The Language of Collaboration
By all accounts, this was a pretty great weekend for me. My best friend from college came to visit me. I had a brief chance encounter with my all-time favorite TV writer (I’ll let my fans speculate about who that is). But the best part may have come late Sunday night, sitting alone in my apartment, when I sent a draft of my new play to a young playwright friend of mine.
There’s no feeling that compares to finishing a good piece of writing (or, more often, one that you delusionally think is good in the moment). But sending it out, even to one person, is another thing altogether. The combination of excitement and fear over having new eyes look at something only you’ve seen is exhilarating. As I’ve grown, I’ve learned to genuinely look forward to criticism from friends and colleagues (and no, I’m not lying about that, although I did for several years before I became as mature as I was claiming to be).
I’ve finally done this enough that I have working relationships with my collaborators. This friend has read and critiqued my writing before. He’s helped me develop a great play, and he’s seen garbage that was clearly going nowhere. He knows my voice, and all of my quirks as a writer. He knows the difference between me making a mistake and me intentionally breaking a rule. He knows what my third drafts look like, and will have a general idea of what the script could look like by draft six.
We’re reaching a point where talking to this guy about one of our scripts is almost as fun as writing itself. Our styles aren’t particularly similar, but we’ve developed a language of collaboration that can make both of us better. And it gets easier every time. I sent him this script much earlier than I usually would, and I know that trust will result in the script improving faster than previous ones have.
This is the kind of thing that really makes me look forward to the rest of my life. These collaborative relationships that develop as you repeatedly exchange work are incredible. I know that the ones I have will only get better (provided neither of us stops writing), and that with eight billion people on Earth, there will always be new ones to form.
It’s common knowledge that all writing is worthwhile, regardless of the outcome, because it makes you better. I’d add to that, saying that every attempted project, even failed ones, can strengthen relationships with partners that you trust. And that might improve the next script more than anything you can do on your own.