My husband, Dan, who blogs over at Toucanic.net  posted these reflections on collaboration yesterday. Creativity is often thought of as a singular affair; images of melancholic artists gnawing dry bread crusts in musty garrets, huddled around pots of tea  come to mind. But a much more realistic view is communities of people, encouraging each other to hone and share the unique gifts they embody.

Goodness is amplified in community. The energy created doesn't only feed you, but like the five loaves, it is transformed into a feast for a multitude. With baskets left over. So thanks to my husband, who continues to spur me on to think and write creatively. Enjoy!
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Collaboration
Dan Schmidt
My cardiovascular exercise of choice is cycling: it’s exhilarating (especially on Pennsylvania hills with shoulder-less roads), low impact and offers great scenery (in 15 minutes I can be next to a burbling river: perfect). Most days, I ride alone; I do the distance, but take my time.

Couple days ago, a friend called: Want to ride this afternoon? Sure, I say, thinking I can probably keep up. We’ll go at your pace, he says (he’s in better shape and gracious). We start out, me in the lead. All of a sudden, I’m flying down hills, cranking up hills, way faster than usual. My friend is not pushing, not cajoling; he’s totally silent the whole time. We finish, chat a bit, then go our separate ways. Could I go this far this fast tomorrow?

I’m editing a book these days, working with more than a dozen writers. Some are experienced, some are new to the field. They send essays which I read, then I make comments and send the work back for rewrites. To a person, they seem grateful for the remarks, and what they’re producing keeps getting better. Because I’m such a great editor? Pshaw. I think it’s more likely that being part of a group is having this effect.

I’m also getting edited, as beta readers for a light mystery I’m finishing weigh in with their comments. Sitting on the other side of the desk is trickier; I’m not always sanguine when someone wants to correct my word choice, grammar or punctuation. And if they raise questions about a story arc or detail–that can be interesting.

But. I’m finding that these beta readers/editors are usually right. And even if they’re not, or if it’s a judgement call, I still learn something from their remarks. My manuscript is, without doubt, better for their participation in it.

As with cycling, I can write on my own, and manage to cover ground or fill a page. However, while writing has a lot of solitary in it, good writing is hardly ever a solo act. It’s tough to write by committee (try reading an instruction booklet, or a company’s policy manual, for evidence of what happens when a lot of voices shout into a single document), but it’s also nearly impossible to write well as ‘me one’, to quote a favorite Bahamian saying. If it’s progress I’m after–getting better at nearly anything–it’s people I need.



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