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Red Right Hand: DUO DYNAMICS
*He is not a secret agent. Not at all.



In the last few days, in places like in the comments on Emily's Bamboo Killers, the [tvwriters] Yahoo group, and some other random places, I've noticed several people express the same sentiment with regards toward writing partners. It usually goes along the lines of "a writing partner keeps me motivated."

I'm not anti-partner. I know people who've had them and the experience was really nothing to write about and I know a set of writing partners now and it seems to work out well for them.

I think it generally comes down to the dynamic and an equality of contribution. I've occasionally found myself in collaborative situations where most of the heavy lifting rested on me...and it's not even my idea or concept. In those cases, I generally wind up not doing the heavy lifting and nothing gets done. And I can't say I feel especially bad about it. If the collaborator is so keen to get the project written, why isn't he writing it?

And I don't want to hear about lacking the skills. If the idea's that good, you write it anyway...and maybe you learn to write along the way.

I prefer not to have a partner. It is, as I've said elsewhere, it's just me and the page - to the death, but I do really enjoy working out stuff with other writers, breaking the story, bouncing ideas. It's a vital skill if you're going to be in a writer's room for more than just delivering lunch.

In fact, one of my favorite things in a meeting of my writer's group is either pitching fixes for other people's scripts or when my synapses start running with some idea that one of the others pitched for one of mine.

Hell, just the ability to incorporate notes is a like a subtle level of partnership, isn't it?

It's the partner as motivation thing that concerns me. I don't know if I've ever read anything written by a team where this is a consideration. I don't think I have, as I've read very few specs by teams. But I kinda have to wonder about the quality of something that a team like that might produce. And this is why.

If the story alone doesn't motivate you to write it, why should I be motivated to read it?

I can see the point in being pushed to action by a writing partner. It creates deadlines where, really, there isn't. It invokes the let-down factor in that if you fail to do your part, then you've let own your writing partner. No. I get it.

Especially since our lives our hectic, either by design or circumstance, but no one ever said that writing is easy. Certainly I have periods where I just can't get adequate time or rest or be in the right mental state to sit down and write. Sometimes I let my social life (or attempts thereof) eat up that time, but sometimes it goes the other way around. However, I find that the more effort I have to make to write, the less likely that whatever I'm writing is going to be worth the trouble. When an idea is firing, you really can't keep me from my keys, even if it means falling asleep on them (or, really near them).

This is how I know (most of the time) what to write and what to move past. The story is the motivation. Nothing else.

Sometimes I come across some competition or other opportunity where a certain kind of writing is called for. Like a short script or a particular genre and its something I don't really have "in stock" as it were, so I try to work something up to fit the criteria. Sometimes I come up with something that I really like and want to write and other times my motivation is that goal. When that is the case, it generally turns out as less than. I was probably better off not even writing it.

Sure, a lot of my writing is motivated by a goal. I want to be a full-time professional writer, but isn't that goal fueled by my need to write. Even if I'm overloaded with work commitments and plans with friends, or advising third world coups, if I've got a good story, then it's breaking in the back of my mind whenever there's a free moment and of there's any measure of consciousness when I get home, and that story is really working, then I'm getting something down before I pass out...even if it's just a couple of lines.

If you need an outside motivator, like a partner, in order to get the work done, I have to wonder how bad you want it. How bad you want the story. How bad you want to be a writer. How bad the need is to write.

Like I said, though. This is scarcely an accusation about all writing teams. There are certainly all sorts. I know of one writer who likened his partnership to the post-modern Batman and Robin concept. Robin keeps Batman from going over the edge into vengeance and his partner keeps him from going over the edge into crap. There's another partnership I know where (and this is purely my application of analogy) it's The Doctor and his companion dynamic in that each partner improves the other and their respective strengths are both brought out and magnified by the collaboration.

In both of those cases, though, I'm reasonably sure that if they didn't have partners, they'd still be writing something whenever they could, despite whatever dangers they perceive from not having the partner. They're writers and they have to write.
©2024 Michael Patrick Sullivan
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