The Complexities of Collaboration

When discussing collaboration or in the midst of collaboration there is no and should be no sugar coating. Sugar coating anything during a collaboration delays the amount of progress being made or that can be made. In other words, what I have experienced as “sugar coating” is when someone will propose an idea and someone will say to save it for later on in whatever the task may be and then eventually cut it out, when it was clear that there was hesitancy in even proposing to hold on to the idea. This is not to say that the person’s idea wasn’t good, often times there are many good and great ideas being thrown out as food for thought, however, I personally feel as though there could be more assertion as to what should be used, based on what the prompt is and what direction our collaborative project is going in. That being said, there will be moments of frustration directed towards yourself as well as towards the group because you know more can be done; collaboration is both frustrating and rewarding. Collaboration is often a word that people will cringe at and be wary towards. The idea of collaboration often comes with associations of compromise, picking up the slack, surprisingly content with the outcome, etc. Throughout her works, Morrison clearly and realistically depicts the art of collaboration. Each work seems to represent the next “level” of collaboration; it gets increasingly difficult to do and confusing to decipher, yet it is still equally rewarding when accomplished. 

Understanding that collaboration is an art form is the first step to improving one’s skills. It is an art form because there needs to be consistent practice and it is not something that can be grasped easily. As students we are taught how to collaborate from the moment we start school, perhaps even before. Yet, no one genuinely enjoys working with others to complete a task unless they are drowning in work and have no choice but to ask for assistance. For me personally this is due to the fact that I would rather only disappoint myself than disappoint an entire group of people. Through this class and after reading Morrison’s works, it became clear that collaboration does indeed occur even in the smallest of instances. Furthermore, the idea of collaboration does not need to only be associated with larger tasks and projects especially since people collaborate with each other on a daily basis. For instance, simply going to get food from a restaurant is an example of collaboration; you are working with the person to complete a task. The server is doing their job and you are helping them do said job: they are helping to ensure you are fed. This is not to say that I now enjoy doing group work or group collaborations, however I can say that I have learned that the pressure we put on potential collaborations is unnecessary; collaboration is meant for each person to grow and learn and one can not grow or learn without discomfort. 

When reading Beloved it was clear how independent Sethe was and how she aimed to stay that way. There is absolutely nothing wrong with independence, however the only way to ensure that one’s independence stays strong and up to par is to know when to ask for help. Throughout the novel the reader is able to pinpoint several moments in which Sethe could have asked for help, and it’s clear that it was something that crossed her mind, however, in not asking for help sooner, when she finally did it was only because that was the last option. In fact, she still put up a fight but eventually let herself be helped by Paul D. I didn’t know it then, but the lesson of learning when to ask for help stuck with me. I guess I unconsciously stored that information and saved it for when I needed it. I too struggle with being overly independent and after reading Beloved it was like a slap in the face that forced me to slow down and learn the time and place to be independent. It is obviously an ongoing struggle because, again, collaboration is not mastered overnight, but progress is being made. 

While on the topic of progress, it is important to understand that progress is not linear. There will be moments of accomplishments and lots of productivity, and moments of seemingly no or very little productivity. This is still progress because it shows that you are understanding when to not overwork yourself and learning when to take time for yourself. That being said, collaboration follows the same structure. When there is a collaboration taking place, it will not always be forward movement; sometimes in order to move forward a little bit of time needs to be taken out to revisit past events/accomplishments. When reading Jazz it is very clear that the theme of going back and forth and learning how to come to terms with the reality of collaboration and progress is vital to the story. Jazz takes the idea of being overly independent and expands on it; now we as readers see the different consequences of how a lack of initiative for building on collaboration plays out. Violet and Joe consistently go back and forth with their own issues while in the same space, which contributes to that original issue and furthers their disconnect. I learned, especially because of the ending of the novel, that 1-again progress within collaboration and progress overall is not linear, 2- learning to prioritize yourself but not completely closing yourself off is extremely important, 3- although the end of the novel wasn’t exactly what the reader wanted that is not necessarily the end of the story. In other words, simply because you reach an “ending”, does not mean that is the end. Many things end so others can start or continue to flourish. 

The idea of progress not being linear is cemented in the reader when reading Paradise. This novel is probably one of the most convoluted novels I have ever read yet it is so beautifully written. There are still aspects I don’t completely understand but perhaps each time I re-read Paradise in the future, I will uncover more. That idea of feeling accomplished or finished with something, seeing as this was the final book in the trilogy, again does not mean you completely understand everything that was accomplished. In other words, an ending does not always mean that everything that was “supposed” to be learned has been learned. In addition, it does not mean that everything was done according to the original plan; you may learn things that were never intended or you may not realize what you learned until after some time you’ve reached an “ending”. That is perhaps the most important message; leave room and understanding for yourself and for others to flow with the daily events that come our way. Even if there is a plan, plans change no matter what the reason is, and there will always be a reason for plans to change. 

It wasn’t until I began thinking about the prompt for this paper that I realized what lessons I had learned from each novel. I also realized that I didn’t learn each lesson as soon as I finished each book, the lesson I learned from each book was made clear once I started the following book. So that being said, I didn’t realize the lesson I learned from Paradise until I started writing. I learned the importance of having a plan for whatever task or goal in mind, yet still being open to new collaborations that might lead to new accomplishments that were not even thought of. I personally feel as though I read each novel at the time and moments of my life when I needed it the most. Especially Paradise since it was the final novel and we are now in our final week of classes. The timing of reading the novels and timing of me learning the lessons were very serendipitous.  

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