Dynamic Duos

Working in a creative industry rocks. There’s solid energy toward invention and there are endless possibilities for how to approach any type of challenge. Most of the time, the notion of endless possibilities sounds great. In theory, we can do and create anything.

But what happens when there are too many possibilities?

A few weeks ago Joshua Wolf Shenk published an article in The Sunday Times titled “The End of ‘Genius’”. He poses the question, “Where does creativity come from?” and talks about the myth of the “lone genius,” making the case for what we commonly refer to as “dynamic duos.”

“The pair is the primary creative unit — not just because pairs produce such a staggering amount of work but also because they help us to grasp the concept of dialectical exchange. At its heart, the creative process itself is about a push and pull between two entities, two cultures or traditions, or two people, or even a single person and the voice inside her head.”

Naturally, this got me thinking about a few things: if three or more is where “creativity ends and stability begins”, how do we stay in a place where creativity thrives? Also, “Who is my partner?” and “Do I need just one?”

Like most questions, there’s more than one correct answer, but it starts with open communication and the realization that perhaps the idea of one perfect, for-all-time collaborator isn’t realistic.

Be direct and honest.

For those of us who work in a team environment, the simplest way to start tapping that “duo” mojo is to step up our communication game.

For example, if you’re working alone, be vocal about asking for help and finding your other “leg.” Similarly, if you’re leading a project with two many cooks in the kitchen, be confident in whittling it down to just you and one other person – you can circle back with a larger team later.

There was nothing in Shenk’s article that led me to believe we need just one creative partner.

Shenk even suggests the conversations we have within our own heads count as a place where creativity can thrive. Sure, there are many famous pairs: Lennon/McCartney, Rodgers and Hammerstein, Current/Elliott, and our universe would not be the same without the beauty they made together. But I suspect that if you were able to ask any halves of those wholes, they could list a slew of other important creative partners they’ve had along the way.

A few days after I read Shenk’s article, the subject line of Sarah Kathleen Peck’s email was, “You don’t have to do it alone.” Inside was a list of resources and places she goes when she’s feeling stuck, needs inspiration, or a little bit of both. To me this was both validation for the notion of the “dynamic duo” and that for each of us, those duos can be comprised of different individuals for different projects and seasons of our lives.


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