To Collaborate or Not?

Collaborating with others on an endeavor is no easy matter. People have diverse personalities, work styles, and learning styles. You may say, “I prefer to work alone,” or “Collaborating isn’t for me.” Granted, it’s tricky. It’s risky. It’s complicated. It’s intense. It’s also exciting and rewarding. My past collaborative experiences have been in team teaching and theatre production. I’m currently working with an associate on a book.

My first experience was team teaching in a public school. My partners and I wrote units of study combining historical events, literature, music, the arts, and science. We explored the layers of an event such as WWII to give students a deeper understanding of man and the society of the time. The goal was to show how events influence, mirror, and direct society, that people and events don’t exist in a vacuum.

We worked with approximately 60 students in large and small groups. We added media, guest speakers, projects, performance, music, student work, hands on activities. We had flexible space – movable walls, portable screens, and furniture.


"Patrol - First Snow by Edward Reep, WWII Combat Artist

“Patrol – First Snow” by Edward Reep, WWII Combat Artist


Second was working in theatre as an actor, director, and teacher. Mounting a play is a collaborative effort. From casting, to directing, to rehearsing, to acting, to staging, to tech, to box-office, to publicity. When the production is a musical, add the vocal director  and a large cast plus the orchestra director and orchestra. Mounting a play or musical starts by working in small groups or scenes. These groups are slowly combined to build a complete whole.

As an actor, you rehearse in small and large groups, depending on the play. You use each other’s energy, depend on each other to work for the good of the whole. As a director, you depend on the actors, tech, wardrobe, make-up, and stage crew to do their jobs as rehearsed. When the curtain opens, it’s out of your hands. As a teacher, you coach, guide, and challenge young people to discover.


Scene from "Our Town" by Thornton Wilder

Scene from “Our Town” by Thornton Wilder (photo courtesy of internet)


Last is a current endeavor working with an associate to develop a book combining poetry and art. The process began with the selection of a basic theme. Once we decided on the theme, we each did a search of our own existing work.

What pieces of poetry were suitable? What pieces of art? We did some matching and tweaking of current pieces. We also created new work. Content grew, organization flowed, and the title arrived. Currently, we are moving toward publication. We work individually, via the internet, and in person.

Two Women at Table by Richard Diebenkom, 1963

Two Women at Table by Richard Diebenkom, 1963


When you think of all the potential complications, you may look at the above paragraphs and think, Are you kidding? Deal with all these personalities and variables? With a shake of the head, you may say, “Not for me.”

As with any endeavor, I’ve discovered a few tricks along the way when involved in a collaborative effort:

1. Come prepared.

2. Meet commitments.

3. Respect each other’s work and ideas.

4. Don’t compete with each other.

5. Respect each other’s process. People have different ways of arriving at a mutually desired result.

6. Negotiate when visions differ.

7. Compliment.

8. Listen.

9. Be flexible and stay focused. Discoveries may be made. Plans can change. People are human. Life can get in the way.

10. Recognize that during the creative process, stress and tensions may develop. Remember nos. 3 & 5.


There’s great reward gleaned from creating and completing a joint project. Creativity builds on creativity. Ideas flow. There’s discovery. There’s learning. There’s excitement. And, quite frankly, some days you’ll be more brilliant than others. C’est la vie. But when you see a student’s Aha! moment, or mount a play that moves an audience to laughter or tears, or hold that completed book in hand, all has been worth it. And along the way, you’ve built special memories and relationships. Worth the journey.


"Cellular Memory"

“Cellular Memory”

About cmwriter

I'm a writer ... of fiction, nonfiction, and poetry. I blog about writing, short stories, poetry, books, plays, and thoughts on life. Love reading and travel and being with friends!
This entry was posted in Authors, Books, Creativity, Finding Ideas: The Creative Process, Inspiration, poetry, Reading, Writing and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

7 Responses to To Collaborate or Not?

  1. Very thoughtful and I like your key points as these need to be remembered. I did a lot of directing of plays in school and that certainly needed teamwork. I also job shared a head of department teaching post. We were both lucky as not competitive over classes and our styles were similar. It was only one senior manager who tried to divide us! But we always wrote notes for each other so his’lies’ were found out!

    • cmwriter says:

      Glad your collaborative efforts were positive. Unfortunately, there may be people who aren’t “with the program.” Seems you knew how to handle the senior manager. Thanks for sharing and glad you stopped by.

  2. Love the way you write and the way you teach!

  3. Very true points!! Best of luck for your book, it sounds great☺

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s