How do I find creative collaboration?
December 15, 2015 7:28 AM   Subscribe

I have a lot of creative interests and hobbies, and I love to collaborate with others, both virtually and in-person. Unfortunately, it’s hard to find people who are interested in collaborating and willing to follow through (perhaps the bigger problem). I feel like there must be communities, online or otherwise, that help facilitate collaboration, but I don’t know where to go. More below the fold.

I am primarily a writer, and that’s where I have the most confidence. I mainly write poetry but I also write fiction, plays, essays, music journalism, just about anything else. I also do a lot of visual art, always abstract, in various media. I love taking pictures but am not a pro. I’ve dabbled in piano and guitar and have written a number of songs. I’d love to combine any of these, or a new learned skill, with a project someone else is working on. For example, I’d love to be involved with sculpture, filmmaking, or printmaking.
In the past, I’ve had luck finding people who were interested in doing something together but not so interested in making the time to do the work. Those people were ones I approached because I liked their work and thought we could make something neat together. I feel like a better approach might have been the other way around, finding people willing to collaborate and then gauging our overlap.
So, where do I find people with whom to collaborate? And once I do, how do I proceed? Is it usually best to come with a vision in mind already or just to brainstorm? I want to be open, but not so open that I seem vague and noncommittal. I also know that just because someone’s aesthetics and mine overlap, our working practices may not, and I realize that is a consideration.

Also, feel free to message me if you have any ideas you don’t wish to share here. Thanks!
posted by mermaidcafe to Media & Arts (10 answers total) 9 users marked this as a favorite
Best answer: I met with a former coworker just yesterday on this very subject. He wanted to start a writing group. I said I was interested, but honestly, the idea of workshopping is often just wannabe writers talking about writing and becomes a circle jerk. So I suggested we do something where the the writing is just the beginning. Too often writing is viewed as the end goal. So my idea is to much people. You want to do a comic? Let's get it online. You want to write a script? Let's shoot it and edit it. You want to write a play? Let's get in touch with a community theater and get it produced. Etc. So we're moving forward with this. I can help set up a blog, he can write marketing copy, etc. We figure each person can bring their own skills, and the rest can help out. Sort of a Creativity Coop where songwriters, poets, standup comics, podcasters, etc. can get together to collaborate and hold each other accountable. Sure, we'll look at WIPs, but our first question is going to be, "What do you want to do with it when you are done?"

We plan to meet 6 times a year in person, every other month virtually.

Point is I don't plan to heard anyone. Too often in the past when I've tried collaborative projects it was like band practice where one guy doesn't show and the others just talk about music.

I've got tons of ideas on how to make this happen.

1. Pay people. Seriously, with fiverr and such it's not expensive if all you need is someone to write a jingle for your podcast or to a VO.
2. Trade skills. Do graphic design or art for someone that will help you design a chapbook.
3. Get volunteers. I plan to get theater kids to help with a table reading of a script. They won't be part of the group, but just people helping it along.


I decided in 2016 I am going to treat my hobby like a job and to that end I actually am in the process of writing up a business plan. It will still be my hobby, but this way it will have a bit more focus and I can try to figure out what steps I need to make happen to do more than just play around with it.

Anyway, good luck.
posted by cjorgensen at 7:45 AM on December 15, 2015 [4 favorites]

For writing, I think that writer's groups are a great way to find people. You do have to go through the critique/reading others' work process, but then you'll be in a group of people who are actively writing, and know the kind of work you do.

If you've written songs and can perform them, would open mic nights work? Those are generally attended by other artists trying to show off their work, and again, you'll get to show your style and hear the styles of others.
posted by xingcat at 7:54 AM on December 15, 2015

i think github changed this for programming. it made it very easy for people to edit each other's code, and to give feedback. it also provides a way for people to assess each other - you can construct an online "reputation" of sorts.

i wonder if you could somehow leverage that? after all, programs are "just text", so you could shared writing in the same way.

but obviously there are some problems - i guess most writers aren't familiar with it, and even for programmers there's a non-trivial learning curve. and i have no idea how you'd go about getting a critical mass of writers to use it (maybe the idea of making text completely public is too radical for most anyway).
posted by andrewcooke at 8:00 AM on December 15, 2015

For music, come to MeFiMusic and post a collaboration suggestion on the talk board!
posted by greenish at 8:01 AM on December 15, 2015

It's always a challenge when you invite someone to collaborate with you, that they will say "sure, that sounds interesting," because that's the polite thing to say and it's hard to come up with a good reason to say no, and it really is interesting and they wish it would happen, but they're not the ones who have put in the thought and effort to realize how much work is involved. It's still in essence your project, you're just asking for their help. So yes, they're going to flake. Maybe your ideal situation is to be involved in a community enough that people come to you and say "your stuff is great, and I hear you like collaborative projects, can we talk about this idea I'm considering?" because then you know they're invested in this goal, and you're not persuading them to work on it (but it wouldn't be your idea). Another approach is to spend time with people until you are friends, and then propose the collaboration, and the two of you figure out the project together, and neither can afford to flake out because you already are part of each other's lives. A more businesslike approach would be a project with money involved, and you're doing an art-for-hire situation where your contractor has creative input. Basically, it's just really really hard to find someone who will want to make the art you need, and want that so much that they'll put in as much effort as you do.

Keep looking! I'm not trying to say it doesn't happen (because it totally does! people do amazing synergistic collaborations, bands exists, etc!) or be dismissively cynical. I was hoping to point out multiple ways in which casual art partnerships can go wrong. I guess one question is, if you're able to identify relationships that probably won't work, before you've put much hope and effort into them, would you still pursue them for the value you get from the first part of the process, or would you want to back off and keep looking for something that's more likely to complete? Either is a fine answer, but it might help you if you've decided in advance which you'd prefer.
posted by aimedwander at 8:26 AM on December 15, 2015 [2 favorites]

Response by poster: Thanks for the ideas so far. I didn't mention that I don't have any interest in a writer's workshop group right now for a lot of reasons. A collaboration would be different, but I'm not up for a feedback group. Also in the past I've tried to start them and interested folks didn't even get as far as telling me what days were good for them to meet, so they were a bust.
posted by mermaidcafe at 8:28 AM on December 15, 2015

My interest is photography and I've found tons of people to collaborate with on all levels through a few local photography clubs, and I found those photography clubs via their very active facebook pages. There are always meetups being organized by various group members and some people have even started a weekly amateur photography competition with prizes from local photography shops that have gotten involved in the groups. Photography more naturally lends itself to meetups (photo walks), but people set up all different sorts of things, from photo walks, to classes, visits to events and local attractions, to photo scavenger hunts - they get really creative.

These kinds of things may not lend themselves so easily to what you like to do but I've known other people (and gotten involved myself in the past) who have found similar connections through writing classes/workshops, book readings, open mic nights, poetry slams and art get-togethers (where they just all gathered in a garage and worked on various art projects together).

It helps a lot that I'm okay with approaching people. When I find photographers that I really admire, I might set up a mini photo session with them (as the subject - I pay) so I can watch them work and get to know them. I tell them that I'm interested in photography and I admire their work (which is true). A lot of people will offer one-on-one classes if I ask. I'm not in it necessarily for the class/learning part (although I like that too), it's more to get my foot in the door in their circles. To get to know them and talk to them to see if they're open to doing something together as well as finding out who they know that I might be able to connect with. I've gotten involved with tons of photography people by just asking individual photographers questions around how they learned, what they like, who they know and what kinds of things they know about that might be appealing to me and what I want to do. I agree with what someone said above that people might be interested in collaboration in the abstract but can't/won't really find time to do it, but people will always meet with you if you're a paying customer.
posted by triggerfinger at 2:13 PM on December 15, 2015 [1 favorite]

You don't mention what city you're in, but like you, I've often tried to find places to collaborate on creative projects. I ended up finding it in a coworking space that's geared to social entrepreneurship. The people here are already engaged and committed to working and completing various projects, both in the business and not-for-profit space, and are generally engaged in sharing resources and concepts. There are also some wonderfully creative people that I've met and started to collaborate with. Feel free to memail me with your city and I can see if there's an organization that I'm familiar with that might provide a similar experience.
posted by A hidden well at 3:10 PM on December 15, 2015

If you offer prop-making labour to an existing amateur theatre production group / troupe, that will solve any problems about follow-through - the plays WILL happen, and they're usually keen to get as much help as possible. The downside is that some plays can have very mundane boring sets or art direction so you may want to look for productions that are more fantastical.
posted by anonymisc at 3:59 PM on December 15, 2015

Hacker-spaces / maker-spaces / membership-funded workshops are also places where a lot of people find other people interested in collaborating, but that doesn't address the flakiness problem.
posted by anonymisc at 4:03 PM on December 15, 2015 [1 favorite]

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