Collaboration is all about bringing people, ideas, and skills together to serve something greater than any of the individual components.  It’s a relationship, and therefore it needs to maintain a healthy balance to optimally function. That’s not to say that some conflict is bad;  the old saying that conflict breeds creation does actually hold weight. Whether or not the conflict or drama becomes the nucleus of a collaboration is a different thing altogether.  Creation is a joyous process, and it should (hopefully) mostly be about the journey of having nothing, to having something... Thoughts become things…. That’s the ideal outcome of collaboration.  Sometimes though, toxicity can get in the way and disrupt that process. Here are some tell tale signs that a collaboration dynamic is going sour:

1. Avoid Communication Breakdowns

When communication is lacking, or not being effectively managed, bad things tend to happen. At first it can appear as small things;  schedule mishaps, deadlines missed, frustration build-ups. All such things that are acceptable as long as they are not a habit, or a way of being (unless working spontaneously and with an element of chaos is in fact preferred by the parties involved). However, these little issues can be indicative of more troublesome conflicts to come.  Left unresolved or unremedied, communication breakdowns can lead to financial losses, missed opportunities of a profitable nature, damaged personal relationships, and all other manners of drama or upset.

So how do we avoid such communication breakdowns?  

Maintain open communication at all times if possible. Share insights about personal preferences and boundaries and DO in fact talk about discomforts, while maintaining the mantra, “Say what you mean, mean what you say, but don’t be mean when you say it.” Healthy communication is crucial to any and all human-to-human interactions.  This is even more true when creative investments are being made as a group effort, as damage sustained to creative energy can cause life-long trauma to a person’s innate artistic energy centers.

2. Get it in Writing:  Signed, Sealed, Delivered,...It is OURS!

If people are looking to create things together, whether they be music, art, film, or really anything that could be considered for commercial consumption or profit generating, then there is only really one way to secure it all; get it in writing.  Then, get it notarized (or facilitated by a legal professional). Without contracts, there is NO actual agreement that is legally binding.

Why does something have to be legally binding you may ask?  Because there is no point in doing collaborations for profit without a set of established rules, agreements, and acknowledged boundaries.  There is far too much liability. People’s minds change over time, relationships shift, and life changes every day second by second. So when people seek to create something, they need to not only capture the art in that moment, but also need to capture the agreement in that moment too, to ensure that any possible income, opportunities, or issues are nipped in the bud.  

And here is some advice that I would encourage ALL to listen closely to: DO IT BEFORE THE WORK STARTS.  Not only is that the best approach regarding transparency and intent of each party, it’s also the LEGALLY sound way to do it.  Signing contracts retroactively can be difficult, costly, and sloppy to negotiate if done after the fact. Imagine a band that breaks up over band terms.  Say this band gets an offer years later and one member wants to satisfy a grudge by blocking a project’s advancement, or they want a bigger cut of the pie, and so they hold out waiting for either their own optimal terms to be met, or sometimes sadly, out of the desire to sustain a grudge (which always sucks the joy out of most situations, but specifically artistic endeavors, as they are often felt to be an expression of a person’s soul).  This can be personally crushing, but also a great way to dishonor the actual art that was created.

Avoid these potential pitfalls. Protect all parties involved, and get it on paper,  then share in the abundance of the creative process, and God/dess willing, the success.  The point: If someone is not willing to sign, then don’t create anything together (if there’s any intention of it leaving the studio or practice room).  I have also found that if someone isn’t willing to make an agreement or they are hesitant to make it official, then they likely are hobbyists, amatuers, or otherwise not considering themselves “professionals”.

3. If You Don’t Ask, Then You Won’t Know

An important and often side-stepped aspect of collaboration, is to ask the important questions.  This is a more specific form of the communication aspects I often write about. What would I need to ask, you may wonder? Ask questions such as, “Is this a project we want to be public with or is this just for our own private enjoyment?,” and “Are you in a union or guild?” - Now this last one is important, as unions and guilds have rules that their members need to abide by, and if a member does not disclose their affiliations, it would potentially be a detriment to all parties. Union members can have their contracts suspended or revoked as well as fines, and it can cause legal financial issues for the non-member who has become involved.  A few other questions to consider asking: “Are you and I going to be financial investors in the work? And if so, what is our agreed upon obligations?,” and, potentially one of the most important questions, “ow do you envision the long term goals?o you see yourself doing this for your whole life, or untill you go to or end a college education, or untill you get married?”, and so on. Take time to really get to know where each party has come from, where they are at, and where they want to be. If you don’t ask, you won’t know. And knowing is half the battle.

I hope you found this list to be a helpful addition to the other blogs I’ve written on creative relationships, collaboration, and success as a professional in the creative fields. Best of luck to you all out there who are striving to create communities and partnerships !!

Thanks for reading

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