The Pleasures of Collaboration

“The weather forecast had called for showers this morning, but thankfully, was  wrong, so Zann and I seized the moment to take advantage of this sunbreak amidst days of rain, buckets of it, cats and dogs.  Right now the sand is warm under my bare toes and a light breeze provides just enough cooling to sit comfortably, soaking up the sun like a turtle.”                        June 24, 2012

Dear Friends,
One of the great pleasures of writing The Pen & the Bell was collaborating with Brenda.  Since we finished P & B, I’ve embarked on another collaboration with an artist in Indianola, my friend Zann. I can’t remember now how I met Zann, but likely it was on the Indianola beach.  I’d head down to the beach with my journal for my morning walk and was always delighted to see Zann heading up the beach with her sketchbook, pants rolled up, a floppy sun hat in summer, bundled in fleece in winter. We’d walk & talk, and sometimes write & sketch or paint together.

I’m not sure when it occurred to us—I think it was Zann’s idea—that we could make our morning walks more intentional, not leave it up to chance; this way, we might share our beach reflections with others and reflect on our creative process, too.

Now we meet at the beach one morning each month with our sketchbooks & journals tucked under our arms.  We walk together out to the point, then settle onto a weathered beach log and sit in silence for 20 minutes, maybe more. We pick up our pen/brush when we’re ready, writing/sketching for another 30 minutes. Next, we share what we’ve each created, marveling at how frequently we each tune into the same thing: the roiling cumulonimbus clouds overhead, the great blue heron that tiptoes up to fish in the shallows. As we compare, we each make a few notes on what we noticed and how we chose to depict it: today, Zann’s painting of the sky is filled with swirling charcoal lines, while my words describe:

“Every type of cloud in the sky—a cloud chart full—from wispy cirrus to the billowing cumulonimbus hovering over Bainbridge Island.  I bet it’s raining there. A tapestry of clouds over Seattle, but blue sky overhead. Not much wind, but enough to keep the sailboats tacking back and forth across the rippled blue sea.”

Last time we met, we each confessed to feeling envy for the other’s art—and what it can do—that ours cannot.   You can show a progression of time, Zann points out, after I read my account.   But you can show the energy of the clouds billowing upward, I counter.   How many writers have said they write because they can’t paint? After our last exchange, Zann gave me some cool watercolor pencils to try out, so I won’t have any excuses.

We invite you to experience the pleasure of collaboration. You, too, can enjoy the synergy of two creative minds in dialogue with each other.  A good resource for this is Twyla Tharp’s book, The Creative Habit: Learn it and Use it for Life.  You can incorporate meditation, or just meet to write/paint and share your efforts with each other, then reflect on the creative process.  How are they similar? How are they different?  What do you learn about your own creative process from this? We hope you’ll post some of your reflections here!

Or write about a time in childhood when collaboration came easily, when you could dive into imaginary worlds with a friend and create for hours on end. Is there a way to regain some of that playfulness in your adult life?

Wishing you the fruits of all your collaborations,

4 thoughts on “The Pleasures of Collaboration

  1. Thanks for the great post! And now I know what Bainbridge Island is like! Collaboration is under-represented in discussions of writing–except for writer-editor relationships–but it has been wondrously helpful for me.

    • Great to hear from you, Lita! Yes, collaborations are definitely under-represented in discussions of writing–so glad you’ve found them helpful–can you share any of them with us?


  2. This weekend, I’ll be meeting with a small group of writers and a poet in Manhattan, to journal and write together, then share what we’ve written. We’ll also bring favorite quotes and poems to share. This kind of collaboration never fails to yield something I can expand on, a new creative avenue, or just a deepening understanding.
    Would love to try it in nature, as you do! Hmmm.

    • Wonderful to hear this, Linda. May your writing together this weekend bear good fruit for all of you. And I hope you WILL try it in nature sometime…