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Christa: Collaboration–not the creative spark I expected

In my last post here, I talked a little about a source I’ve worked with before. In my personal blog, I’ve talked a little more about him. The reason I haven’t posted much in either place is, in fact, that source.

In the last few months, I’ve been working on more articles with him. A friendship has developed, and along with it, the beginnings of what we both think will be a strong long-term collaborative relationship. I get his ideas, the kind of information he’s trying to impart to our audience. He gets the way I work, my values as a writer. He has talked me down from creative panic (over an unwieldy and unfocused article that simply needed a little direction) and backed up my instinct (to use a source’s information for sake of balance even if it challenged his relationship with his peers).

I am amazed that this has even happened. At the start of my career, one of my dreams was to find a collaborator. I remember talking about it on and off with various people with whom I seemed to hit it off, but nothing ever came to pass. Wrong time, wrong people, I guess. Ironically, although I have always gotten along great with this particular source, I never thought of him as a potential collaborator… until this past spring, when he mentioned the possibility of working together on a book.

So? Good news, right? For the most part, yes. And at the same time, not such good news for my fiction. Developing this relationship, trying to discern the next stage in my career, has taken up huge amounts of emotional energy. It’s all tremendously positive, so I don’t mind. Yet it’s left me with little interest in my short stories or novellas. I can’t think about characters when I have this new, real-life person I’m trying to get to know. I can’t think about plot when a new chapter in my own life is unfolding. I can’t think about setting when I may be moving.

Which creates another level of anxiety. Our house is still on the market. If we go and I freelance full-time, great—I can move forward with my plans. But if we stay and I’m home with small children once again—well, what does that mean? More time for fiction, perhaps.

But also putting off a collaboration I was really looking forward to. I am confident that my friend will remain, but anxious that the momentum will be lost, the timing that was last spring will not be the same this coming spring. One step at a time, my friend tells me, and I know he’s right. I feel such a strong desire not to give up what I’ve regained this year, and at the same time, maybe we do need another few months to get to know each other before we get going on new projects… especially one as big as a book.

Meanwhile, I’m not too stressed about the state of my fiction career. I miss it, but this relationship is rather intense (hey, it’s creative!) and I know it’s the “life experience” that counts toward producing strong fiction. So, until the next stage, I’m tentatively moving forward and going with the flow—the best way, I’ve found, to handle fiction… even when it isn’t happening quite the way I expected.

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4 Comments Post a comment
  1. Cathy #

    it sounds like you’ve already made the decision you consider here to me, christa! good luck, and the fiction will be there wen you’ve finished this project. as evidence of the fact, mine is now after dealing with much else for a few years. enjoy the collaboration!

    August 4, 2008
  2. Interesting situation, Christa. Do you have a deadline in mind for relo? As in, if you don’t sell the house by X date you’re going ahead with Plan B?

    I’m especially interested in the process of creative collaboration (a novel?). I’d love to hear more down the line about how the shared creative energy flows, and how the process differs from working solo in various ways–positive and negative.

    August 4, 2008
  3. Thanks, Cathy. I hope it isn’t years before I pick up fiction again. I’m still interested, still think about the stories. I just don’t have the energy to pick them up – though just today I was thinking it will probably be something I need to bull through, sort of the opposite of writer’s block!

    Miranda, I think we’ll give it a few weeks past the start of the school year – October probably. Hate to yank Hamlet out of kindergarten once he starts to form bonds there. But we’ll keep an open mind.

    As for the collaboration, I think our biggest challenge will be our egos. 😉 I was inclined to get uppity with him when he was talking me down over that panic, and I wasn’t sure why, because he was so helpful. Later on I figured out that it was because he was talking to me in the terms I would’ve used on myself, once I calmed down! We are strikingly on the same wavelength, but I could see that causing problems too….

    August 4, 2008
  4. Christa,

    Interesting post. I find myself in a similar situation, though without the angst. I plan an article on the subject for my blog, but I’ll summarize here. I discovered my ability to write fiction within the past ten years, and it is a real high. At the same time, I am an essayist and an editor.

    I have not worked on my fiction in a long time. A few years back, I found nothing was coming. Absolutely nothing. But since that time, I have gotten more interesting contract gigs plus I started my blog, which features formal essays each week. I have reflected on the lack of fiction in my life and, between the good editing gigs with great people and my essay-writing. I am feeling very fulfilled. No doubt I am being creative. Work and creativity are starting the meld in the way I always hoped they would.

    As for fiction? I think we all think of it as the grail, but as long as you feel creative while writing, you are doing creative writing. Certainly my essays are creative and reach into the same places to find material as fiction does. So for you–and I suspect you’re probalby younger than me–you may think about where the passion really lies, and consider whether it’s the status that come with fiction that appeals, your passion for it, and are do you actually feel as passionate about the work you are doing.

    I have always wanted a collaborator. To find one with whom you work so well is great, and stimulating. Getting to know this person is as profound an experience as any writing project.

    None of this means you will never do fiction, but I recommend spending some time with this and seeing where it takes you. Fiction will always be there. Writing is probably the only art you can start and continue late in life. There is time! I didn’t write my first short story until I was 41!

    Ride on the wind. See where it takes you.

    October 18, 2008

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