On Collaboration, or Why I Love Teams of Writers

Writers may be tough to work with. But I’ll tell you one thing about writers that I love more than anything else: their spirit of collaboration.

Currently, I run the day-to-day operations of an online publication, writing and editing articles and recruiting for/managing our team of freelance writers and designers. One of my major responsibilities is handling our editorial brainstorming meeting, held weekly.

I’ll be honest: this meeting is one of my favorite parts of this job. It’s a chance for the editorial team, fellows, and contributing writers to touch base and discuss the content strategy, and how that will play out in articles during the week and in the month to come. Although we meet during the workday in the office, writers from all across the US have joined in, both in person and via conference call/video chat. Not all writers attend, but some do—we have a healthy balance between new blood and regulars each week.

Unlike in college, where we sat down in class and tried our hardest NOT to speak up, these meetings are full of energy and life. I don’t take credit for this: the writers who we’ve found (and who have found us) are so willing to pitch in, speak up, and share ideas and thoughts as they come. It’s a collaborative process; I start the meeting with a list of topics, and we run from there. And what happens most often is that we never make it fully through the list of topics, and we’re always short on time—writers are sharing their opinions, being respectful but challenging, and keeping the conversation alive with limited required input by me or by other staffers.

All that to say, I feel tremendously lucky to be working with such a group.

As a person, I’m greedy about stories: I want to be the one to tell them.

But as a writer, I know I can never tell every story. I can’t even tell most stories: there’s someone more experienced than me who could do it, and would likely give a better performance. But I can tell some stories just the same, and there’s no problem with writing something, even if someone else’s is better.

For what I can’t write, I can encourage others to write.

Don’t get me wrong: I’m no fan of plagiarism, and I believe strongly in letting each writer have first access to the stories they bring to the table. But I also feel that an article (especially an article written from a personal lens) is often stronger with a little verbal editing, and a little group discussion.

Seth Godin said it perfectly:

“It’s one of the things I’ve always liked best about being a professional writer. The universal recognition that there’s plenty of room for more authors, and that more reading is better than less reading, even if what’s getting read isn’t ours.

It’s not a zero-sum game. It’s an infinite game, one where we each seek to help ideas spread and lives change.”

Writers share, support each other, and push each other towards goals. And that’s a near-universal fact about writers that’s wowed me since I was young.

When I was in elementary school, my mother took part in a writers’ group in our area town. I have vague recollections during that time, but I do remember going to local book festivals and having my mother know several of the authors there. I felt like she was in some sort of secret club.

My love affair with writing isn’t just about the sometimes-frustrating process of writing, editing, rewriting, and publication. I don’t write in a vacuum. I write for myself, I write for others, I write to have a place at the table, and a spot in that universal club. I feel welcome there—and you should, too.

More reading is better than less reading—and more writing is better than less writing.

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