding to get things done, but people also sometimes just have other stuff going on in their lives that has to take precedence. As a result sometimes I have to do lots of stuff myself and harass my collaborators all the time (and I don’t really like bugging my friends that way), and other times I have to resign myself to letting something happen whenever the stars align. The results of collaboration can be amazing, but there’s a reason why my creative process is so solo-oriented.
Serdar: I’ve been a part of three different collaborative efforts, none of which resulted in a finished product but all of which were instructive.
Project One was me in my late teens, collaborating on a sci-fi novel with a friend who was also in his late teens. He had the ideas; I had the typing skills and the writing chops — or at least, that’s how it seemed to me to break down between us. Worse, I also seemed to be the only one with all the patience and drive, and it devolved into a situation where I would goad him to work on it and he would find more satisfaction in talking about the project than actually writing it. We parted ways for unrelated reasons, and as far as I know he hasn’t completed anything since either.
Project Two was me in my twenties with a friend, with him writing a first draft and me adding detail to it. We worked well together, but we didn’t have a clear idea of what we were working on or to what end, and the project fizzled when both of us got busy with our respective lives.
Project Three was originally to have been an animated production, to which I would have contributed some story work and technical assistance. That project also broke down under its own weight, but from that I gleaned a great deal about how to promote one’s own work effectively to a crowd of fellow enthusiasts without seeming pushy.
From everything I’ve seen, it helps in a collaboration to contribute in a way that is materially distinct from whoever else is involved. The talker/typist relationship (#1) gave way to one where we both wrote markedly different aspects of the story (#2) and finally one where we only had one real writer but everyone else was contributing in highly differentiated ways.
The one thing to come to terms with as quickly as possible is that the end result isn’t going to be any one person’s vision. That can be tough, because you might be used to signing your name to things which reflect your vision in a very specific way. It tends to only work best when you find someone that you don’t mind subordinating yourself to, and vice versa. How often does that happen?
Scott: I’ve only worked on two sort of collaborations. I’m starting to have the requirement of regular “face time”, where everyone involved sits down and works out details and get an idea of what’s needed before the next “face session”, and then use the remain time to work as a team. Said “face times” can be in person or networked, though.
I am also open to testing this idea out.