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Melted Crayons: What Writing Collaboration Looks Like

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Not yours. Not mine. But a new thing created between us.

Years ago we took our kids on the consumerist hajj to Florida’s Disney. We’re more national park vacationers but we resolved to make the best of it. So we battled through the hucksters and scam artists on every corner in Orlando and made our way to the magic kingdom.

It was…ok.

Some of our kids were scared of the rides. Some were thrilled at points. Others (including parents) grew weary of the constant stimulation. I would not be a good spokesperson for Disney.

The most memorable part of the trip was post-Disney, on a drive through the orange groves. At one point we left the rental car for not too long a time to see some Florida oddity. We came back and found crayons melted on the back seat. It gets hot in a Minnesota summer, but I don’t recall crayon-melting hot.

Turn up the heat.

Turn up the heat.

Melted crayons are not any one color. They are a new color that has no name.

Recent writing collaborations got me thinking about those crayons again. Some of my favorite clients invite me into the process by explaining what they want to accomplish with their target audience. They outline the main messages but do not hold those main messages too tightly. They point out the content and invite me to organize and hone the argument so it makes sense. They invite me to retell the main messages. When I come back to my client with something they can react to, we talk and the work gets better and more solid.

The thing is, what we create is not totally mine and not totally theirs. It’s a melted melding of motifs, which we continue to sharpen and fit to the purpose.

It’s a process I enjoy very much.

And it’s a process that is not that much different from our best conversations, where we generate some surprising new thing between us, beyond what either of us set out to say. A sort of intentional, verbal, melting of crayons right before our eyes.

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Image credit: Kirk Livingston

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