The wry and witty TV comedy series “30 Rock” (starring and created by Tina Fey) often features scenes in the writers room for the fictional variety show, “TGS with Tracy Jordan.”
Actor Keith Powell (at left in photo) plays the stuffy, Harvard-educated writer James “Toofer” Spurlock.
He sat in on the real “30 Rock” writers room and reported, “It’s actually a lot like what we film. I kind of started watching firsthand what they were doing.
“I also feel like there’s always these creative environments we’re always in. I’m a writer myself, and when you’re around a bunch of other people, there’s always a point where you just get delirious. You’re just trying to keep your creativity going.
“You’re making fun of people, you make crazy inanimate objects have sex with each other, and you just get delirious. You want to play jokes on people and do anything to keep creativity going. That’s why it’s such a fun and ripe thing to write about — there’s always crazy people in that writers room.”
From article Keith Powell on the 30 Rock Writers Room, Tina Fey’s Rise to Fame and the Science of Cheers, by Louis Virtel.
“Masterpieces are not single and solitary births; they are the outcome of many years of thinking in common, of thinking by the body of the people, so that the experience of the mass is behind the single voice.” Virginia Woolf
Dr. Keith Sawyer, a professor of psychology and education at Washington University in St. Louis affirms that the understanding of creativity as a collaborative process applies not just to prodigies and masterpieces, but also to more ordinary innovation.
His book Group Genius: The Creative Power of Collaboration, reveals, he says, that “creativity is always collaborative, even when you’re alone. It is filled with compelling stories about the inventions that changed our world: the ATM, the mountain bike, and open source operating systems, among others. In each case, I show the true story of innovation: in spite of the ‘lone genius’ myths that always spring up after an invention’s success, these important inventions always originate in collaboration.”
There are many forms of collaboration in both “real” space – filmmaking, music and drama performing, group writing of tv programs etc – and in virtual connections, such as internet work groups, and classes.
The graphic at right is for the Writers University’s Writing Courses – online courses in creative writing.
Even large corporations can be structured to be more collaborative.
A U.S. News & World Report article [No Ideas? You’re Not Alone] refers to the Brazilian company Semco, which had “a top-down management structure” and was “on the verge of bankruptcy.
“Then Ricardo Semler, the son of the company’s founder, took over as CEO. Semler tossed the [procedure] binders, fired most of his senior managers, and handed the reins to the company’s employees. ‘It was like taking an improvisational jazz ensemble and ramping it up to the organizational level, Keith Sawyer says. After the company’s reorganization, revenues climbed from $4 million to $212 million.”
In his book Group Genius, Sawyer says he had “just finished a ten-year study of how Chicago actors improvise dialogue on stage, and I’d discovered that group improv was the purest form of collaboration.”
[Sawyer is also author of Explaining Creativity: The Science of Human Innovation.]
Sometimes a creative context is not working for an artist.
Holly Hunter quit a play early on in her career, “because there was something about it that I didn’t like. I didn’t think the director was the right guy to be directing it.
“To me, being creative is a very fragile thing, the environment in which one can create is a very particular one, and somehow I’ve always felt the need to be very protective of that.” [More quotes on The Inner Actor.]
Actor Zooey Deschanel thinks “It’s a lot harder to do an ensemble because your energy is going in so many different places, and you have to cover everybody. You have to sort of split your attention.”
[More related quotes on the page Collaboration.]
he complexities of working with other people can be challenging – especially for creative artists who are also highly sensitive, having a greater sensitivity to sensory input and social interactions on different levels, plus a deeper vulnerability to emotional energies.
In her article How to Attract Positive People and Situations, psychiatrist and energy specialist Judith Orloff, M.D. advises looking for signs of positive intuitions about other people you may connect with in creative or other kinds of relationships – signs such as: “a feeling of comforting familiarity or brightness; you breathe easier, chest and shoulders are relaxed, gut is calm; you find yourself leaning forward, not defensively crossing your arms or edging away to keep a distance; your heart opens; you feel safe, peaceful, energized, expansive, or alive.”
In contrast, she warns in her article Protect Yourself from Energy Vampires that there are people “who suck our energy dry. Everyone can benefit from skills on how to cope with them. You can especially benefit if you are an ‘intuitive empath’ who absorbs the pain and negativity of others into your body, and become exhausted by it.
“Our relationships are governed by a give and take of energy. Some people make us more electric or at ease. Yet others suck the life right out of us.”
Writer and counselor Linda Buzzell notes in her book How to Make It in Hollywood that “Successful people know how to create support for their efforts. Unsuccessful people keep themselves isolated. Failing to build a support system for your career is a serious form of self-sabotage, especially in the entertainment industry.”