Wild Collaborators: Scaling Up and Branching Out
Broad arcs describe my life. Curves and ramps, landings and launch pads define the journey. And at every step, other people collaborate in a “make or break” moment that takes me to the next point. Every step is valuable because it leads to the next, and every person is a gift no matter how it may seem at the time.
We are wild collaborators and we need each other. We expand each other. As my vision for the growth of my business expands, so do the opportunities for steps, then leaps, alongside each next collaborator I meet. It is these collaborators who I look to in the reflecting on my current challenge: scaling up, in every area of my life, especially in business. I am ready to scale up, to branch out, and to create a new aspect to my brand, to follow and weave new threads into the tapestry of my creative life.
I want to design more, to build more, to describe more and to share more. And not just more: I want to do all of that, at a bigger scale. I want to scale up. It’s where my inner-geography-geek wants to go when I look at the broader map of the areas where I work; it’s where the inner artist wants to go when I see large canvases in the art supply store. It’s what I hunger for when I see a coastline spread before me, knowing that I have the architectural skills and desire to help communities transition as water levels rise.
My solution: have meetings. More focused meetings — not just random meetings for the sake of saying “we had a meeting,” but for connecting and savoring those inspired connections whenever and however they happen, and recognizing the launching point that those interactions can provide. Meetings are fertile ground for mutual expansion if you expect that in the first place. And I do. You could call them rendezvous instead of meetings if that helps to get around the feeling of “no, not more meetings!”
Case: I recently met up with author and creative marketing expert Dan Blank, and a wild collaboration ensued — his phrase — one morning, over coffee. We sat and talked about vision, creation and next steps. Dan, who is wise on such matters, asked me “what do you want?” and told me to “rethink the middle” which I took to mean, in combination:
“focus on the goal and ignore anything in your way.”
And so I put a test to Dan — to help untangle an issue for me in five minutes: “how do I get back into the flow of completing my second novel, which is half-finished?” I hope those skills will be transferrable to scaling up my architecture and art work. I believe they are.
Find accountability. Formalize your process by hiring someone, joining a mastermind group, making an investment. Appreciate the role of other people in your process.
Find the smallest thing you can achieve (and do that thing). This becomes the door to your gateway. Let the path unfold through baby steps.
Engage other people. In my notes from our talk, I wrote “Stairway to Heaven” was playing at that moment. I think that’s relevant — our collaborators are on both sides of the veil. The other note I made was to listen to feedback — and that feedback comes not only from the people in our meetings but also from subtle environmental cues around us. Pay attention to those.
Find the natural progression to the next step. Ask yourself, what is the next level? Focus there. This opens the gateway.
When we spoke I was reminded of two esteemed authors and their baby-steps-advice to me: that of Elizabeth Gilbert and that of Vincent Lam, who are two very different and equally amazing writers. A natural progression ensued, just as Dan explained.
EG wrote: if it’s not fun, you’re off track — my paraphrasing. She was specifically referring to working with an editor. Side note: I adore my editor and we have oodles of fun together. [hug for Jillian for the amazing work in editing my recent novel]
VL said: don’t be afraid to cut material as it may be part of your next work — my paraphrasing. The funny thing is that I blocked out this advice for a good year or more until I was ready to remember it, and I did remember it at the right time. For that year all I could recall was “VL said I should…” and the words hung, waiting for me to pick up the thread. [hug for Kristen for introducing us at VL’s talk at the Surrey Public Library]
I put those pieces of advice from EG and VL together in the Maia-mash that is my mind, and I got this:
“have fun cutting material, knowing it may well be of use later.”
Now, without these wild collaborators and many others I would probably not have finished my first novel. I did have fun. An awful lot of fun. And now I’m looking at the material I set aside for book two, and am wondering, is it fun? Is it for this book or is it for another?
I return to Dan Blank’s advice now: find the natural progression to the next step. For me and Dan, it was coming up with a moment in the conversation when he uttered the phrase “wild collaborators” and I knew that was the next step — to make connections, to reach out, to have meetings with those wild collaborators. My wild collaborators appear on email, they show up in interviews, and they are people I’ve known forever. They are all of these. If I look for the wild collaborators — or as, Mr. Rogers once said, “look for the helpers” then I know everything will be fine, whether it is in finishing the novel, fearlessly grabbing those large canvases or scaling up in my architecture work to address rising sea levels.