On Writing and Collaborating

I’ve been amazingly productive lately. That’s not crowing, it’s just a fact. It’s partly having the time, partly a phantom thing that won’t let me not write. I call it making up for lost time. All those years when I wasn’t ready to accept myself as a creative, as a writer. Not really. But for the past two years and a few months I have. Completely, uncritically, joyfully, unselfconsciously. So in that time I’ve written two novels (and one of them has had four versions of its poor self until it arrived at its final form), a dozen or more short stories, a big handful of poems, three short screenplays and some other bits and pieces besides, such as a 3,000 word essay that I finished recently about whales and the American artist Jules Olitski. I enjoyed that. The most important pieces, though, are the novels and the screenplays. They’re what I want to do forever. 

The first of the novels is in that land that exists between my agent getting enthusiastic about it and a publishing house saying they want it. Hopefully it’ll move on from that space soon. The second is with my agent, who’s reading it. Publishing is notoriously slow at the best of times but the last few months have felt like going into reverse. I’m not moaning and of course it’s the same for everyone, but I’m naturally impatient. Apparently global pandemics and my temperament aren’t natural pals. Who knew?

Anyway, the one thing that I’ve discovered recently is that collaboration can be a wonderful thing. I’m not a great team-player, generally, Too much of a control freak, too fond of my own ideas. But I recently reached out to someone who I really like and respect and whose work I felt had elements that appeared in my writing, albeit that theirs involved different media. I handed over something I’d written and was delighted at getting a positive response in return. Along the way we involved several more people in our project. Again, all immensely positive. I’ll write more about what that is and what we’re working on soon, when we’re a little closer to the finishing line. Anyway, I watched Iain Forsyth and Jane Pollard’s documentary film featuring Nick Cave (in my eyes of course the SAINTED Nick Cave), 20,000 Days on Earth. In it, Nick talks about collaboration. He says:

“To take an idea that is blind and unformed, and that has been hatched largely in solitude, and allow these strange collaborator creatures that I work with to morph it into something else, something better… well, that’s really something to see.”

And yeah, basically. Yeah. It is. 

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