Making Co-Creation Work

Last year, I wrote about the perils of coauthor projects. Of course, I keep getting involved in them, one of the latest ones being the Mage: the Ascension lovefest we’re doing called Project Paradigm. We stalled for a bit, until I remembered a couple tenets of doing co-creator projects:

First, Co-Creation is a Dance

…in that someone generally has to lead. That leading could change hands over and over, or be steadily one person’s role, but at some point one of you has to say “Okay, I’m going to do X this week, and you should do Y.” Or “Okay, one of us needs to just do Y this week, and I think you have a stronger sense of that.” Or even “Okay, I have a really good idea of how to do X, so I’m just going to write something and see how it goes.”

Directives shape our activities more than vague plans. Sometimes they’re not needed, if you already have a shape and direction that you’re actively going. But when you don’t, someone needs to lead.

Second, Write Without Consensus

You don’t have to wait for the other person or people to say “Cool, let’s try your idea” to write it up and give it form. You don’t need to talk about something, schedule a meeting, or whatever stalling tactic you use to avoid writing up a thing.

Many new creatives feel that writing something turns those words and ideas into a commitment that you have to hold to, and are hesitant to write before some group consensus is reached. That is pretty much the most classic way to fail at co-creator projects. Consensus is an iterative process, and you have to be constantly willing to risk it in order to make something good — after all, your consensus could be pointing to something less awesome than what you make by challenging it and doing experimental writing.

Once you’ve made something, bring it back in for a consensual check. Maybe it flows well. Maybe it doesn’t, in which case what you wrote help shine some more light on the project’s shape by defining some edges. (And maybe what you wrote will be useful for something else.)

That’s what happened with Dave’s post. He said that he had an idea based on my Resources blog post. I said “hey, just write it on your blog, and I’ll comment with my thoughts” (which I’ve done at this point). Leading and writing without consensus — it won’t cause a co-creative project to succeed, but not doing it will almost always cause one to crash and burn.

– Ryan


One Response to Making Co-Creation Work

  1. Jeff Cales says:

    Working with someone else can be very difficult. One of the l=biggest problems I find, is the attention and expectation of quality. My standards have been higher than my co-authors for as long as I’ve known him. I expect my finished products to meet or exceed current content in the same genre’s we’re producing work in.

    We’ve had our share of fall outs, but have often come together again. He’s smart, creative, but his execution is weak. So, I try to lift the work to the level I expect out of our work and deal with the fall out from him on the occasions there have been some,