Collaboration is a Conversation That Changes You

Put down the weight of your aloneness and ease into the conversation.—DAVID WHYTE

Confession: I became a collaborative writer for a reason that’s seldom revealed. The truth is, I love good conversations. And collaboration is an excuse to have them.

What will you remember on your death bed? What you owned? How much money you made? The houses you lived in? The places you traveled?

Part of what I’ll remember will be the conversations that changed my life.

There was a conversation with Joanne in 1974 about whether to get married. (We did.) And later conversations about whether to have kids. (We did.)

There was a conversation with my dad in 1981, shortly before Lou Gehrig’s disease claimed him, about his fear of dying.

I’m so glad we had that conversation.

Then there have been wondrous conversations with clients—times when we sent depth charges into mysteries and burned with fires of insight.

A good book is a captured conversation. It is born from people who sit down, perhaps over wine, and ask each other questions and keep talking about the answers until they hammer out something that’s worth committing to the page.

For poet David Whyte, each of us is a “moving frontier” of conversation.  I like the adjective “moving” because it reminds us that we can change. And as he says in the video below, there is no fixed sense of identity that can survive a genuine conversation.

When two people meet in conversation, a third force enters their lives—a synthesis of ideas that can only occur in their full presence to each other. This is a gift—pure grace—and it is electric.

So these are my questions as you embark on a collaborative writing project: Are you open to the conversation? And are you willing to change?


  1. Really good points, Doug. And how interesting you mentioned your dad dying from Lou Gehrig’s disease. I have just now returned from an ALS walk in support of a friend who lost her partner to the disease in 2007. Good conversations and actions at the same time.


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