I’ve been thinking a lot about collaboration lately. I’ve been thinking about what makes it work, what makes it produce something both parties are pleased with, and what can make it fall apart. I wanted to make a comprehensive list of all the factors that go into a successful collaboration, but it really only comes down to one vital thing: Communication. A collaboration will die if both parties are not open with one another about their goals, their ideals, their limitations, and what they’re willing to compromise.
Compromise is another vital element of collaboration. Without it, one party becomes the “hired set of hands.” That works if you’re paying someone to bring your vision to life, but it isn’t a collaboration unless both parties have equal say in what they’re producing.
You cannot be afraid to express your feelings in a successful collaboration. You cannot take it personally when your partner doesn’t agree with your first-draft vision. My favorite example of this is when Garth told me the first twelve pages of script for Issue 3 absolutely sucked and I needed to redo the whole thing. I was upset at first, mostly at myself for “getting it wrong,” but I did not get angry at Garth for being my editor and telling me, in a manner that was a healthy critique, that the pages did not work and they needed major fixing. He was absolutely right, and because Garth communicated his concerns the Issue turned out much better for it.
Healthy communication not only forms new ideas out of first drafts, it sometimes defends original incarnations. Garth did not agree with every element of Star Power when we first began working together, and I had to defend some concepts that I thought worked very well. He was not keen on the name “Star Power” at first, but came around after we talked about it at length. He had other ideas for names that, while sounding pretty neat by themselves, didn’t fit my vision for Danica. In compromise, I told him we’d use those names for other concepts/characters in the story somewhere down the line. Dismissing your partner’s ideas completely will kill your collaboration.
Good communication is vital in a creative/business partnership, a marriage, a friendship, and everything in between. It can be hard work and difficult at times, but the willingness do that work will result in a healthy relationship of any sort.