The nature of creation is often a solitary thing. A writer locks themself up in a little room somewhere quiet enough for thought and types away at their story. An artist works to bring to life the vision that is haunting their imagination. But once the creation is complete, more often than not, the creator then turns to present this work to the rest of the world for the fulfillment of sharing something that had once been nothing. And during that moment in time, the creator, creation and the world come together as one.
For most of my life, that’s how I thought it all worked. I’m a quite and personal type, shy to show my unfinished work to anyone but myself. The thought of collaborating with someone else on a creative project scared me. Afterall, all those group projects in school taught me that if you wanted quality work, you had to shoulder the whole job for yourself or nothing would ever get done.
Well… not always.
It was a number of years ago that I met my artistic partner in crime. We have been best friends ever since. This year, our online comic, Wayrift, will be turning seven years old. We have worked together on this project, through thick and thin… and kept a consistent update schedule of three pages a week.
For my characters and fictional world, there could be no better means of development than the interactive writing that I’ve done with her over the years. There is absolutely no way I could have fleshed out any of my stories half as much as I have without her help. I know that if I’m at a loss or struggling with a character or plot, all I have to do is sit down and brainstorm with her and we can figure something out. There is rarely ever something that I release publicly that she doesn’t get to see first for thoughts, input and proofing.
So why has our collaborated project lasted so long? Why has it worked so well? What are traits to look for in someone if you were to think about choosing a creative partner of your own?
We balance each other out.
Where I’m a very character driven writer, she is a very plot driven writer. I have trouble thinking up the plots and all the intricate plans that go into making an on-the-fly story work. She’s good at randomly switching gears even when my characters pull something she’s not expecting during our RPing sessions.
On the other hand, I help her to keep a perspective on the characters… their emotions… the way the plot effects them on an individual basis. Through my feedback we mesh together a series of stories that we hope are fun for everyone else to read in our weekly webcomic.
It’s important to choose someone that balances out your artistic weaknesses. Where you might stumble, someone else might excel. And in bringing your talents together, it makes a stronger whole.
We care about each other’s creations as if they are our own.
This is such an important thing with any creative partnership. Absolutely nothing in our collaboration comes before taking care of each other. Sometimes, we take a moment to touch bases with each other when our writing might overlap something in the other writer’s world. It’s not odd to hear, “Okay, I’m messing up your world now, aren’t I?” Usually, that’s not the case. But the idea behind it is that we think about each other’s feelings and value each other’s creations enough to stop and ask.
A good creative partner won’t see their own characters, worlds or work as a priority over yours. The collaboration is something that both creators should benefit from… things should be equal across the board. If one side becomes too much of the focus and the other creator gets little say in things, you no longer have a real partnership.
We have similar values and goals.
This is another aspect that is so very important. Though we don’t always agree on everything, usually we agree in the big, important things. We have a similar mindset about moral values. Our goals in creating our works are also very much the same. Neither of us are here to make money or to become popular… we do what we do because we love it and we enjoy creating our works to share with other people.
Be sure that you pick a creative partner you know and trust. They should be someone that has similar values in life overall… because there’s no faster way for a project to fold than when one is stepping over the moral line of the other.
Also, make sure that your partner has a similar goal in mind for the project. If they’re just in it for money and you’re there to create for the love of creating, chances are, your definition of a successful project will differ from theirs. And if you don’t meet their goal, they may leave the project high and dry.
Choosing the right creative partner is the most important key in making a successful collaboration project. Be sure that you pick someone you can trust and get along with for the long run, not just because you think they would be fun to work with. Choose someone who cares just as much about your work as their own and who has talents that compliment your skill set.
I’ve found few things as rewarding as the give-and-take inspiration that comes from working with a like-minded creative partner. I hope some of these suggestions will help you in choosing your own partner if you’ve been considering a collaboration project.