Medium,  Writing

Jumpstart Your Creativity With Collaborative Writing

Sometimes writing with someone else is what you need to get back on track with your own writing.

When I was in college studying creative writing, I was required to take classes outside of my chosen tract — fiction. At the time I was a little unhappy about this — I didn’t write much nonfiction or poetry (oh, how things have changed) and I wasn’t very enthusiastic about many of the classes that I had to choose from. When my senior year rolled around, I had one creative writing class left that I needed to take to fulfill my graduation requirements. That particular semester, there weren’t many classes offered that would let me graduate and still looked intriguing, but there was one that caught my eye — collaborative poetry.

What is collaborative poetry? If you’re thinking like I was while enrolling in the class, that question might have sprung to mind. Collaborative poetry — writing poems in collaboration. Sure, the title of the class gives some hints, but how exactly do you collaborate while writing poetry? And what’s the benefit to collaborating with other writers as you create?

To start, I’ll say this: that class changed my perspective on writing for the good and introduced collaboration into my writing life in ways that are still with me years later.

If you’re interested in the idea of collaborative writing but don’t where to start, stay tuned. There’s lots to be gained from two writers rather than one — or three writers rather than two!

Tackle writer’s block

Feeling stuck in your writing process? It happens to the best of us — even nationally known best sellers! Writing collaboratively — whether that’s eliciting more words and perspectives on a current project you’re already working on, or taking a break and trying something entirely new — can help you look at your writing and your world in a whole new light. If you’re feeling stuck and aren’t sure where to go next with your writing, try collaborating with a writer friend. It might just be the boost you need to get going!

Learn new ways of writing

This is one of the things that I wasn’t expecting when I took that collaborative class in college. I should have known better since I was taking a poetry class and wouldn’t have called myself a poet at the time, but I was nevertheless surprised by the turns of phrases and creativity that my classmates brought to the table. I remember one poem in particular that I was writing with two guys in my class that I had never worked with before and, consequently, didn’t know very well. We turned out a poem that was so incredibly fun and absurd, but worked brilliantly (our professor even said so, I know I’m biased but I have backup here, okay?)

Collaborating on that poem (and many others in that class and out of it) taught me new ways of writing and even new words that I hadn’t used before. It brought new thought processes and ideas to the table that helped me even when I was writing solo.

Maybe (just maybe) write your new favorite project

Some writers have tackled some of their favorite and most successful projects with other writers! I know I have written some fun short stories and poems with the other editors at borrowed solace, where I am the poetry editor, but even some successful novelists have written their more popular books with a partner. If you’re into mysteries (like my mom is), you might be familiar with the mystery novelist Lynette Eason who wrote a book with her daughter, Lauryn. Or you might have seen the Netflix show Dash & Lily this past Christmas which was based on a book by writing duo David Levithan and Rachel Cohn (who also wrote Nick and Norah’s Infinite Playlist.) Collaboration works for so many successful writers, so why not give it a try yourself?

How to start

If collaborative writing sounds like something you might be interested in, take the plunge! It might seem a little daunting — and definitely a little nerve-wracking, sharing your creative vision with someone else who is equally as creative and has a vision of their own — but that’s the beauty of collaboration: two visions become one, slightly different, definitely unique, single vision.

If you’re not sure where to start, take it slow. Think of a friend or two whose work you admire and ask them to jump in with you and collaborate. Maybe start with a short story or a poem before diving into a novel (but hey, sometimes the most unconventional things turn out the best, so why not?) Decide on a theme and each of you create a character around that theme, then write those characters into a story. Come up with four words you have to use in your poem, then swap words and each write four stanzas using one of those words per stanza. Create an exquisite corpse story and see where it takes you, then edit and expand until both of your hearts are content.

There are so many options available to us when we collaborate with other writers, so why not experiment and see where your muses take each other? That’s the beauty of collaboration — for a moment, your muse is not your own, it’s someone else’s, and there’s no telling where that might lead.

Previously published in The Writing Cooperative

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