The Art and Science of Collaboration

When someone reads your rough draft, it’s like letting them see you half-dressed. It’s about arriving at a level of intellectual comfort – or having faith in the process. In a successful collaboration, both people feel like they did less than half the work.

Collaborating with another writer is something I’ve done only once.  It was for a Washington Post Magazine cover article about the stock car racing legend Richard Petty, who was making his first run for political office in the fall of 1978.  At the time I was working as a newspaper reporter in Greensboro, N.C., and after work I would drive the 22 miles to Petty’s home with one of the paper’s editorial writers, and we would spend the late afternoons talking with Petty as he drove his customized van along the back roads of Randolph County.  Petty was always dressed in his trademark cowboy hat, cowboy boots and wraparound shades as he knocked on doors, flashed his famous thousand-watt smile and urged people to help elect him to the board of county commissioners.  Naturally, Petty lapped the field.

When it came time to write the article, my collaborator gave me his notes and disappeared.  This delighted me.  I was free to sit alone in my room using his notes and my own to write a draft of the article as I thought it should be written.  My collaborator then made suggestions, some of which I heeded, most of which I ignored.  The article appeared under both of our bylines, with mine before his, an arrangement that struck me as more than a little unfair.  We also split the $750 paycheck down the middle, which struck me as enormously unfair. Read Full Article>>

By Bill Morris, writer for The Creative Post on Apr 26, 2012

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