How To Kill Collaborations In A Few Sentences
In May 2014, I was an exhibiting artist with RAW Artists. At the event, I met a ‘visual artist’ who soonthereafter created a great drawing of me, and I shared it online. We didn’t speak again for several months, simply because we were doing our own thing. Suddenly it’s January, 2015, and I happened to share a link to one of my blog posts with him via Facebook.
He wrote me back ‘Thanks hun I’ll check them out later’ which, as we all know, meant he wouldn't check them out, at all. And I was okay with that, but I still added, ‘Thanks, I hope you like them! If you think anyone else will like the project, too, feel free to share! [That link leads to] my blog post about it, and there’s a link to the project page on the blog.’
He quickly responded with, ‘I will we gotta connect again sometime soon I would love to Collab on a project.’ So I wrote, ‘Ooh that would be great!’
I intentionally sent people this blog post link through Facebook because I wanted to disseminate the information quickly, but I opened myself up to very short, poorly-written responses and the liklihood that most people wouldn't take a look, at all. Of course; every social media site has a different use which utilizes a different form of communication.
The next day, January 29, he wrote, ‘yeah would you be down? ill have a art studios rented out for feb an march’
Intrigued by this vague information, I asked several questions, ‘Ooh wow, yeah I’d be down – did you already have something in mind? I mean, when you say ‘collab’ with me what are your ideas?’
There’s a difference between sharing a blog post – an item already created and therefore it does not require additional information – versus sharing information in order to create something.
For example, if I’m sharing a quick link or a brief exchange with someone, I can do so over Facebook. The Facebook message system uses continuous scroll and therefore lends itself to quick, rather unimportant exchanges. You're unable to send one person multiple, different messages, all of your exchanges melded together in one, extremely long, ongoing thread and cannot be separated into individual ’emails.’ Sharing plans and important information over Facebook can easily be lost in an endless thread of information. Therefore, if you make plans to collaborate with someone on a project, or work together in the future, Facebook is not really the proper forum.
If you want to keep contact details and save information more securely – use email. And, if you include the date and topic in the title of your email, it will be easier to find this important information later.
I figured, however, this kid might give me some information through a Facebook message first, and we would then move to email. I awaited his sparkling ideas, but, instead, our exchanges turned into a perfect example of what not to do – how to waste time, ruin a potential collaboration and, maybe, a working relationship.
I didn’t receive any response until February 8 – almost two weeks later. In fact, I wrote him a reminder message, ‘Well if you have a chance just let me know, I’m still interested’ – because what artist wouldn’t be interested in using someone’s rented studio space, right?
He finally responded, but didn’t answer any questions, or explain any of his ideas. Simply, ‘yeah what are you doing 16th or 17th?’
‘Not sure yet! Why what did you have in mind?’ I asked.
Three days later, he wrote, ‘yes / i have a shoot planned / i want you in / i wanted todo a couple of scenes.’
Vague, avoiding my questions and giving me nothing to go on, I wrote, ‘Cool, tell me more! Details, where, when, who else will be there, what kind of shoot…’
The same day, he wrote, ‘well when are you free? / its a bit much to explain via facebook’
I wrote, ‘I may be free on the 17th; did you want to email me?’
One minute later he asked, ‘are you busy the 16th?’
Not only are both my phone number and email address available on my Facebook page for things that are ‘a bit much to explain via facebook,’ but what would be the purpose of knowing my schedule if I hadn't committed yet? Did he expect me to drive an hour into Boston simply to hear his plans? Was this a ‘fuck-around’ project that he was trying to puff-up? You use friends for fuck-around projects, not acquaintances you met at an art event with whom you’d hope to collaborate.
Someone suggested to me that he was trying to ‘sound exclusive,’ as if his work and his time were precious, and he couldn’t be bothered to give me more information; as if it would be a privilege to work with him, and therefore I should drive an hour just to hear his magical ideas. They added that his pseudonym, which is the name of a famous, deceased artist, added to theory that he has a major ego. I just thought he sounded clueless and unprofessional, and this made me think that he wouldn’t keep our plans, even if we did set a date.
I wrote, ‘I hear there’s going to be a big storm Sunday/Monday so I’m not making concrete plans for that day, just in case; I’m an hour outside Boston.’
I expected to receive an email, a phone call – at the least, a brief Facebook message that acknowledged what I was saying, for once, and then maybe a little ‘get back to you soon.’ But no. Instead, five more days passed and it was February 17. He wrote me at 1pm on Facebook, ‘you free today?’ Two hours passed, he added, ‘well let me know when you are / im shooting with antonio.’
I wrote back, ‘I’m not free this week, sorry! I also have no idea where this is happening, and who Antonio is, and what your ideas involve. When you have the time, let me know!’
Two minutes later, I received this response, ‘oh damn you”re not free this week anymore? well alright best of luck to you and your work :)’
The whole time I wondered – would he have actually given me information if I said I was free today? Would he have told me what he was talking about? No, he probably would have given me an address and told me he’d ‘tell me in person' when I arrived – something I had experienced before.
Even if my assumptions were wrong, this is how I perceived him due to his poor communications and presentation.
Does he think this makes him look cool and ‘exclusive,’ as my friend had suggested? The mention of ‘Antonio’ with no last name or link to his work, added to the thought that this was an act of implied exclusivity.
Was his response some sort of attempt at reverse psychology, and I’d suddenly flip a switch to whine and pine for the opportunity to work with him, drive an hour in the snow to discover his brilliant plans, and be part of I-don’t-know-what?
Was he, for whatever reason, intimidated by me and therefore didn’t want to bother? This all struck me as rather odd, because he was the one who had asked to collaborate with me.
This also touches on my thoughts that emailing someone with several questions, all of which they repeatedly avoid, is someone you do not want to work with. If someone can’t provide you with their time, you do not need to provide them with your time. And, if someone is a poor communicator, it would probably be hard to work with them, regardless of how much time they had given you. A great test is, of course, to try and communicate! Send an email and get the ball rolling - if they don't throw it back, leave that ball in their court.