Strategies for Collaborative Writing
A miserable group project or a great professional opportunity?
Many people hate working with others. Many despise writing. What is that metaphorical squeaking sound you hear? That’s the Venn diagram for these two groups that may be scooting together to become nearly a concentric circle.
Yet, writing with others can be personally and professionally rewarding.
Writing can take many forms. These may be research papers, reports, status updates, presentations, slide decks, emails, or similar. In any of these, working with others can be a challenge. Most realistically, writing with others in one of many forms often appears as a necessity across many professions.
How do we collaborate productively?
Before digging into tips for collaboration, the productivity giant, Slack, focuses on the company culture. This applies to most, if not all, endeavors when people are involved. Even here for The Write Climate, the focus has been on building a culture of care as the essential workplace priority as well as centering equitable hiring on creating a place where people can thrive. The same concept appears again and again - culture matters and facilitates everything else.
Setting clear goals, getting everyone on the same page, defining check-in schedules, and establishing ground rules are generally excellent recommendations. The hiring site, Indeed, provides many tips for collaboration. Several of these stand out among the group:
Setting measurable goals
Defining group member roles
Facilitating open communication
These make good sense. Logical approaches to group work tend to… well… work. At least in many cases, these will work. At minimum, putting the effort in for the project and team in advance also sets the foundation for addressing difficulties when they arise.
Writing collaboratively provides a unique layer of complexity that overshadows simply working with others. There are notable benefits in producing more compelling writing when working with others, as well as overall “slowing down” the writing process. Somewhat less literally, this slowdown increases the discussion, planning, and deliberate focus on revision that may produce a better product.
Planning, time management, and style consistency are challenging. So, productive collaboration extends into several ideas for writing together productively:
Decide on whether drafting and revising with occur together or individually
Anticipate obstacles and work early to mitigate those potential future challenges
Working with others can be a great experience. Or, at the very least, it can be a productive and useful experience. Early planning and organization establishes important foundations for collaborative writing.