Guest Blog: Kirk Lynn–Thoughts on Collaboration

And now, for some other thoughts on collaboration.  This time from writer Kirk Lynn.  Kirk and I both attended graduate school at the University of Texas at Austin.  He’s a fantastic writer, not just because he’s won awards, but because he is.  His work is TRULY theatrical, I can’t imagine it in any other context but the stage.  He is Co-Producing Artistic Director of the Rude Mechs, an Austin based theatre company.  Recently, here in LA, I got a chance to see their show The Method Gun.  It has an ending that is truly… wow… If you get a chance to see it, do.  If Rude Mechs come to your town… go.  


Thoughts on Collaboration

by Kirk Lynn


  1. There’s no such thing as an experienced collaborator.  This time is different.
  1. The poet William Stafford offered this advice about giving feedback: No praise.  No blame.
  1. Honesty requires at least two participants.  Listening requires only one.
  1. Never take your own side in an argument.
  1. There is enough time to go slow.
  1. Tell everyone what you want until you find someone who wants to give it to you.
  1. The secret you are keeping right now will be known if we collaborate long enough.  If it is a secret anger, we will fight about it.  If it is a secret desire, why not start as soon as possible?
  1. Seeds are small things.  Learn to recognize them.  Learn to plant them in your rehearsals.  Big ideas have nowhere to go.  They leave no room for the rest of us.
  1. Think about the difference between these questions: Do you know how to make love?  Do you know how to make love to me?  Then think about these questions: Do you know how to collaborate?  Do you know how to collaborate with me?
  1. I cannot forgive you for your secrets.
  1. Our sins against one another happen in an instant.  Forgiveness is ongoing.
  1. It is easier not to collaborate.
  1. Collaboration is not a virtue.  Collaboration is not ‘good’ in and of itself.
  1. My wife is in this room.  Shawn is in this room.  Melanie is in this room.  Your collaborators have other collaborators.  They are in this room.  If you don’t feel them, open the doors.
  1. No one is replaceable.
  1. No one is essential.
  1. Collaboration is not an activity; it is a way of looking at things.  We could examine our actions in this room through a lens of Capitalist economics.  The very same actions can be examined through a lens of Communism.  Or racial identity.  The actions don’t need to change.  Collaboration is simply a window through which we see ourselves.
  1. It is better if you don’t need to be liked.
  1. I would encourage you not to collaborate.  But I would also encourage you not to write and not to direct and not to act and not to design and not to dance.  Unless you need to.  In which case encouragement should matter very little.
  1. I don’t need any new collaborators, I can’t please the ones I have.
  1. If we do ever work together, it will be because I need your help to please those collaborators who were here first.
  1. Let’s say we take a trip to New York together.  If we want to share a cab into Manhattan we can either have it drop us off around 14th street and I’ll walk down to Brian’s and you walk up to the theatre, or we can have it drop us each off one at a time, but we can’t both arrive at our final destination first.
  1. I have secrets I am too embarrassed to tell you.  Everyone in this room has secrets.  Be careful with one another.
  1. Everyone in this room is also capable of saying: watch out, you’re treading on thin ice.
  1. This room is the perfect setting.  Now is the perfect time of day. You are the perfect group of people.  Or not.  You decide.
  1. You don’t have to limit your collaboration to people.  Collaborate with chairs and clocks and birds.
  1. You are responsible for your actions and your emotions.  You are also responsible for my actions and my emotions.
  1. There is no right way.  There is not even a good way.  There is likely not even a way at all.
  1. We will die.  Our collaborators will die.  Our work will die.  Every recordable surface will be wiped clean and the universe will disappear.  We are temporary.
  1. Learn to enjoy one another: that’s the only commandment.  Our pleasure is our work.

Kirk Lynn lives in Austin, TX with his wife, Carrie Fountain and their daughter, Olive. He is currently working on a novel about Jesus. Kirk also writes plays, generally with the Rude Mechs theatre collective.

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**Photo by Rino Pizzi

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