How to Collaborate with a Non-Writer

In the professional sphere, it is very common for writers to have to collaborate with other professionals. For example, a writer may be asked to work with artists for a marketing campaign or a writer may have to work with engineers in order to write a technical manual. These collaborative situations provide a unique set of challenges that can be very difficult for professional writers to negotiate. However, there are a few simple things that writers can do to help guarantee the success of any collaborative effort.

Collaborate Better by Playing to One Another’s Strengths

The first thing to keep in mind is that other professional groups have trained different skill sets and may approach things very differently from a writer. This is why understanding process structures—the way other professionals accomplish tasks—can be an important first step during a collaborative process. Ask your collaborators how they plan to approach the project and document the steps they outline. If portions of the process are unclear, ask questions about the details. Also, be sure to share how your own process works and where it might differ from their own. This will help avoid conflicts during a collaborative project by putting all parties on the same page from the very beginning.

Another thing to keep in mind is that the role of a writer in any sort of collaborative project is often communication and description. This requires that a writer work in clear, precise language that can be understood by all parties involved. Do not use florid prose or complicated rhetorical structures unless the project specifically calls for them.

Remain Flexible

Finally, remember to be flexible and open to different perspectives, especially when it comes to criticism. An engineer might not have much to say about your grammar, but they will probably be very tough on technical details that you may have misrepresented. An artist might not be worried about stilted dialogue, but they may be concerned that your descriptions can’t be visually represented. The criticism a writer can get from other professionals can be very different from the type of criticism they get from other writers, but it can also be extremely useful in different ways if a writer remains open to it and does not simply dismiss it because it does not pertain strictly to the words on the page.

Collaborating with non-writers can be difficult, there’s no denying that, but it can also be a fantastic experience that expands your skill as a writer. And as long as you’re willing to make an effort to understand others and communicate openly about your own feelings, you’ll find that collaboration is nothing to be afraid of.

That’s it for our discussion on collaboration. Hopefully, it helps you all be a bit more open to the idea of working with people besides other writers. Next time, we’ll take a break from discussing the nuts and bolts of writing to take a look at five books about writing that every writer should read. Until then, stay safe and keep writing!

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