Those who write seem to have convinced the rest of us that theirs is an exclusively solo craft. We imagine the ruggedly independent “writer” hunched over the laptop at 3 am, mug of coffee at the ready, painstakingly choosing each word – completely, utterly alone.
So when the instructor or boss says, “That’s right, I want you to work together to write this report so that it truly reflects your collective thoughts, capabilities, and contributions,” students and co-workers (collectively) groan, “Team writing? What’d we do to deserve this?”
Collaborative writing assignments intimidate most people, who worry about everything from logistics to fairness:
- “We have different philosophies, priorities, you-name-its. How will we possibly agree?”
- “We live 35 (or 3500) miles away from each other. It’s practically impossible to meet.”
- “Where would we start?”
- “And how will we be judged?”
Successful collaboration relies on common understanding and ongoing communication. To get started, get together (and stay together) – virtually, telephonically, or in person – and determine:
WHAT: Clarify the task, terminologies, and timelines. Then hold team members accountable!
HOW #1: Agree on a decision-making process. Typical ways include assigning a single decision-maker, voting (i.e., “majority rules”), and coming to consensus. Each method has its strengths and weaknesses; in general, the more time available, the more collaborative the decision-making can be.
HOW #2: Decide how the actual writing will get done. Many teams, unaware that other (more effective) methods exist, revert to the dreaded “writing-by-committee,” a painful and inefficient method whereby all members agonize together over every single word. A better approach is to “divide-and-conquer.” Here, each team member writes a section and then the group decides how to bring it all together. Some groups “round-robin” the writing task: the first member writes a section, then hands it off to the next, and so on. If time is tight, perhaps the best way is to step right up and volunteer to write the first draft yourself. (Yes, the happy owl’s talking to you!) Remember: it’s just a draft – it doesn’t need to be perfect – it’s easier to finish what’s already been started – and your teammates will love you for it! Whooo-who wouldn’t?!
Yes, many of the world’s most brilliant writers do work alone. But success in today’s classrooms and workplaces requires the ability to work well – and write well – together. Success may start with you, but Scholar’s Secret can help. Contact us anytime!