Monday, June 30, 2008

Collaborations, long-distance

I love watching those movie scenes where a songwriting team sits and writes together. The composer plays chords, “la la la”s a melody and the lyricist shoots off couplets and rhymes and hooks. And I’ll bet there are people that do write that way.

Me? Like most writers I’m extremely introverted (which puzzles and baffles people who meet me, because I’ve learned how to fake being extroverted, or at least emulate it. But it’s work, and it’s not my natural state). When I write, there’s more stroking of chin and furrowing of brow and counting of beats than talking.

Writing for me is a slow, patient craft. I have to go to my worktable, mentally. Pull out my tools, clean the bench off, set my project in front of me and whittle patiently. I need quiet and stillness. Not the same as editing, when I’m crossing out two words and looking for the perfect replacement – then I can listen to any sort of suggestion and try it out.

So collaborating over the internet has been perfect. I have only spoken to two of my collaborators live, and only months after we have written something. Everything has been e-mails, private messages and MP3 files passed back and forth. I get the collaborator’s thoughts, mull them over, construct an answer, thought or solution, and write back. Asynchronously.

What I’ve missed, though, are the back-and-forth sessions, the reading of body language, the ability to hum or beat out a suggestion quickly, the demonstration “here’s what I mean”…. Also, the written word alone can lead to misunderstandings, which can’t be cleared up easily long distance.

This week I will have my first live collaboration session with some local artists, on a lyric that fits their style. They like the lyric, they want to work with me on it, and I’m going to their studio. I need to be open to their ideas, and to communicate mine and……well, we’ll see what happens. It’s a challenge and an opportunity.

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