Partner Work

Posted: February 6, 2017 in writing
Tags: , ,

Part of the school experience is getting assigned group projects. The size of the group varies but it always means you and at least one other person. This is no doubt supposed to teach us how to work together with others towards a common goal. As a child it always meant a really big project but if I worked with the right person it could be not only doable but enjoyable.

Invariably, there also comes a time when you get paired up with someone you don’t want to work with, who shirks their half and pisses you off. For me, a particularly clear memory of this is my senior year in high school. The class was Physics, and already that was a black mark against this from the start because I had a really hard time understanding Physics. There were all these formulas, and terms, and math…math I didn’t quiet understand. I didn’t do well in physics, which added particular stress to the whole partner issue.

Anyways, we had been assigned lab partners and while I had no particular grudge against the boy I was partnered with, that soon changed as he spent way more time fraternizing with friends than doing any work. By the end of class we had completed the lab but the write-up left something to be desired. Rather than make plans to call him in up after school to finish it up I did what any introverted, independently minded, pissed-off girl would do: I took it home, finished it by myself, and handed it in without his name on it.

The teacher saw straight through me and told me he couldn’t accept the assignment if we hadn’t done it together.

I said, “Fine.” Then I proceeded to not hand it in at all.

At the time I felt I was making a point, though I’m not sure what that was. Perhaps I felt it should have been obvious why I hadn’t finished it with my partner. More than likely I didn’t want to get into a discussion about how my partner hadn’t done any of the work lest it turn into a big deal.

I took the zero. And now that I think about it, he did too. I’m not sure if his semester grade could handle it, but mine couldn’t. As a student who was typically A’s or B’s, my C average really didn’t need a zero to help it sink any further towards a D. But I did it, and the experience reinforced the idea that most of the time it’s better to work alone. Group projects are great fun with friends, and sometimes necessary, but overall a person can really only count on his or herself.

This trip down memory lane isn’t just cathartic; it has a point.

My friend, Carlos, recently got interested in podcasting, and like anyone who has an idea but isn’t sure how to implement it, he came to the group with his idea and looked for support. Like any good group of friends we offered ideas and told him we were totally on board to help him in this.

The problem was that Carlos wanted a podcast in the style of old radio, much like the Thrilling Adventure Hour. He envisioned a fantasy-based story with monsters and mayhem, and was looking not only for people to add their voices to his cause, but also to help him brainstorm and write.

Here enters the bystander effect wherein we were great with initial ideas and help and then fizzled in execution. There were too many cooks in the kitchen and not enough leadership. Someone had to step up and say, “This is what we’re doing and how we’re doing it.”

Much like my Physics lab, it didn’t get done.

We took the zero, and Carlos networked with some other friends to create a simpler podcast about Vs Card Games which has now branched out to encompass board games as well. (Shameless plug, if you are a Vs Gamer you should check them out at Team Attack.)

The original podcast idea fell to the wayside.

Then, because nothing ever dies on the internet, Carlos stumbled upon the little bit of work we had gotten done on GoogleDrive. He texts me up and tells me he’s still interested if I am. I say, “Sure. When can we get together and hammer this thing out?”

We set a date, I come over, and after three hours we had a 10 minute long script and ideas for the next 4 episodes to finish the story arc. This is the first time since middle school I have written collaboratively. Writing has been a solo adventure for me. I do it, I share it with people I’m close with so they can have a look, but I don’t work together with people to get actual writing done. If you have a strong idea of something it’s really hard to let it go in favor of someone else’s idea. You have a clear picture and then they gum up the works with their ideas, and then there’s secret upset because things aren’t going as you planned.

I’m guessing here.

The experience was miraculously smooth. And fun! Oh my gosh I forgot how much I like only writing dialogue! Especially dialogue that is flippant! I feel like it’s my true medium, and so much easier to work through brain blocks when there’s another person there to think of what happens next.

So I guess my point is that sometimes it’s good to have a group project, even if past experience has taught you otherwise.


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