Tuesday, 21 February 2012

Solitude vs. Collaboration

Keith Sawyer, a psychology and education professor in the USA, writes an intriguing blog regarding creativity. A recent post critiqued an article in the New York Times, written by Susan Cain, which stated that "people are more creative when they enjoy privacy and freedom from interruption". It has caused quite a stir and I've come across more criticisms of her article than support. It is worth noting that both Sawyer and Cain agree that a balance between the two is necessary - but then Cain appears to disregard this completely by writing a one-sided pro-solitude piece which Sawyer then neatly pulls apart.

The online debates surrounding the subject of 'introvert vs. extravert'/ 'solitude vs. collaboration' got me thinking about where I would position myself in the argument.

My instinct would say I prefer solitude. But rather than due to the peace of being alone, it is through fear that my ideas could be taken by someone else before I have had time to fully develop them! (Yes, I need to work on calming my paranoia!)

Then I thought about the things I have done so far this year and considered if they were truly independent paths I had taken or not. The result is a resounding "NO".

Through interaction on blogs/websites, particularly creativeeveryday.com, I have delved more into creative work than I had previously done in years! Although the shading of a drawing was done alone, the stimulus came from ideas presented by others (such as the themes in Challenge 2012) or discussions with friends and colleagues.

Looking back I think my negative view of collaboration stems from doing group projects at varying levels of education and feeling like the driving force a lot of the time. If I believed in an idea I would be behind it 100%, which sometimes lead to, or at least felt like, me doing all the work that others got credit for.

So the trick to it is to strike a balance, and the web can help achieve this. Having an online facade allows people to engage with others, but not necessarily give away all the details about what they are doing. It is a blogger's choice what to upload/ discuss, how much to divulge or keep hidden, and with that - to an extent - collaboration with others is possibly manipulated to suit individual needs. Nonetheless, individual work and teamwork seem to go hand-in-hand when it comes to creativity.


  1. Interesting topic LJ, now you have me thinking. In group projects I like to take the lead, that's my control issues though, however I've become a fantastic delegate. This way I have the best of both worlds, my creativity influences others, the project gets done and I don't feel resentments towards the other group members because I've done all the work. Now when it comes to writing... that's another story. I would have to agree for the most part though, that individual and teamwork go hand-in-hand.

    Have a fantastic week!

    1. Sounds like you've managed to strike a good balance! I still need to learn the art of delegating (substitute "delegating" for "trust"!) but I guess it will only develop with practice. I hope all is well in Australia and that you're all set for your journey to the Pukatja community!