Franz Kafka once suggested that writing is utter solitude, the descent into the cold abyss of oneself.
Although it sounds a bit creepy, I get it.
As a mother to four kids, I relish hours alone with clicking fingers and thoughts. It’s just me and my laptop, or a pen and a piece of paper, and I’m transported into a different time, place, or life. “How do I know what I think until I see what I say?” noted the great E. M. Forster.
Solitude is a treasured gift in my writing life.
But as I’ve delved into my career, the importance and benefits of collaborative writing have become undeniable. I’ve realized, with time, that my writing can get blurry. My business plan can be smudged. Enter collaborative writing.
When I say collaborative writing, I mean sharing my work with others, helping fellow writers along the way, and receiving criticism and suggestions regarding my work. I need editors, proofreaders, and cheerleaders. I need instruction, shared experience, correction.
Col·lab·o·ra·tion: The action of working with someone to produce or create something.
Letting people into my solitary writing life has been a great experience. I create more. I create better. How? In what ways?
I’m glad you asked.
5 benefits of collaborative writing:
1. Collaboration strengthens writing skills
After I committed to writing my personal story about having a child with Down syndrome in the former Soviet Union, I looked into taking a writing class. I was able to connect with a great group. We read and discuss memoir, submit pages, and critique each other’s work. This collaboration with other writers has strengthened my writing muscles and encouraged me greatly. Plus, I made writer friends!
2. Collaboration helps keep the green monster at bay
Let’s face it. Many writers struggle with jealousy. I surely do.
When I collaborate with others, whether I’m reading or editing someone’s work, promoting Facebook fan pages, or having a friend guest post on my blog, it’s more difficult to for me to be jealous. Instead of racing for the win, I become a fellow sojourner. If you find yourself repeatedly jealous over another writer’s success, I suggest you attempt to collaborate with him/her.
3. Collaboration builds platform
Nine times out of ten, when I’ve helped another writer, he or she ended up helping me. “Like” someone’s post, share a fan page, host a blog parade. People will notice your generosity. And maybe next time they will promote you.
4. Collaboration pushes deadlines
Whether you are submitting new pages to a group, working with an editor on a freelance project, or are in the final stages of line editing with your publishing house, deadlines push you. In order to write more, often and better, collaborate with others. You’ll be forced to meet deadlines, which, in turn, will compel you to write more.
5. Collaboration makes me an upstanding literary citizen
I’m convinced that as writers, we need to contribute to the literary society to which we belong. Read. Buy books. Share articles. Subscribe to magazines. And I would add: collaborate with other authors.
Collaboration is a win for all involved.
George Orwell said that good writing is like a windowpane. I’m convinced that in order to write well, I need others around me holding the Windex bottle—spraying and wiping my purpose, productivity, and prose clean.
Photo by Kelly Parker McPherson. Creative Commons license via Flickr. This post is a modified reprint of an article which first ran at Wordserve Water Cooler, written by Gillian Marchenko, author of Sun Shine Down (T.S. Poetry Press).