Thursday, September 22, 2016

Collaboration

Your collaborations with other writers often produced results well beyond mere blandness, ebbing and waxing like a surf with nothing to do but ebb and wax, with precious little in between except moving sand. 

Collasborations are risky propositions under most circumstances, even when there is an apparent need for the project to be written by more than one person. You have not been involved in any serious sort of collaboration for approximately five years, when Digby Wolfe fell ill with the complications that would be the death of him, and your last words to him, the phone held to his ear by his wife, you in Santa Barbara, he is Albuquerque, had to do with your promise to finish the work for the two of you.

Your collaborations with Wolfe were problematic from the outset because of your differing approaches to writing anything, including Wolfe's having on at least three occasions when catching flights to other cities were at issue, returning home to rewrite a note of instruction to his house cleaner. 

There was also the ongoing problem that you perhaps liked each other too much, each of you seeing what he felt to be the gap in the other's vision. Not to forget the tangible note of neither of you wishing to disappoint the other.

Your approach was scatter gun, get the first draft down in as much detail as possible, then go back to cope with the results. Wolfe, who sometimes used a rhyming dictionary the way you in jest likened to a tong leader, keeping track of the day's take on an abacus, would often lapse into a stare. 

You knew he was somewhere, but not in the present moment.  "It's that sentence two paragraphs back," he'd say. "It's trying to do too much."  Quite often, he was quite right, but you were in another moment, coping with another aspect of the story.

Your collaborations with him were on a par with having to explain things to exes you'd not seen or communicated with in years, an observation you made to him at one point where purposes were crossed. His reply, "But that's the very nature of story, isn't it?"

While your collaborations may not have produced many tangible outcomes, they curiously informed the way each of you wrote on his own, extending the feeling you both had that you were better for one another than either of you was able to articulate. 

With that inchoate counterpoint in mind, you proceeded until, one day, while you were both tucking into large bowlsful of linguini alla vongole, you allowed that story had a genome of its own, a dramatic genome writers strived to encounter.

"That's it,"  he said. "That's our next. The Dramatic Genome.  We'll write it your way, then edit it mine. We'll make good on all our threats and promises. We'll--"

Half an hour later, the owner of Via Maestra approached our table. "Something is wrong with the vongole? Those clams are fresh. I made the sauce myself. Everything is, if I may say so, perfect. Why, then, are you not eating?"

"Because," Wolfe said, "we are planning Chapter Three."

Your speculations about the composition of Self lead you to think that you are always in a state of collaboration, even while working by yourself. And yet, since that evening at 3343 State Street, sometime in 2010, every time you think of linguini all' vongole, you are back collaborating with Wolfe.

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