Firmly on the ground, balancing on your toes, with a pencil in your mouth
- Let’s meet Tuesday week. 4pm?
- Wednesday would be better for me.
- For me too.
- Wednesday 4pm?
- Or Monday at 2?
He recalled being ten and afraid of not being good enough… At first this collaborative business displeased him greatly. It reminded him of his childish nature, the fact that he preferred saying “me” not “we”. He knew he was secretly afraid that others might judge him too harshly, but he pretended otherwise. When he was working alone he controlled everything, he created forms and content, he shaped everything that needed to be shaped into existence. He also controlled the way he appeared to the world. He was assertive, independent and deployed the image of a conqueror, a master ruling over any crippling doubts. Old habits, those helping him when he felt stuck, those kindling within him a curious mix of intuition and ambition, those he could not access when he collaborated. Old habits were challenged and remodelled by others. It was impossible to operate as he once did and he clandestinely loved this feeling of freedom and of forced transformation. But he also had to negotiate with others, to express his views clearly, to be a leader to then disappear and move out of centre stage. He had to forget his ego and even when he was the driving force, he had to say “we” and not “I”.
She said it was reassuring to work with others. She felt under pressure but rose to the challenge. She also felt less accountable. Failure was only one step; someone was always able to save the situation. What she called a mistake was often a springboard for at least one of her collaborators and she bizarrely felt valued even when she thought she had messed it up. In collaboration she thrived. She was able to concentrate, to work harder and faster. She felt relieved from fears, as any possible debacles would be collective ones and not solely hers. Since she feared less, she made less mistakes, felt freer, more imaginative, less trapped or left macerating in old ways of working.
They had come to the conclusion that a sense of personal achievement meant a lot, posterity also, perhaps. The collaboration did not prevent this, instead it multiplied the chances of success. All had a set of unique skills and strength, which they employed working towards a singular goal. This collaborative machinery seemed at times unstoppable. Certainly they encountered jealous people willing to create turmoil within this fragile alchemy, willing to see the group implode. But their sole real enemy, and they knew it, was a feeling of fatigue. Having to constantly notify each other, meet, converse and decide together, the sound of their words seemed at times to echo endlessly.
However, what prevailed within their collaboration was a feeling that possibilities were infinite and experimentation everlasting. The end result, as long as the process kept on rolling remained unknown and, as Marion did in Pauline at the beach, all of them could have declared in unison “Maybe it is dangerous but I have always been fascinated by danger”. (1)
(1) Pauline at the Beach, "Pauline à la plage" (original title) (1983), Eric Rohmer