Collaboration – it ain’t easy, but it is worth it!

So, here’s what’s going on….a brief (by my usual standard) post…

Liam Barrington-Bush and I are currently working on a joint post about Occupy. It came about from a chat we were having on Friday, where Liam said ‘Veena, you should blog about that…’ and then as the conversation carried on he said ‘Veena, let’s do a post together!’ Right on – intentional collaboration (we are constantly in states of unintentional collaboration, no?). Love it!

But you know, of course, collaboration isn’t always as easy as we might assume or want it to be – even with good friends and people who seem to share our world view. Often, when it comes to close collaboration we start to see differences and distinctions. Often, because it is people we are close to, the process feels more difficult than were we to do it with a stranger.

Writing together, in particular (but this might be overstating it – this might equally apply to most other forms of expressive collaboration), is tricky – because it centres around voice. We are connecting ourselves with statements that we are putting out to the world. We are entering the realm of shared responsibility. It is one thing to write a sentence and own it and put it out there. It is another to co-create a sentence, own it and put it out there.

It is a process/dynamic of connecting our distinct voices to create a unique third voice. Sometimes it is easy to forget how challenging this can be. I suspect we both thought our ideas are so similar there isn’t much in writing jointly. Ahh, ideas might be similar, but voices are unique – tone, points of reference, ways of framing, emphasis etc. A union of voices is a balancing act. It involves give and take; it is a constant pushing foward and pulling back.

This process is reminding me of my work with the School of Movement Medicine. In one exercise you move across the room in pairs seeking to connect with the other person and what is alive in them, while retaining your own rhythm. Writing together is an attempt to capture that movement – to capture the movement that embodies two together and the dynamic created between them. 

Collaborating is a bit scary. We were working on it yesterday and I found myself regularly asking – would I feel comfortable being associated with these words, with this way of making the point? Wouldn’t I add this, this, and this? What aspects of my truth are essential to embed into what we are saying together? And how best to embed them – how to keep my distinct rhythm and movement while joining in with someone else’s – and also keeping open their freedom to do the same? I definitely feel vulnerable to losing my truth, to mis-representing myself. 

Co-creation, collaboration – as Liam tweeted on Sunday – ‘it ain’t easy, but few worthwhile things are.’  

It ain’t easy, and I do have moments of feeling vulnerable. But I’m enjoying the dance we’re in, trying to think and write together. In this process I’m connecting equally with my strength, as well a my vulnerability. I’m relishing in the delicate, empowering journey of going deeper into myself in order to connect with another truthfully and – importantly –  create with them a shared voice that speaks to the world from a place of integrity. 



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2 Responses to Collaboration – it ain’t easy, but it is worth it!

  1. Tony Hall says:

    Hi, I read a lot, many ideas bouncing off texts, indirectly and directly. What do I make of these ideas? If I was a ‘writer’ I’d probably be working out how to distill these various perceptions into a view that I can re-present to the world. This practice of reading, writing, and re-presenting to the world may begin to give me a sense of my unique voice. Once I have a sense that I have ‘found’ my voice I might then ask myself about the reader. The reader may sit in front of a screen, reacting, responding in silence. The reader may later have a serendipitous conversation with vague memories of what they have read. But the words eventually fade. Representing your conversation(s) with Liam could be fascinating way of sharing your experiences with a reader. Maybe an imagined ‘reader’ could be part of your conversations. And maybe you can consider ways of including the reader as a ‘third voice’ in the conversation. Good conversations (talking) can generate a feeling of warmth, wellbeing and social involvement. These ‘represented conversations’ could become part of an ongoing (learning) project, especially with people (readers) who want to be involved but are not writers (like teachers). Eventually people involved in the (talking) conversations may gain the confidence to also become writers, thereby contributing to an ongoing sense of sharing and making something meaningful together.

  2. clayforsberg says:

    Veena, I wish you and Liam luck on your collaboration. Joint writing efforts are a different animal in themselves. To attempt to join voices is no easy task. More times than not, it becomes a writer and an editor.The last couple years the collaboration movement has become very vogue. I don’t know if it’s due to the distaste for the evolution of big business and their hierarchical structures or the growing world influence of the Millennials and their cooperative rather than competitive tendencies. The Occupy Movement encompasses both.The romanticism of collaboration has to do with, in theory – "everyone has a voice, everyone’s equal." But how feasible in reality is it.I don’t believe a 100% collaborative effort is doable. I’m not saying the only other option is the corporate status quo. But somewhere in the process the flat horizon will need a few hills. Even Occupy has come to realize this, much to the dismay of some of the purists. This compromise in structure is inevitable if anything is to get done. I wrote a post last Spring on the implementation of collaboration and how to set up a hybrid organization. It may be worth a read: "Collaboration 2.0 … crossing the collaboration!" Also there’s a new book that just hit the streets put out by TIME on the Occupy Movement. It’s worth the download.

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