When collaborating in the arts, it’s especially important to create an environment which fosters creativity. However, everybody works differently, and when starting a new collaborative relationship with someone it can take some time to work out the kinks and get to know each other’s idiosyncrasies. Having a structure for your collaborative creative sessions when first starting out can help to keep those sessions as productive as possible while you find your groove.
Before I get too technical in suggestions on ways to structure time, you should establish what you’re looking to get out of these sessions. For example, if you’re a hobbyist and aren’t necessarily looking to make money in music, then it’s not so vital that you have a lot of imposed structure. Go have fun and make music with no expectations or deadlines and if it works out then awesome! If you’re looking to make a career, then you’ll see greater strides if you choose go into your projects with a plan.
It’s important to reiterate that when you’re collaborating, everyone involved needs to be on the same page in terms of what they’re looking to get out of working together, especially in dedicated working sessions. Someone who’s a hobbyist for example is not likely going to go out of their way to hit the same milestones as someone who is trying to make it his/her full time job, and it’s not fair to have opposite expectations of the other person on either side.
Let’s Get Working!
Before I start an in-person, collaborative working or practice session, I actually make a list of what I want to accomplish. Maybe I’ve spent too much time producing and coordinating, but I personally love agendas. It keeps things on track and can help guide you out of getting stuck. It can be as broad or as specific as you need.
When writing, for example, I might set a goal of “lock down a killer opening riff”, “write a rough chorus”, or “figure out the connective tissue between the bridge and the chorus.”
When practicing for a performance, it’s especially helpful to have a structured practice. I remember when I worked with I AM MANDRAKE it was always a pleasure to go to practice because Jerome was so organized. I’d show up at practice along with a handful of dancers and other performers, and he’d say something like “today I want to work on the dance for Miss You, Miss You then run through what’s happening on stage for Act 2”. He was a true professional – everyone’s time was respected and what emerged after all that hard work were some really great shows. You can even watch our first big show on Youtube!
This whole structuring idea may sound limiting, because… it is. But limitations enhance the creative process by giving guidelines and you’ll be way more productive. It also ensures that you’re actually spending the time that you dedicated to creating actually creating something. Trust me, there’s nothing less productive (not to mention expensive) than paying an hourly fee for a jam space with your band and realizing that half of it was spent drinking when you all actually intended to get stuff done that day.
Again, everyone works differently, and obviously there’s a balance to be made in the amount of structure imposed on each session that should be individualised on a per person or per group basis. I’m sharing what’s worked best for me in my personal experience, but my methods might not work for you! In which case I would love to hear what does work for you! How you structure your working and practice sessions? Do you have set goals each time? Let me know in the comments below!