Thursday, September 9, 2010
In Which I Recoil In Horror
The question of the week is one I don't want to answer.
Yeah, I know, it's my turn, and the question is "Who would you collaborate with…?" But what if I just answered a different question?
For example, I could answer the question, "In your writing life, what is the one thing you did which almost turned you off of writing forever?" (Answer: collaborated on a piece of writing.)
Or, I could answer the question, "What do you consider going too far when it comes to 'aggressive interrogation techniques'?" (Answer: forcing someone collaborate on a piece of writing.)
You may detect a trend here.
Alas, I have collaborated, and the best thing I can say about the experience is at least the check cleared. Sort of. (In the end, I was grossly under-compensated for the nightmare.) The experience cost me a friend, and nearly a job. It turned me off writing altogether for a couple of years.
"What do you consider an appropriate punishment for aggravated murder? (Answer: death by collaboration.)
The thought of collaboration is like the thought of rum: it gives me the dry heaves. In the case of rum, this is because I once drank so much in one sitting I had a hangover for 6 days. The collaboration situation was more complicated, and was less potentially deadly, but the functional result is the same. Thought of collaboration = sudden need to hurl.
Now, to be fair, this collaboration was on a non-fiction item, and strictly speaking I didn't get to choose my collaborator. But before the horror befell me, I did like my collaborator. We'd worked together on non-writing projects successfully for upwards of a year before the collaboration destroyed everything it touched.
I know what you're thinking. Actually I don't, but bear with me here. I've decided you're thinking, "What you need to do to fix this is collaborate on something fun, like a whirlwind crime drama filled with international intrigue and lots of noisy sex. Possibly involving multiple partners at once."
To which I can only say, imagine if every time someone mentioned noisy sex, you puked. On your lap.
Of course, I'm inconsistent on this issue. I participate in certain types of collaboration every time I write. I share work-in-progress with critique partners, and I take their criticism to heart. And working with an editor is also collaborative—something I've celebrated and certainly appreciated. But those kinds of collaborations are also different in both character and process from the kind of direct collaboration—shared writing responsibilities and privileges—from which I'm recoiling in horror.
My non-fiction collabofailure poisoned something I enjoyed so thoroughly I can't imagine ever risking beloved fiction on another collaborative venture. Once bitten, twice shy may be a cliché, but in this case, they gotta be words to live by as well.
So what's next week's question, anyway?