When I first started writing I was so scared that someone would steal my work that I kept it hidden from any and all prying eyes. I saw every other author as my competition and I guess that without realizing it, I believed that there were only a finite number of ideas to be had and only so many ways to express them. But I soon learned otherwise. Yes there are all kinds crooks out there, but in my experience so far, most real authors are way more interested in expressing their own voice than stealing mine. They write because they have something to say and want the world to hear it, they have no interest in trying to be someone else instead.
Collaboration? Every Man for Himself!
Which lead me to my second unspoken myth; that it is a dog eat dog world out there and it is every man for himself. Don’t get me wrong, it is true that each of us is fighting the next person for every literary dollar being spent on any particular day, and the more of us fighting for it the less likely we are to stick out from the crowd. But the mistake is in thinking that I had better get to the middle of that crowd and start shouting like everyone else.
But using the crowd analogy which I think is a good one, it is easy to forget that when each and every one of us, in a packed crowd of millions, all yell and scream and jump at the same time… no one will hear any of us. Each of us can only jump so high, scream so loud, move and shake so much without standing on someone else’s toes. We are a huge mass of people who are all wanting to be different, stand taller, or shout louder. We are all trying to wear red so that we stand out…. but it is easy not to notice that was are in a sea of everyone trying to do the same thing. We simply become one in a million red coats instead one in a million black ones.
The Power of Collaboration
But imagine if a bunch of us in one of the corners decided to collaborate. If we conserved our voices and our energy, stopped shouting for a moment, and spent some time slowly building ourselves into a human pyramid. And imagine too, if we all started to sing the same tune. Together as a single great mass and a united unified voice, we could reach tall, become a greater being than any person could do on their own, and we would definitely stand out in all kinds of ways.
Sure there can only be one person at the top, but there are plenty of other spots a little further down which are also way better than being on our own. But more importantly than that, if the group works as it should, it would be our turn to be on the bottom of the pyramid today, but when we rebuild tomorrow, or the next day, then it will be my turn to be placed at the top. This mass of humans will lift me up to the top and show me to the world. It will be my song that they will sing, and my book that they will promote.
When we all chant one voice at the same time we are way more likely to be heard. When we work as a body and a team, then we can raise each other up. It is a grand idea to hope that we will one day be discovered, typing away at our novel in the corner of a coffee shop. But those truly are the exceptions to the rule, and while our novel could be absolutely brilliant, it will never be discovered if that publisher never ever walks into my coffee shop, or if they do it is the one day that I am stuck at home in bed.
Collaborating as Authors
A good author has more words in them than they will ever be able to express. A great author wants to put more than just food on the table with his or her voice, but is more willing to share it than to see it disappear down the drain to nothing. I don’t have to give away my best words for free, but surely everything that I write are my best words?
Advertising costs money. If I had loads of it then I could push my book and my story through all kinds of channels until every single publisher on the planet reads it. And still that would not guarantee that any of them would love it or that any of them would take me on. And it would be a lonely and stressful experience.
But to belong to a group, a tribe, a collaboration of like-minded authors who will read my work, hone my skills, listen to my voice, my story, my song… and one day perhaps even hold me up and place me up near the top of their pyramid for a day, THAT is something that is within my reach. That elusive Publicist who scans the crowd over and over again each day, looking for the one to stand out, has almost no chance of seeing me when I am the one in millions upon millions of red and black and even yellow coats, but on the day that I stand on the top of a crowd, they just might, and my voice could well be the one that is ultimately heard by all.
And if not, then along the journey my voice will have been heard by some, which is way better than none. I will have had the enormous pleasure and satisfaction of knowing that I contributed to someone else’s voice being heard by all, and I will have been part of a community of people who think like me and get the same kinds of joy that I do.
Disadvantages of Writer Collaboration
I cannot see a downside to collaborating as an author, and there are ways to do it that take no more than a few moments, as well as ways that can be more like a second full time job. At the easiest end you can simply follow a handful of active authors on social media and encourage them by liking or sharing their posts. These take only a few seconds but it gets their voice out there just that little bit more. At the other end of the scale you can be a guest blogger on a number of writing sites and/or help in the running of all kinds of author support groups. In between you can simply belong to an Author’s Group that matches your own thinking and contribute as and when your time allows.
A lot of us are under the impression that every second spent writing for nothing or writing for someone else is one less second that we could be writing for ourselves. But in my humble opinion there is a fabulous and healthy balance in paying it forward with our voices and being part of a community. For no other reason than on the off chance that I should be the one to succeed…. I want a tribe around me, celebrating with me, on a job well done by all of us!