By: Brian Bieber, Fresh Produce
For a long time before I did anything resembling work in advertising and marketing, I wrote a lot of other things—essays, fiction, short humor pieces, maniacal letters to the editor. All of these projects were unsolicited and most were received (or not) without financial compensation. And all of these projects were done by me, and me alone.
Creation by committee gets a bad rap, usually by those of us who are terrified of sharing an idea still in its gestation phase, when it is most vulnerable to criticism or rejection. So after years of working on creative projects alone, it was jarring—and humbling—to become part of a crew.
During my first concepting meeting I watched helplessly as one of my pretty decent ideas was tagged and tweaked and bounced around from one member of the team to the other, until it landed squarely in the middle of the room, stronger and sleeker and shinier than I could have ever made it on my own. It was simultaneously exhilarating and profoundly sad to see something I conceived grow so quickly into such a better version of its original self. It’s what I imagine it would be like to meet a child you gave up for adoption who ended up being raised by superheroes.
Part of the horror of collaboration is losing sight of the boundaries of your contribution. When your sense of self is tied so close to concepts as abstract as “words” and “ideas,” it’s frightening to work without a byline.
In those first creative team meetings, I struggled to follow the threads of my initial ideas, even as much richer tapestries were woven around them. I would try to quantify my contribution to the finished product even before it was finished. How much of this is still mine? 80%? 60%? 20%? How will everybody know that this idea came from me? They won’t, of course.
That level of anxiety is too exhausting to sustain, even for someone as practiced in insecurity as a professional writer. So you learn to let it go.
You love the people you make things with. You respect the people you make things for. Then you take your name off the work and let it live in the world. If it’s a big enough idea and it’s executed well, someone will invariably ask, “Who came up with that?”
The simplest, best answer will always be, “We did.”