I married my deejay and music producer. Since we said, “I do,” we’ve been traveling, working, creating, and performing together, sticking closely to our respective processes.   

Recently, an idea sent the electric feeling of a brainstorm through both of us. We talked about themes, beats, stage versus studio, rhymes, and decided to come up with a name for our duo. All of this sounded really cool and then we sat down to actually collaborate. 

He closed the door to the office and started building the music we’d use. I sat at the dining room table buried in scattered lines of poetry. He let me listen to what he was building and it wasn’t what I’d imagined the music would sound like. I read him my scattered lines and they didn’t make much sense. This quickly turned into an argument. 

My husband has a mind full of beats per minute, keys of music, sounds, bass, and instruments. I have a mind full of metaphors, story, and verse. We frustrated each other and it seemed there was nothing we could do to see each other’s opposing points of view. 

So we decided, even though it might be messy, him banging on an MPC, me scribbling random lines on paper, that if we were going to collaborate we couldn’t do it separately. I listened to the stutter and staccato process it took him to build the music. I relaxed and tried to do what writing poetry always is, listening to hear how the words want to be said. 

We stayed in that room for hours and our frustrations unraveled into a piece of poetry and music that made all the messiness worth it. 

Here are three things to consider when collaboration gets messy: 

  • Pull Back The Curtains 

Reveal ideas that are unfinished, unrefined, and unedited. When people want collaboration they don’t want your perfection, they want your reality and they want you to bring that to the creative table so everyone can get their hands dirty making the idea the best it can be. 

  • Control Freaks Don't Make Good Collaborators  

Collaboration and control DO NOT mix. The more I try to control, the more I miss out. Sometimes creativity is in the accepting and the letting go. When I have relaxed, used the “yes and” approach instead of the “no, that’s not MY way” approach, the ideas arrive faster and better. 

  • Conflict Is Good 

Use conflict to your advantage. Don’t resort to name calling, not listening, becoming defensive or anything else we do when we feel insecure. Conflict during collaboration is not about being right or getting your point across. Dig beneath the conflict to discover how different perspectives and ways of thinking, processing, and creating, can complement each other, create a strong idea, and make that idea an even better reality. 

Inspiration and creativity are waiting to be found in the messiness of collaboration.