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.
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.
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.
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.
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.