It’s no secret that we live in the age of collaboration. The internet has opened up a world of confusing opportunity - networks that exist outside of time and space, simply to bring like minded people together. How to use these networks, however can be trick-some. I’m not incredibly invested in these spaces, but I’ve still found ways of connecting remotely with creatives, even in my own city, and these connections have proven insightful.
But surely creation is a personal endeavour? How can collaboration be helpful whilst trying to develop your own style? If this is your outlook on creating, you may want to reconsider. Not that personal projects aren’t important, but not stepping beyond them can isolate you and shield you from exposure.
Most of what we see on the web is the result of co-creation. I live with an avid photographer, and as someone who takes photos all the time, it was a shock to realise how little I knew about my camera and how to use it. Some people will simply know more about your thing than you do.
When it comes to collabing with someone who does what you do, tensions can ride a little higher. A few years back, when I was an arrogant teenager, my editor put me in contact with a much older, more experienced writer who I was set to work under. It was bad. I disregarded most of what he told me, and stuck to my style, losing the job after about a year. I wasn’t ready for guidance or structure. Now, in hindsight I can see the mistake I made. I lacked the humility needed to do what was required of me.
Recently, being without a laptop, I began to miss the immediacy of being able to share my writing with others. I wanted company. Writing by hand in a diary, as intimate as it is, can grow tiring very quickly - so I made a plan to bring people together. Using Instagram I organised a meetup at a nearby park. The turnout, although small, was wonderful. We sat under a tree and wrote and painted and shared ideas, and I came away feeling inspired to create more, and meet more writers. Using the online platforms to create real-world experiences is very doable, and well worth the effort.
Collaboration, at any level, is important in today’s creative economy. To summarize:
Working as a team is a crucial skill that as a creative freelancer, you have to teach yourself. You can only learn through experience, and staring with fun, small projects can be quite exhilarating. Through collaborations with friends, I’ve helped organise a small exhibition, a film evening, and a writers meetup in the last year, and these efforts have been instrumental in learning how to make alongside others.
Collabs are always learning experiences. They teach you to be both humble and brave in your creativity. Whether it’s been songwriting or photography, in the past I was quite precious about my work, and found it difficult to take criticism. However, working with others has taught me to be curious, and to listen clearly to negative feedback.
Lastly, bringing others on board really broadens your network, exposing you to different and larger audiences on and off social media. Working with someone who compliments you can really highlight where exactly your talent lies. Seeing collabs between my favourite artists and producers is more exciting than seeing the work of one or the other as I know I’m about to be treated to the best of both worlds, or maybe something entirely new.
So take the time in the coming months to reach out to people whose work you admire, and find a way to connect and co-create. It takes a lot of courage, but it’s the kind of confidence you can grow into, given time. You might surprise yourself with what you’re capable of.
[PHOTOGRAPH taken by Raphael Blue]