A recent Atlantic article about the working relationship of John Lennon and Paul McCartney (who wrote some songs in some weird, obscure little band) got me thinking about collaboration and I wanted to open it up to you guys. The piece, which you should totally read (but only after this because I want you to come back, ya know?), discusses and explores the concept of the creative duo and how partnerships not only lead to a support system, but create an environment of challenge and conflict that elevates the work in unexpected ways. It says:
For centuries, the myth of the lone genius has towered over us, its shadow obscuring the way creative work really gets done. The attempts to pick apart the Lennon-McCartney partnership reveal just how misleading that myth can be, because John and Paul were so obviously more creative as a pair than as individuals, even if at times they appeared to work in opposition to each other. The lone-genius myth prevents us from grappling with a series of paradoxes about creative pairs: that distance doesn’t impede intimacy, and is often a crucial ingredient of it; that competition and collaboration are often entwined. Only when we explore this terrain can we grasp how such pairs as Steve Jobs and Steve Wozniak, William and Dorothy Wordsworth, and Martin Luther King Jr. and Ralph Abernathy all managed to do such creative work. The essence of their achievements, it turns out, was relational. If that seems far-fetched, it’s because our cultural obsession with the individual has obscured the power of the creative pair.
It goes on to explain how Paul and John each filled a crucial role that the the other man lacked:
Paul and John seemed to be almost archetypal embodiments of order and disorder. The ancient Greeks gave form to these two sides of human nature in Apollo, who stood for the rational and the self-disciplined, and Dionysus, who represented the spontaneous and the emotional. Friedrich Nietzsche proposed that the interaction of the Apollonian and the Dionysian was the foundation of creative work, and modern creativity research has confirmed this insight, revealing the key relationship between breaking and making, challenging and refining, disrupting and organizing.
So what do you think about collaboration? Do you enjoy working with a partner or team? Do you prefer to go it alone. The creative life can be a lonely one, so do you think collaborating from time to time is important? Like John and Paul, do you need someone to help elevate your work?