Monday, August 23, 2010

Group Projects

So there is something that never occurred to me, once upon a time, as a nice writing skill... But you know what? I think there is a reason to develop this... I wouldn't have known it until I participated, but since you are HERE, you can learn from my experience.

Let me E'splain...

The Burrow Goes Public

In 2008 my writing group decided we had a better shot at drawing public attention collectively than individually. I was more private in my Nakedness then and my first book was not done. Not that that would have made this group effort less valuable. But we were just thinking... it would be good to have a record of our work... of what we could do... we wanted to begin our legacy.

We considered a couple projects, with varying degrees of progress, but finally, Tara found an art gallery in Cardiff, Castle Gallery, and she convinced them, using her substantial charms, to do a project with us... they do a 'show' releasing their winter art in December, and agreed to let us write 'drabbles' to be displayed with their various art works.

This nice little 'project' really opened my eyes.

[This is where I confess that though I've done a number of these projects, there needs to be a coordinator, and I deeply LACK coordination... never take on a group project without somebody who is GOOD at this kind of thing... cat herding would be a fine resume marker, but lacking that... at least being the liaison for prior group projects].

But we pulled it off, and have been doing group projects since. This site holds a pretty good record of them... most recently, our Pay it Forward project.

So Why do YOU need some group projects?


While writing seems a solitary experience, and in many ways, it is, PUBLISHING is a group project. You need to communicate and cooperate. We need to be willing to fight for ourselves sometimes and give in sometimes, and it is honestly GOOD FOR YOU to know where you are willing to yield and where you aren't. This is GOOD PRACTICE! (I swear!)


When work is put out under a group project, we need to be willing to seriously consider the perspectives of our co-presenters. Their names can be affected by what WE choose to present, so, for instance, if you are a shameless NUDIST, you maybe want to be careful how you might affect your beloved co-conspirators.


In our vacuums, it is easy to think we are FABULOUS or LOUSY (typically these two alternate for writers). Working on a group project we have a little reality check, because we all are mutually obliged to give each other a reality check, both in the positive and the negative.

As for FINDING Groups... that is a little trickier. I found my peeps over a long period of time where we interacted and made some judgments on compatibility, but if I have ever seen a better ground than the blogosphere for getting to know people you don't KNOW, I can't think of it.

So I strongly recommend it... it doesn't matter what it is. I think a group project will help to prepare you for the publishing adventure.


Cruella Collett said...

How much do I love that you used a giraffe to illustrate this post!? A lot (or should I say ALOT?) ;)

And yes - group projects. Can't wait to be done with the hazzle (thesis) and get back to being more Burrowish!

Old Kitty said...

Oh wow!! What a fun thing to do! Does that mean you'll be visiting Wales? Good luck with this!! And it's so great to find a creative group that you can truly work with and realise all your creative potential as a co-operative!

p.s I'm trying to work out if you are part of the group pic....the woman at the top???

Take care

Cold As Heaven said...

I see what you mean >:)

For many years, I used to sit more or less alone, doing obscure mathematics and programming super computers. The last 3-4 years, I have been working in a multi-diciplinary team, and found that this is a lot more fun. I enjoy sitting in an office landscape, and don't want to go back to the boring single-office way of working.

Cold As Heaven

Hart Johnson said...

Mari--I hope that pesky thesis hurries itself up! I've been an edit monkey and so haven't had the time I like for the Burrow either.

Jenny-We (well 5 of us anyway) DID meet up in Wales, but it is over and done now. The pic is Mari, Tara (who is FROM Cardiff) and Leanne doing a French taunting at Cardiff Castle. I was on the other side of the camera.

CaH-Yeah, math is probably even more solitary, but I think the math brain can definitely benefit from some interaction!

Rayna M. Iyer said...

And you have reminded me to bug you and Briony to send in your drabbles. Please remind me NEVER to take on a project which is not completely done in advance. I swear the grey hairs I have sprouted this month are being paid forward!!!

But right you are about collaborative projects....

And let me not get into the project I nixed oh so sweetly and innocently because I was peeved with how the co-ordinator was behaving. You will no longer think I am the nice person you think I am.

Alex J. Cavanaugh said...

I was recently asked to join a group blog, although it has nothing to do with writing. I think it will stretch me, though.

Hart Johnson said...

Natasha-I put BrioNi's into the Burrow this morning... need to write mine... and you have been FABULOUS to coordinate this 'not quite cooked' project!

Alex-I think it WILL be good! It is sometimes painful, but I think it is good practice.

Readers Dais said...

But all this is for people who've taken writing seriously right?...anyways seems to be a good suggestion..thanks friend for sharing :)

Jan Morrison said...

Interesting! For the second time today I find myself commenting on my life as a musical writer. I have written five or so musicals with a group of people - usually two to write the book (myself and the fabulous Malcolm Callaway) and two to write the music and lyrics (this changes but always includes Dawn Harwood-Jones). We all fight and fuss and flail about but it is a wonderful if somewhat harrowing experience. I was talking to Malcolm the other night and we were thinking of diving in again! I do lots of things in groups - I'm one of those weird writers who sits the line between extravert and introvert. but exactly.
Jan Morrison

Jennee said...

group projets are fun, but it is hard to find people willing to take the time and energy to do it. But, you've inspired me to start asking around again.

Anonymous said...

I was big into groups when I was in banking and financing for 10 years. Lots of M&A stuff, integration blah blah blah. Its been nice to work solo for the past couple years writing my books though. But as the promotional stuff begins to kick off, I'm back working with people and teams again with book stores and other promotional events.

Stephen Tremp

Erica Mitchell-Spickard said...

I am a military wife...the projects are endless, the organization is perfected, the humility is good supply (trust me), baking things, creating slideshows, artwork, events, and we have to co-exist with each other to a level that often times go beyond the call of duty. With my crit partners these projects have been difficult under the current situations of one being so sick, but we are still pulling together to get some stuff done.
When it comes to the group mentality that I may need to bring to the table one day I will call on the military experience...always.

Holly Ruggiero, Southpaw said...

A group would be a nice dose of reality as well as encouragment.

Anonymous said...

My little Stilettos & Shirley Temples project with Mercedes Yardley is one of the highlights of my week. It's less a coordination issue than a mutual challenge, to see what fun we can come up with for the other to react to.

It's great as a motivational tool, though, that's FO SHO!


LTM said...

For me, all this blogging networking has been a fun project... but now I seriously have to get back to my *primary* project. (I.e., those waiting WIPs. :o|

must... stop... procrastinating... ;p

Helen Ginger said...

A group project is a fabulous idea. You go beyond critiquing and into creating. My guess is such a project would either break apart the group or solidify it.

I love what your group did. Y'all were really thinking outside the box.

Hart Johnson said...

Readers Dais-we definitely all have serious writing goals, though some of us are timed in the PRESENT and some of us more in a 'one day' because of jobs or families. We are all committed though, to good work and taking it seriously.

Jan-that sounds like a wonderful process. I bet it is really satisfying to have something so tangible at the end, too.

Jennee-yeah, I'm not sure I would have LOOKED for this, because I didn't know the value until I was DOING it, but you're right, putting together the group could be a tricky thing. Good luck!

Stephen-I've done the work end of group stuff, too. Still do, in fact. Seems to work well if there is a MANAGER to keep us organized (by that I don't mean a boss, necessarily, but someone on top of it all to keep us moving)--I think that may be the hard part of self promotion with books--we have to know how to MANAGE.

Erica-I've heard about a TON of that over the years--one of my HS friends is a 20 year army wife, so I definitely hear you. I think having done it will pay off when you get to the promoting thing...

Holly-hopefully not TOO much reality! I try to avoid that!

Simon-I think what you guys are doing is GREAT for keeping flexible...the stimulus response stuff is excellent for creativity!

Leigh-GET BACK TO WRITING! teehee--mostly kidding. I can see why the blogging works in the summer with the childings at home, but the writing is harder--writing requires full engagement, blogging and networking a little less so.

Helen-that's exactly it--the creating something together is a huge part of why we have such a strong group identity, and honestly, I think it has kept people engaged who might not have fit in as much writing otherwise.

RosieC said...

I've recently stumbled into a fantabulous critique group, and I'm so lucky I found them! They've been a tremendous help to me over the past few weeks alone.

All excellent points. :)

Jane Kennedy Sutton said...

I love your description of the blogosphere as a place “for getting to know people you don't KNOW,” It is a great perk as is the idea of group projects.

Hart Johnson said...

Rosie-so glad you've found a great critique group! They make a world of difference!

Jane-I think the environment is just one with a lot more shared 'personality'--so much easier to get a feel for people here than... say facebook or twitter.

Carolyn Abiad said...

Come on LTM, you're the perfect ringleader for a group. Who can you rustle up?? I'm game! I'm itching for a way to write about something other than Turkey already.

Cheeseboy said...

I've just been recruited to do a group blog, which I was hesitant about, but decided to just do it. I hope it is as rewarding as you've made it out to be.

sue said...

Lots of food for thought here. Thanks for sharing your ideas and especially the photo :)

Anonymous said...

Most of the time I prefer to do things alone, but I realize some things are better done as a group. Also, so many group blogs rock.