Being creative is more often than not a singular, personal experience. A lot of times us creative types like to hole ourselves in our rooms, shut the outside world out and refuse to see a single speck of daylight until we have something great to show for it. Most times we just sit around and stare at a wall all day until inspiration dropkicks us in the side of the head like a message from the creative Gods above. Other times nothing happens at all and we freak out (slightly) then try again the next day, hoping an idea or concept will grow and evolve into something worthwhile in the interim. But what I’ve learned during these times of creative slumps and inspirational need is that we don’t always have to go the solo route. We don’t always have to be so protective over our ideas and thoughts as if no one but us can understand them, and while sometimes it doesn’t seem like it, this industry is a fully collaborative effort between like-minded individuals who just want to make something great, but getting there is only half the problem.
When beginning to develop something new and exciting, it always starts the same: “What if this happened which then gives way to that?” “What if we combined a little bit of this and a whole lot of that?” “Wouldn’t it be cool if…” and the list goes on and on, my point being that a lot of creative ideas start in a very small, very quiet way, usually only exploding and expanding into something meaningful once more time, effort – and quite honestly – excitement get added into the mix. But sometimes that’s not enough. Sometimes you can’t wrap your head around a certain conundrum during your creative efforts or can’t find the right way to get your fledgling idea more than a few inches off the ground. Sometimes it seems better to scrap the idea as a whole rather than get someone else’s input or help, and then it’s back to the drawing board again, another day down without much forward progress to show for it. It’s here that I usually get stuck, where I chalk it up to having a bad idea or not being motivated enough, where literally anything else I can think of would be better than what I just tried to accomplish. It’s a frustrating and often times discouraging feeling, one that nobody in their right mind would like to repeat if they could help it. But there is a solution, one that seems more obvious than most that a whole lot of creative people refuse to acknowledge: the simple fact that two is always better than one.
Enter the collaborator, a person or group of people that you bring into your creative fold to either help with something in particular or to just give enough advice that’ll spark that last bit of flame inside of you. It’s a person that can help even the silliest or toughest of ideas grow into what they’re always meant to be, or a person that kick starts your creative drive to heights previously unimaginable. It’s your muse, someone who inspires you, who can call you out on a bad idea or point out what works best within a weak one even if they have no idea what your working on or could care less about doing the same with their lives. It’s that one, trusted voice that checks you, balances you, and most importantly, focuses you when you need it, when the burden of making something expressive and true to yourself is just out of reach.
Ranging from a friend that might have no clue as to what you’re doing to a family member that simply looks over your content with a fresh set of eyes to a full blown partner that you share every creative inkling with, collaboration comes in many shapes and sizes, ultimately hoping to serve one purpose and one purpose only: to make you, and if applicable them, into a better version of your creative selves. There’s no better feeling than working with someone who gets it, who can constructively on various levels help you become better than the sum of your own parts, who can fill in your weaknesses with their strengths and who can throw themselves into their work with the same amount of conviction and determination you reserve for yourself.
Working collectively is a touchstone of this industry from the inception of a project to the culmination of one, and is essential in making something great, regardless of what happens along the way. Sometimes everything works out for the best, and sometimes you wonder how any of this could have gotten so far from where you started, but either way, collaboration is a practice that makes sense. For me, it takes the edge off of being creative (in a good way), while acting as a springboard to bigger and better ideas that would not have otherwise popped up in my head had not another just as driven and just as imaginative person seen the flaws or strengths in what I’m trying to accomplish. Being able to turn to a writing partner, editing friend or musically inclined roommate for advice, help, or an honest critique about my work can do wonders for the creative spirit and honing of your craft, and when partnering up with someone to create something truly new and unique, I can think of no good reason why going it alone is the better option.
So the next time you think you’re marooned on a creative island with a bunch of great ideas bouncing around the inside of your head like the multi-ball round on a pinball machine, consider the thought that tagging in player two might make things a little bit easier, a little bit more worthwhile. Consider that just because the creativity flowing through you came from a place deep inside yourself doesn’t mean that you can’t share it with the world or with someone else, especially if it leads to making something bigger and better in the end.