It can be difficult to tell if your ego is damaging your writing. It takes a lot of self-awareness, and I’m going to admit that I’ve struggled with this in the past. A writing collaboration can often seem like a lot of extra work. Some people fear the idea of managing another person (or people).
If they are done correctly, a writing collaboration is a great idea, and it can really help your writing and your career. I know I might have some difficulty convincing you all though – so let me take you through my thinking.
Ego will get in your way
A lot of writers have a single defining trait – they are convinced that they are the Next Big Thing. They believe that the project they are working on will be the Next Big Thing. Everything points to an inevitability that cannot be denied. Some writers have smaller targets, but they still believe steadfastly in the writing they are doing.
To write is to feed the ego. The stories on screen or stage, or in the book you’ve just read, don’t do it for you. So instead you have to create your own. Your story. Even if you don’t think it’s going to be The Next Big Thing, you still want to tell everyone something.
Being completely consumed like this is great, for a while. After a few stories, it’s easy to become completely blind to anything going on in the outside world. That can include opinion, trends or new opportunities. The more that you work alone, the more difficult it is to start thinking about starting a collaboration
A writing collaboration can be tricky
Collaborations take a lot of effort. This is because your own opinion is no longer going to go unchallenged. You’re going to have to work with other people writing sometimes contradictory stuff. This will mean you’re going to have to come to a compromise, another think that is difficult for writers to achieve.
Egos are going to be hurt, there’s no two ways about it. Not every idea will be taken forward, and not every great solution will be picked. Two minds are better than one at getting around problems, but it means that every now and then you’re going to be thinking in opposite directions.
Start a writing collaboration
Before you enter into a collaboration, especially if it’s with someone that you haven’t worked with before, make sure you set out the terms of reference. This might seem like a bureaucratic and boring thing to do (I make no apology, I’m a civil servant) but it’s important.
Even friends can descend into full on warfare over a misplaced comment or two. For people unused to each other’s personalities, a simple comment can bring the project to an end. So make sure that you have discussed how to raise problems and worries. It shouldn’t be left for one party to have to interpret a sly comment on social media. If you think you might need a mediator, get one.
Once you have worked together once or twice, you’ll be able to get rid of the terms. Or you’ll know each other so well that you won’t care if someone says something silly in an email.
Next week I’m going to explore this a little more, and give some tips on how to behave once you have someone to write with.
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