Tuesday, December 23, 2014

Collaboration is the New Creation

Producers have always won awards. The Grammys and Oscars for Best Album and Best Picture go to the producers of those works, the people who put the team together and guided the process. For a long time (and maybe still), they are not necessarily seen as part of the creative team, if anything they are the glue that holds the creative types together. Producers form the structure.

Lately, though, producers are becoming the artists - or perhaps they always were. This is more common with movies - Brad Pitt, Ben Affleck, and Reese Witherspoon all have successful production companies (it doesn't hurt that there's lots of money to be made there) - but it's happening more and more in music. Daft Punk won the Best Album Grammy last year for a record they essentially produced. Nearly every track has guest performers and much of the construction was collaborative, but they're given credit. EDM artists are doing the same thing - think Calvin Harris or Avicii - artists whose major work is compiling a track, often by sampling or combining the work of others. Sometimes the named artist on an album doesn't sing or play any instruments.

It's a different world, but there's also something viscerally familiar about it.

I had the opportunity to write for a book done collaboratively. A friend of mine started a publishing company, conceived of a book written by many authors, working in concert. This is not just a book pieced together from disparate chapters, but something with which each of us was involved from the very beginning. It was (and is) very much Keith's baby - he designed the parameter, the skeleton upon which we added our prose and editorial opinions - but it's certainly not his alone.

The publishing world hasn't quite figured out how to label something like this. They're still working in the real of authors and editors. The music business hasn't gotten it either, although there are enough rules about how to credit various contributors and the creative people themselves are fluid enough that recognition generally finds its way to the right people.

I am, from time to time, creative. I like to write. There is a real sense in which what I create is entirely mine (save perhaps the occasional divine inspiration). At the same time, my creativity belongs almost entirely to the people who, through relationships and shared experiences, have shaped who I am. I see the world in the way I do because of the people around me. I may individually express and nurture my ability to express myself creatively, but it would be foolish to claim any of that for my own.

This takes on a much deeper aspect when we consider our creation alongside the creation of the world. I'll never begin to grasp the intricacies of the universe or the ways in which it came to be what it is. I believe God created, although my understanding of scripture leads me to believe God involved the creation itself as collaborator almost from the very beginning. This tracks well with both our best understanding of creation from science and also from our own experience in life.

Creation is a collaborative endeavor. Even if we create just for ourselves, there is an added dimension which arises when others interact with what we've done. Creation is a form of communication. Help us to recognize the creative value of those around us. Help us also to recognize the importance those around us have in the ongoing creation of our lives.

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