Thursday, October 11, 2012

Let's Work Together

If you watch Project Runway, a reality television show about clothing designers vying for funding to produce their own line, you know the contestants hate team challenges. They'd rather succeed or fail on their own merits.

The same is true in the Top Chef kitchen. The contestants competing for the title of America's Top Chef dread group challenges. They don't want to be teamed with someone they consider less competent or lacking the desire to win at all costs.

Think of group projects you've participated in at work or school. In almost every three-person team, there's a Bossypants and a Slacker. I'm guessing you're neither, which means you had to maintain the peace, keep Bossypants rooted in reality, and make sure the Slacker contributed something. You probably did seventy percent of the work for the worst of all rewards: both Bossypants and Slacker vowed to pick you for every team they captained until the end of time.

The memory of one group project I worked on years ago still floods me with anxiety. It should have made me a permanent member of the "I'll do it myself" tribe, but I've been too lucky in partnerships to want to go it alone all the time.

I'm lucky to team with Lark on this blog. There have been days when I had a post due and not a thought in my head. Rather than let Lark down, I forced myself to come up with something. If this blog were mine alone, it would have gone dark months ago.

Do we ever really know someone until we've worked with him or her on a tough project? (Long ago, Hubs and I decided the true test of a relationship was the ability to hang wallpaper together.) Co-workers who initially struck me as flighty proved uber-dependable, and those who inspired confidence from a distance turned into cardboard up close.

Writers work alone for hours at a time, but it's the rare writer who doesn't need feedback from peers. I've been so lucky with critique partners, I'm joining yet another critique group. The prospect is scary but exhilarating. It's scary because the other members and I might not be a good fit, but it's exhilarating because we might discover our combined strengths compensate for our individual weaknesses. Most important is the reminder I'm never alone at the keyboard. Someone will read my words, and I'll read theirs.

Last week marked the one-year anniversary of We Are Not Alone, a blogging class I took with social-media expert Kristen Lamb.  The class lasted two months, but the rewards will continue indefinitely. I've made online friends and learned from them and their blogs. I rouse myself to comment on others' blogs rather than nod in recognition, smile, and log off. When my energy nosedives and I neglect to promote a post, one of my WANA buddies will tweet the link. I've celebrated with indie-published WANAs and wait with others for offers from traditional publishers. Through triumphs and disappointments, we know someone has our back.

A sense of solidarity fuels the writer alone in the crowd at the coffee shop. As Lark wrote in a post last week, the tools and encouragement we get from fellow writers propels us forward—and prompts us to give back.

Teamwork that brings out our best is worth seeking out and holding onto.  

Here's Canned Heat: on the topic:



Alicia Street said...

Happy WANA-versary, classmate! Great post, as usual!

Ginger Calem said...

It's been a great year. I love all the friendship and support. Not sure if we'd ever have crossed paths and that would be a darn shame! :)

Lark Howard said...

I tend to want to work alone, Pat, but without you this blog would have been history a long time ago. And your WANA friends who visit consistently and comment make me feel like part of your lovely circle.

Although I have very little time to visit around, the links you've provided have introduced me to some inspiring people I'd never have found otherwise. I'm lucky to have you as a friend and colleague!

Pat O'Dea Rosen said...

Hi, Alicia! You and Roy are inspiring. You two complement each other on the writing front AND live happily ever after. Happy WANA-versary back at you.

Pat O'Dea Rosen said...

What would I have missed out on if I'd never crossed paths with you, Ginger? Here's a partial list: 100 ounces of water a day, burpees, lunges, fish oil capsules, pulled chicken, and I could go on and on. I appreciate your friendship and the Writer's Butt posts.

Pat O'Dea Rosen said...

Lark, the luck is mine. Thanks for asking me to be part of this blog--and for giving me your friendship.

Readers, on the off chance it's not crystal clear, Lark is like the high school's cool kid, and I'm the dork she made room for at her table in the cafeteria.

Patricia Rickrode w/a Jansen Schmidt said...

I think I was the bossypants. Oh well, someone has to be the bossypants. I'm up for group challenges all the time as long we do it my way.

But seriously, I know exactly what you mean about not wanting to let someone else down. It's time consuming to visit all those blogs, but I feel richer and more blessed for doing it. There are some terrific people in this WANA group and I hope to some day meet at least a few if not everyone face-to-face. Wouldn't that be cool!!

Nice to see you still posting, Pat.

Patricia Rickrode
w/a Jansen Schmidt

Jennette Marie Powell said...

I tried to comment earlier, but I couldn't get past Blogger's word verification on my smartphone... anyway, I have had some awful groups for projects in school. Sometimes, I had to be Bossypants because otherwise nothing would have gotten done! But WANA is in a class by itself. So glad to be part of it and to have met cool people like you!

Pat O'Dea Rosen said...

Hi, Patricia and Jennette, aka Bossypants I and II!
I've been forced into playing Bossypants, and the role doesn't suit me. Jennette, all you have to do is ride to work on your Harley, and people will defer to you. Patricia, meanwhile, lives among bears--the big, growly kind. You two inspire fear, er, respect.

Patricia, I can't wait to meet WANAs in person!

Jennette, I'm glad to be part of WANA and to have met you.

Lynette M Burrows said...

It's no wonder you and I get along - I was the nerdy kid sitting alone at the other end of your table. LOL!

Serious, there are some things you have to do by yourself, but I've learned that doesn't have to mean you are alone. Support systems, whether they are online or in person, are essential to the human spirit.

I'm so glad to have gotten to know you through our WANA tribe. Happy First WANA1012 Birthday, Pat!

Coleen Patrick said...

So happy to get to know you Pat! It's been a great WANA year. :)
I'm a Top Chef & Project Runway fan too. While reading your post, I first thought of myself as the peace keeper, but realized it depends on the group I'm in. If I know the people well, then Miss Bossypants might make her presence known!

Sheila Seabrook said...

Meeting people online has opened the doors to so many great friendships. When I met you in Barbara's class and got to know you, Pat, I knew I'd made a friend I would hang on to. I'm so glad we've crossed paths -- and continue to cross paths -- in so many other places on the net. Maybe one day it will be in person. :)

Pat O'Dea Rosen said...

Lynette, I'm grateful for your cyber friendship--and your calm, generosity, and wisdom. Thanks for being part of my support system!

Pat O'Dea Rosen said...

I'm happy to know you, too, Coleen! I'm chiefly peacekeeper, but have a bossypants streak.

I'm SO hooked on Project Runway and Top Chef, but recorded PR and watched the vp debate instead. Big sacrifice and so unnecessary. Let me decide the election. I know best for country, don't I?

Pat O'Dea Rosen said...

We have to meet in person, Sheila!

Barbara's class was a game-changer for me, and for you, too, I think.

Aren't we in the Twitter class together now? What are we taking next? Pick the class and I'll follow.

louise Behiel said...

happy Wana Birthday Pat. It's been an amazing year for all of us. Like you, I am so grateful for the friends I've made and the push to read blogs and ocmment, which i never did.

Pat O'Dea Rosen said...

Happy WANA birthday back to you, Louise. I'm grateful for your friendship and outstanding psychology-and-mental-health-for-writers-posts.