We’ve all seen the bit: A school project that requires a team is assigned, a variety of things happen, but it ends up being one person who does the whole damn project. Nothing new, right? In fact, it’s such a well known and commonplace situation, that I’d bet a good portion of you reading this have been the poor fool left holding the bag at least once in your lives.
But if we all know this scenario so well, why does it still happen so often?
Now, don’t misinterpret that question as coming from a place of bitterness, because…
A) It was a rhetorical question, and…
B) I’ve had the privilege of collaborating with some insanely talented people (you know who you are) on some work I’m still proud of, and show it off whenever I get the chance.
Nevertheless, I have had other efforts end up in the junk pile at just about every stage a creative project goes through. From failing on paper, to being screwed over at the last minute, and much later. I haven’t let those thwarted efforts poison later collaborations because I’ve seen what success in those endeavors looks like, and it can be really extraordinary when all is said and done.
One thing I can throw out there to help you in future joint efforts is the importance of honest, unapologetic communication with the other person(s). Tell them exactly how you feel about what it is you’ll be working on, as well as what you expect of them, and vice versa. If one of you is unsure, or your heart isn’t in it, it’s best to say that right away, well before anyone puts their energy into any part of the project. It may be disappointing, but it’s much better to not start something at all, instead of after things are beginning to move.
Also, I want to clarify that I’m not talking about paid commission work here. If I hire you to do something artistic, that should be that. I’m paying you for your time and effort, giving you criteria, and once the work is complete, the transaction is at an end. No fuss, no muss. Granted, I have run into situations where I’ve been left hanging by people I’ve commissioned, even ones I’ve paid in advance. It’s a sobering moment when you realize that just because you’re paying someone, that does not guarantee they will follow through. But that’s a whole different problem.
In the end, just like anything in life, there are pros and cons to it, and in my opinion, one doesn’t out weigh the other when it comes to collaborating with other artists and creative types. Through some of these team-ups failing, I’ve learned how to approach such things, and through success, I’ve been able to see my contributed part add to a much greater whole. If you’ve never worked with someone creatively, go and give it a shot. Co-author a story with someone; learn how to format a comic script, and find an illustrator looking to try their hand at bringing it to life; find a musician who’s up to let you write some lyrics for a tune. Sure, it might fall flat on its ass, but it might also be better than either of you could do alone. You’ll never really know until you try.
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