Collabaret

This 1978
Joel Sternfeld photo
(via) stands
up nicely-analogous alongside the collaborative writing I’ve been working at
sporadically in recent weeks.

The unfamiliar process taught me a great deal about collaborative drafting
that I didn’t know before. Often it seemed like dabbling on the edges,
often like plunging in–designations that captures the uncertainty I felt
at times, the turn-taking, and the refreshing experience of opening a Google Doc
to find that someone else had poured an hour’s worth of smart work into the
manuscript since the last session. Sure, I’ve read a little bit about
collaboration, talked about it, even asked students to work together, but until
now I can’t honestly say that I’ve undertaken anything quite like this before.

When I first saw the above photograph turn up via TriangleTriangle’s RSS
feed, I was at a point when it cried out: There’s this raging fire to put out.
My colleague was intensely engaged in knocking out the flames while I was, like
the pumpkin shopper standing in the foreground, basically shitting around. So
many pumpkins! I’d flagged the photo for its commentary on collaborative
writing–something I was both doing and also thinking of blogging about–and its
significance shifted. Not an all reversal of studium and punctum
here, but an identity-urgency, an itch: I, too, sought a turn on the ladder.
Turn after turn came later, authorial identifications shifted as if caught in a
turn-style, and the chapter draft took shape, coming more or less solidly
together. This has left me thinking about collaborative writing as worth trying
a few more times for the way I now conceive of the process via something like a
post-dialogic dual occupancy, standing in the foreground (Which pumpkin?) and on
the ladder, happily and at once.

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