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
'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. America
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: