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Collaboration: it's the only way

Collaboration. Not in a, ‘they’re hiding in the attic’ kind of way. Oh no.

I’m thinking more the concept of finding like-minded souls and enjoying the sharing of ideas, working with others and - whisper it - even allowing group activities into leisure pursuits.

For me, it’s been a long time coming. In my professional life, I’ve always ploughed my own furrow, enjoying the huge benefits self employment brings; total autonomy, the thrill of success being totally down to number one’s creative ingenuity, and of course, not having ‘a boss.’ Mmm, I can hear my wife having right giggle at that one.

But these top perks don’t come without a downside; you know, having to be Dave from marketing, Dave from accounts, Dave from customer service, they just go hand in hand with being a ‘lone wolf.’ That, and having no Christmas party.

But in recent years, a penny has been dropping very slowly indeed, and I believe I’ve just heard its final ker-ching. Doing things with others can be fun, and, hugely beneficial. Who knew?

I’m a sociable, outgoing kind of fellow and have got loads of friends, but looking back, I’ve realised I’ve always picked solo activities, both in work and play. Odd really, considering how much I enjoy the company of others.

Stand up comedy is – I think – the most distilled brand of self employment there is. You take all the glory when it goes well, but after a tough gig you are a pariah, and it’s hard not to take it personally. As a column writer, it’s just you in a room with your opinions, tippety-tapping them on a keyboard. On your own.

For years, I ran - just me and my Twiglet-like legs against the clock. I went to the gym – alone. Swimming; ticking off the lengths. I absolutely loved the simplicity of Karate training – in your jim-jams, barefoot, and with no one else to blame if you got clobbered. In recent years cycling taken over, but I shudder at the thought of joining a club and having to do things other peoples' way. Grinding up them big old hills by myself is just fine.

But there’s change afoot. Last year I was signed by an agent, keen to put my garrulous nature and creative writing training to good use. It’s a unique – and lovely - experience to know that someone else is fighting your corner for you.

This year I spread my wings further still and had the pleasure of working with some amazing fellow professionals in the field of public speaking, and what an unexpected joy that was. To be surrounded by wonderfully talented folk, all pulling strands of the same rope was exciting, fun and life-affirming.

But it’s ‘the band’ that has really crystallized my views on why collaboration is such a wonderful and necessary thing. A few years ago a plan was hatched in the pub (where all the best – and worst - ideas germinate) to form a band.

The Attention Seekers are a mix of top-drawer professional musicians, former guitar legends whose instruments were left to gather dust when the pram arrived in the hallway, and some who had never played before. I fall into the ‘sitting-on-the-end-of-the-bed-learning-guitar-chords-with-my-tongue-poking-out category. But the fact that we’ve all taken very different routes into music is irrelevant, as we all find our own way eventually, and the net result is something good, that makes people whoop, cheer, sing and dance. There’s nothing quite like it. No down side whatsoever.

I’m definitely not ready to hang up the self-employed guns quite yet – I enjoy the unlimited tea-breaks way too much – but I feel the future is all about the meeting of minds.

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