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Who Should Not Collaborate?

While the synergy of collaboration can lead to unparalleled creative achievements, it’s equally important to recognize when solo work might be the better path for you. Understanding that your own work style, needs, and goals aren’t aligned with collaboration is not a sign of failure or limitation, but a profound act of self-awareness that can lead to greater satisfaction and productivity in your creative endeavors.

Self-Awareness is Key

Choosing to work alone does not mean you’re incapable of collaboration or lack the necessary skills. Rather, it reflects a deep understanding of your creative process and how you produce your best work. Some individuals thrive in the solitude of their thoughts, finding that their most profound ideas come to them in moments of quiet reflection, unaided by the input or influence of others.

Solo Work Can Lead to Better Creative Output

For those who need total creative control to bring their vision to life, solo work allows for an undiluted expression of their ideas. It ensures that every aspect of the project aligns with their original concept, without the need to compromise or merge their vision with someone else’s. This can lead to work that is uniquely theirs, offering something to the world that only they could create.

The Power of Independent Decision-Making

Solo creators have the freedom to make swift decisions without the need to consult or seek consensus from a partner. This autonomy can speed up the creative process and allow for a more direct line from inspiration to execution. It’s an empowering way to work, with every success and setback offering direct feedback and learning opportunities that fuel personal and professional growth.

Working with hundreds of writers over the past decade has allowed us to see patterns in our collaborators’ behavior — good and bad — and to recognize when someone is more suited to being a solo author than a collaborator. 

You probably shouldn’t collaborate if:
You Need Total Creative Control Over Your Projects

The point of collaboration is to make something with your partner that neither of you could create separately. 

In a collaboration that’s working, each of you will be surprised by some of the things your collaborator has added or changed when they had their turn with the story — and that will be a good thing. 

You Need Credit for Your Contributions to the Story

Few things kill a collaboration faster than “counting tokens.” If it’s going to eat at you that the world won’t know you came up with the brilliant line of dialogue that has now become a catchphrase, or worse, that your partner is the one who thought of it, collaboration probably isn’t your bag. 

Sharing credit and treating the entire story as “ours” rather than “mine and yours” makes for a healthy collaboration. 

You’re Afraid to Contribute Your Best Ideas to the Partnership

Great storytellers are never afraid that they’ll run out of ideas — they know that the more they brainstorm, the better they get at coming up with the next great idea, and that execution always matters more than the idea itself.

One of our authors, Joel, is an idea machine: he’s constantly throwing out brilliant ideas that he could easily have hoarded for himself. But he believes in the unlimited abundance of ideas and has faith in his ability to generate more. When someone in the story room has asked if he’d rather keep an idea for himself — which has happened more than once — Joel always says, “If I said it in here, it belongs to everyone.”

You Need Help You Can’t Afford, But Still Want to be The Boss

You’re not looking for a collaborator, you’re looking for an intern. 

It’s not unusual for collaborations to start out with one person in an apprenticeship position, but those collaborations fail unless the more experienced person is willing to help the apprentice mature into an equal partner. 

You Don’t Know How to Take Feedback Without Feeling Criticized

Thankfully, this is a skill that can be learned, but you have to be willing to do the emotional work of responding to feedback as an opportunity to learn rather than the personal attack that it isn’t. 

Your Life Isn’t Stable Enough to Produce Work Consistently 

This doesn’t mean you have to create every day or hit a certain quota every week — unless you and your collaborator decide that you do. Every collaboration will have its own rhythm and pace, depending on each person’s capabilities and circumstances. 

But if you’re in the middle of a major upheaval that’s derailing your ability to focus or to be there for your collaborator, you might not have enough to give right now. Do what you must to take care of yourself and your family, then return to collaboration once those stormy seas have calmed.

You Want Someone to “Force” You to be More Disciplined

While it’s true that it can be motivating to know that your partner is waiting to see what you’ve written, putting that person in the position of having to nag, cajole or browbeat you into doing the work isn’t fair, and over time, your collaborator will start to resent you. 

If you need that external pull to get work done, get an accountability partner, work with a coach or a project manager, or hire a virtual assistant to keep you on track. 

In a functional collaboration, each person’s enthusiasm for working with the other gives the partnership momentum and generates energy for both people.

Embracing Your Path

Deciding not to collaborate is not about closing doors, but about choosing the path where you can shine the brightest. It’s about honoring your creative spirit and how it best manifests its brilliance. Whether through the depths of solo work or the dynamism of collaboration, what matters most is creating in a way that fulfills you and brings your best work into the world.

Remember, the choice between collaboration and solo work is not fixed. As you grow and evolve, so too might your preference for how you work best. Stay open to the possibilities, and let your creative journey be one of exploration and discovery, wherever it may lead.

Our journey from a fledgling story studio to managing a team of over forty creatives has taught us invaluable lessons about collaboration. While the alchemy of a successful partnership remains complex, we’ve identified key traits that signal a potential for great collaboration. 

By nurturing these characteristics within our team, we’ve unlocked unprecedented levels of creativity, productivity, and satisfaction.

See you next Wednesday!