Yesterday I came to the end of my first ever writing partnership with a proper academic. We began collaborating in May 2012, and decided we would work together for a year with the aim of producing two journal articles in that time. We ended up writing together for almost four years and produced one working paper, one journal article, and a book chapter (finally finished yesterday, and due to be published by Policy Press in an edited collection later this year).
I learned a lot from this collaboration, not least that co-writing can take longer than you think, especially when you’re working on conceptually difficult topics. My co-writer and I worked really well together, and the publications we produced were definitely richer and meatier than either of us could have produced alone. I also received some very useful mentoring in the process, with invaluable tips on how to optimise journal articles for acceptance, and useful insights into the workings of academia. My collaborator was even generous enough to start by presenting me with several areas she was interested in exploring, and letting me choose the one I preferred for us to work on.
For the first year of our collaboration, we were both based in the UK; after that, my collaborator moved to Sweden. But that didn’t matter; we’d had a few face-to-face meetings and got to know each other in that first year, and email and Skype supported our collaboration thereafter.
We were fairly compatible as co-writers, with one major exception: we had very different attitudes to deadlines. I don’t work at all well under deadline pressure, so I tend to meet my commitments ahead of time. My collaborator worked best under deadline pressure – and, at times, did particularly good work some time after the deadline had gone whooshing past. I found this quite nerve-racking and frustrating, and I suspect she found my timeliness annoying. But we navigated through this difficulty quite effectively, as our outputs show.
I also learned, from this experience, that I really like writing collaboratively. So now I’m working on one journal article with one co-writer, another with another; co-editing a special issue of one journal, and writing an article for another special issue in which the article is sole-authored but there is also a collaborative, dialogic component. And I’m doing another book chapter for an edited collection, despite having sworn I never would.
This is too much! I can do it, and I will, but after these are done I’ll be scaling down the academic journal articles and book chapters. I’m going to aim for two a year from 2017 onwards. No more. I do love writing journal articles and book chapters, and I love collaborating. But I do all this in my own time, and I need to focus more on work that pays.