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Towards a Year of Collaborations

Lots of interesting things happened in 2015. I moved into a full-time role, moved into the heart of Philadelphia, experienced what working 12 hour days (though only a handful of times) feels like when you like what you’re doing, met some fascinating people, left some people behind, had some eye-opening experiences, learned a lot, read a lot, traveled to a state I least agree with, and reconnected with some old friends.

One of the things that sticks out though is an art project started quite spontaneously. In the spur of the moment one day I wrote what was likely the second draft of a poem about a dream I’d had in a moleskine notebook and mailed the entire notebook to a close friend. A few weeks later I received the notebook back with a poem on the same theme as my poem. What began was an engaging collaboration of sorts over snail-mail. Now, we’ve been mailing each other this notebook over the last few months with new poems. Mostly first or second drafts as a response to or extension of the previous poem. Most of these are not publishable material, of course, but it’s the output that matters for now.

And despite that, the process is slow, deliberate, and offers us a sort of pause to collect our thoughts. We’ve been averaging something close to a poem every two weeks, accommodating for the time the notebook is in transit (crazy, right?). It’s part annoying and part fascinating that I have to wait for this thing to physically arrive to me before I can read the new entry in it. It goes fairly against the Internet’s steadfast love for speed. And while I wouldn’t recommend the snail-mail approach for most collaborations, poetry, though, is a painstakingly slow process, something I still do in longhand today for the first few drafts, and so it allows us the ability to produce slowly but produce something we’d be a little more satisfied with than if we were to do it at Internet-speed. I’m not sure where this is going to go or even how long it progresses. We’re only about five poems in at this point.

What I’m seeing though is that the process of collaboration is often one of the best ways to generate interesting art. Feeding off of each other is an effective antidote to any kind of creative block. It doesn’t have to be at the pace of snail-mailing each other your work but I’ve found, at least personally, that it is often a better work of art when it takes its time, even if it’s done online.

Something that I really love about this process is that whether it’s complete strangers or people you’re close with, simply collaborating on something over a period of time can bring people to a deeper understanding of each other - or at least of each other’s thought process. As a direct influence of this, I’ve decided this year to be open to more collaborations of all sorts, and I’m looking for anyone willing to do - quite literally - any kind of creative collaboration on their mind. More often than not the hardest part is simply sticking to the routine as opposed to actually creating art. That part tends to happen pretty easily. So, if you want to do something of this sort, feel free to reach out - stranger or not. :)

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