team vs solo

k6711218HandWithQuillPenI was reading writer Morgan Gendel’s thoughts on the 25th anniversary of The Inner Light episode of Star Trek: TNG. I was struck by the ferocity of the writers’ room he describes. It leaves me feeling depressed about the conflicts and injustices behind the scenes, and yet I enjoy the Star Trek shows. Should I feel guilty that I do, since they were produced out of pain? Surely the distress of all the artists behind the cameras, bleeds through onto the screen, and by watching, I am tacitly supporting a process I don’t agree with?

At this moment, I cannot see a way that any group of people can work towards one goal in perfect harmony and good will. Someone always seems to get hurt. So to avoid that, I feel I must work alone. Put pen to paper for myself. Then the only one being mistreated is me. (Here it is, a beautiful, sunny Sunday, and I’m not allowing myself to go outside until I finish this.)

This behaviour, of course, also deprives me of the special joy of being part of a team. When you want to build something and don’t have the skills, but you know someone else does, why not learn to work together? Why not produce a sum greater than its parts?

The trick seems to always come down to how to work with people. How can we truly engage in a dialogue between equals? The emotional reward coming from a team success can be addicting. That feeling of flying, of being thrilled when events surpass your expectations.

I still remember the surprised thrill I felt once, during a concert performance of a community orchestra I belonged to. I was playing 2nd clarinet, and I began a small crescendo during a solo passage. The 1st clarinet joined in, moved the crescendo louder. Unexpectedly, the two of us played more urgently, upping the speed and intensity for the duration of the passage. As it ended, we gracefully quietened and relaxed together. For those few moments, I suddenly understood this part of the music in a completely different way. An energy came from the music, written over a hundred years previously. It swept me into a place of wonder, where I thought “A-ha. This is how it’s meant to be.” And just as suddenly at it came, that magic slipped away. We finished the concert, and chatted briefly about it afterwards. But sadly, we were never able to repeat that small miracle.

I imagine that’s how a good writers’ room works. Everyone brings their energy and their ideas, hoping that in the mix something larger is born. It must take a confident belief in your own talent, though, to be able to survive and function in such a place. And for me, that rough and tumble is not even remotely appealing.

I have my hands full, just facing a blank page with a need to write.


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