Working Out Your Salvation as an Artist/Writer, Part II: Collaboration

Working Out Your Salvation as an Artist/Writer, Part II: Collaboration October 24, 2013

(Excerpted from the upcoming book, Little Gems: Better Notes on Story and Screenwriting” by Barbara R Nicolosi and Vicki Peterson)


There is probably no hell for authors in the next world –
they suffer so much from critics and publishers in this one.
C. N. Bovee

It’s ironic that, after isolation, one of the hardest things about being a professional writer is having to work with people. If you will experience any success at all, there is a point at which writing becomes a collaborative act. This means that you will have to submit your ideas and projects to others for their notes, feedback, edits and possibly their rejection.

Being a professional screenwriter means that you will work with many different types of people from every possible background and worldview. You will rarely have a say in the choosing of the people with whom you will work. Many times, you will have to collaborate with people who are not as clever or well educated as you, or profound or virtuous or knowledgeable about story and screenwriting.

Producers almost never know as much about screenwriting as writers do. And why should they? Their job has different requirements. It’s the writer’s job to be the story guru on a project. The writer has to find a way to communicate essential points first on the page and then in the room, in a way that can be heard, internalized and applied by everyone else.

Collaboration can become a stumbling block for writers when it leads to the following:
➢ Makes you overly competitive;
➢ Makes you jealous;
➢ Makes you find partners in envy or character assassination;
➢ Makes you inflate what you bring to the table;
➢ Makes you dwell on personality differences;
➢ Makes you hate some people;

When collaboration among creative people is good it’s like the antechamber of heaven. It’s exhilarating, affirming, exciting and full of the joy that comes with all those.

When a team of people isn’t working well, on the other hand, it is like wading through the fetid, steaming swamp of hell.

In the best and worst times, collaboration can still teach us to be more articulate. Writers need to learn to express essential points of story or art in a clear and compelling way. Collaboration can teach you to be simple and amiable, a grateful presence on the team who always comes in a room like a window opening to lovely, fresh air. Instead of being threatened, collaboration should lead us to discover and delight in the mysteries of talent and insight that are in each member of a team.

Our strategy for coping with the necessity of collaboration is to determine to always find a welcome by being a servant of all. Someone needs to be the one to make the coffee and clean up the dishes. Why not you? Again, in a short time, everyone knows everything, and everyone wants gracious people on their set. Studiously avoid breaking off into cliques. And never gossip about other members of the team. No, really. Whomever you are venting with is absolutely thinking, “Of course, she talks about me in this same way with other people.” It’s a bad rap to have. Chances are, you’re just not THAT good of a writer that people will want you and your destructive gossip anyway.

Be grateful. Be happy. Be kind. Seek to not give offense nor take offense. Be the kind of person you want all your colleagues to be.

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