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Five tips for writing in a literary collaboration
by Bénédicte Rousseau
As a writer, I believe that the quality of my work is directly linked to my ability to engage entirely with the project I am working on. This is a challenging process, one of rawness and authenticity, that requires dancing with the unknown, and each writer has to find their own way to handle it. For that reason, writing in a literary collaboration is demanding, maybe even excruciating at times. It can nonetheless become an exquisite experience of friendship and growth — if you learn to navigate this collaboration like a pro.
TIP #1: Create an alliance
When co-writing a novel, the alliance is an intentionally and consciously shaped partnership that is focused on co-creation. This implies becoming allies in both the doing and the beingwithin the framework of this process of co-creation and understanding that successful partnerships are dynamic and change over time. An alliance is more than a formal agreement or a set of rules. It is a partnership container that integrates the agreed intention (co-writing a novel), the complexity of human beings and interactions (with their full range of emotions), the changeability of circumstances, and principles of evolution and closure. The stronger the alliance, the more efficient your collaboration.
TIP #2: Practice conversation
This one might seem obvious, but it is not. Conversation is not just talking — it is an art form. Moreover, the first level of conversation one should have is with oneself. The truth is that we often are in conflict with different parts of ourselves. In other words, how are you going to get along with your writing partner if you cannot get along with yourself? Human beings often interact with others based on assumptions of what others are feeling, thinking, and wanting. This is part of human nature. Question your assumptions of your writing partner and of your collaboration. Learn to host yourself and to be in conversations that matter, i.e. conversations that foster the process of literary co-creation.
TIP #3: Deal with conflicts
Relationships are challenging; they involve ups and downs. A literary collaboration is no exception to the rule. Of course, conflicts and moments of chaos can hurt and be destructive. However, the beauty and truth of them is that they bear seeds for individual and collective growth, and they are an opportunity for speaking what really matters from a literary and/or collaborative point of view, in the process reinforcing the alliance. Learn to see conflicts as opportunities. This will improve the quality of your novel and also increase your personal well-being.
TIP #4: Be flexible
Life does not happen to you, it happens for you, said Jim Carrey in one of his famous speeches. I believe that is true. Life is in constant movement and happens for you when you go with the flow. This does not mean being passive. On the contrary, it means actively adapting to permanently evolving circumstances and inner changes. Both you and your writing partner are going to change during your collaboration. Therefore, you have to be willing to adjust your alliance whenever appropriate and to build on each other’s ideas, even when it takes you to uncomfortable or uncharted territory.
TIP #5: Nurture kindness
We may be writers, but we are more fundamentally human beings — I should hope so, anyway. What is there at end of the day but the love that we have given and received? The world does not need another novel or literary genius. The world needs kindness. Writing is a work of emotional nakedness and humbleness in front of the vastness and mystery of existence. Accept being a tool for the sacred to be expressed. Shift your attention to the story that wants to be told at this moment. If you are going to dive deep, kindness and friendship towards yourself and your writing partner are essential. In any case, this partnership will take you where you need to go. And now find yourself a writing collaboration and enjoy the ride! Because it is all about enjoying oneself, isn’t it?
Bénédicte Rousseau is the co-author of the new book, Shaman Express (May 2018). She has a Master’s degree in philosophy. After an unfulfilling corporate career, she quit her job and began traveling the world. She now is a student of the Foundation of Shamanic Studies, and is an active writer and explorer of diverse realities.
For more information, visit www.benedicterousseau.com and connect with her on Facebook and Instagram at @benedicterousseauauthore and on twitter at @BenedicteRouss
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