Monday, February 22, 2010


As a writer, you may someday be in the position to write with a collaborator. Collaboration can be refreshing in many ways…it takes off some of the burden of creativity and allows you to gain fresh insight into your work-in-progress. It’s always nice to bounce ideas off a second brain and find new ways to make your project—book, article or paper—grow and live. At the same time, you need to be aware of the pitfalls of working with a second (or third or fourth) person.

Disagreements regarding project directions are always a danger. A few ground rules put in place from the start can help sideline this problem, but even the most agreeable of partnerships may encounter a common dilemma that’s much more difficult to resolve. What is it?

The Slow Poke.

If you find yourself finishing sections ahead of schedule, only to watch deadlines fly past with no word from your partner, you’re working with a Slow Poke.

When saddled with this kind of partner, it’s easy to assume the person is slacking and purposefully blowing off deadlines. This thought tendency only grows as frustration increases. Be aware, though, that there can be more than one reason a collaborator doesn’t pull through for you.

  1. They’re not used to working with deadlines. It’s true. Some people, especially those who don’t work as freelancers, may not be used to hard-and-fast deadlines. Journalists are taught respect for deadlines, with phrases like, “Cross this line, and you’re dead.” The same isn’t true for everyone. If your partners aren’t used to setting and keeping deadlines unless they have someone standing over them, you may have to be the whip master…at least until you can convince them of the real-world consequences of missing a deadline.
  2. Their hearts aren’t in it. Sometimes it’s a simple case of ennui. This project may rev your engine, but what about your partners? They may have caught the fever in the beginning, but lost interest once the first flush of excitement passed. If you can, find ways to draw them back into the process. You may need to revamp and include aspects that recapture their interest. Maybe they have too little responsibility, and need more. If this fails, it may simply be time to let the partnership dissolve (if that’s up to you).
  3. They’re overloaded. Due to human nature, this is the last pssibility many of us consider. If you’re working with serious professionals, though, it’s the first place you should look when your partners fall short. Don’t start out by blaming them for not “giving their all” and for failing to work 25/7. Sit back and consider. Is 25/7 what’s required if your collaborators want to juggle their responsibilities and this project? If so, is that a fair expectation? No. It may be that they misjudged and took on too much, or it may be that you saddled them with extra responsibility without asking. Either way, you may have partners who are about to crumple under the strain. Find a way to relieve your colleagues of some of the burden; cut their part in the project or work around their schedules. If that’s impossible, it may be time to cut them loose and hold off collaboration until a calmer time. If handled correctly, it will be a cause for relief rather than hard feelings.

When talking about the failing of others, of course, it’s also good to hold up the mirror once in a while. If you’re in a collaboration and sense frustration from your colleague, check yourself. Are you the Slow Poke? Have you lost interest, overloaded yourself, failed a deadline? If so, put yourself back on track and save your partner the trouble!

Tuesday, February 09, 2010

Washington Stonehenge

This past weekend, I escaped to a weekend women's retreat in Molalla. The retreat was wonderful, but short on writing time. On the way home, though, I did stop at the American Stonehenge, which sits overlooking the Columbia River by Hwy. 97. As you can see below, I let my attempts at artistry get the better of me!

Stonehenge, in Maryhill, WA, has been sitting on that hill for 80 years. It seems strange to build a replica of Stonehenge overlooking the Columbia River, but it's actually a war memorial in memory of the Klickitat County soldiers who died in WWI. The builder, Sam Hill, was a Quaker pacifist who visited the English Stonehenge in 1918. When told that the site had been used for human sacrifices (which probably isn't true), he said, "...the flower of humanity is still being sacrificed to the god of war." He returned home and started construction on the cement, full-scale replica that same year. It was completed in 1930.

Stonehenge from across the parking lot...or do I mean the "car park"?

Yes, I warned you about the artistry!

More artistry.

The view east from inside the monument.

The view of the Hwy. 97 bridge across the Columbia to Biggs, OR.

Monday, February 01, 2010

Monday, Monday

This post will involve some rambling. I'm never at my best on Monday mornings, and this one is especially cheerful so far.

I vaguely remember my husband chuckling as he kissed me goodbye this morning...something about Baby M having taken off her diaper in her crib. Well, yes she did. When she cried to be picked up this morning, there was a special urgency to the sound. I soon found out why. Her diaper was off, her blankets and sheet were wet, and she had urine on her nightgown and herself. Lovely!

I put her in the tub and asked my mom to watch her while I stripped the crib. (Since she's nearly 21 months she doesn't need constant supervision, only frequent checking.) From upstairs, I heard a commotion and frantic crying. Oh no! I thought. She's fallen! She's tried to climb out of the tub and fallen and cracked her head open! I'm such a horrible mother!

Once downstairs, I found Mom holding Baby M, who was wrapped in a towel and still crying as if her life was ending. No sign of a split-open head. Turns out, my mother walked in to check on her and found both Baby M and Missy (the cat) in the tub. Whether the cat fell or was pulled, we don't know. Missy, of course, was scrambling to get out. In the process, she sliced one of M's feet with a claw. Between the scare and the scratch, Baby M thought she'd been had.

That was all about an hour ago. M finished her bath, and both Missy and Baby M are now dry. Mom and I put salve on M's foot, and she seems no worse for wear. I'm exhausted....and my day has only started!

To make this post at least partly about writing, here's an update. Okay, so I finished the rough draft stage of my client's novel. Yay for me! I'm now waiting on word from him to see if he wants me to do a final edit or if he thinks it needs more construction. My opinion is that it needs more construction, but he's the man with the money and I have plenty of other projects to work on, so I'm not pushing.

The self-imposed deadline for the e-book my husband and I are writing has blown past as of midnight last night. The really awful news, of course, is that the book isn't done. The good news is that I met my deadline plus some! Yes, I finished my allotted sections and took some off his hands. That makes me feel good, even if the overall deadline-blowing doesn't. It's obvious Melo wasn't in journalism class when my professor explained deadlines. Put succinctly, "Cross this line, and you're dead."

Can't be too hard on the my husband, though. He is working 40 hours a week, plus gelato, plus writing. On the other hand, I changed urine-filled sheets this morning...what is a fair trade-off, really?