The Elusive Collaborative Student Writing

In Collaboration Is Not Collaboration Is Not Collaboration: Writing Center Tutorials vs. Peer Response Groups, essayist Murial Harris raises a point that seems so obvious I can’t believe I haven’t been aware of it before: we talk about knowledge being socially constructed and therefore all our work and writing is a sort of collaboration between peer groups, but I can’t think of any experience I’ve had where that theory is applied. Certainly not in the sphere of academic writing. The peer review groups that high school teachers and sometimes college professors seem so fond of often fall into the category of “editorial work” focusing on lower order concerns that I’ve been railing against in previous posts (Harris 372).

My mission then became a search for natural practical application of collaborative writing at the university level. I knew for sure that I wouldn’t find it my GE courses or the English department, these are places where the author is still seen as the isolated genius sitting at a desk whipping words into perfection. (Or their places where indifferent students slap sentences onto the page for a mediocre grade.) So I turned to the creative writing circles, primarily those that I’m familiar with: writing rooms at the film school. Collaborations between directors and writers, or producers and directors, or producers and writers are fairly common during the development stage of thesis films–or, they’re supposed to be. Luckily, I’m a producer living with one of the screenwriters who involves herself in the production department.

I endeavored to sit in on one of her writer-director script workshops to see just how collaborative the process was…will the director construct the storyline and leave the physical act of writing to the screenwriter? How much say will she have in the plot structure? How involved with the director be in word-crafting? I fully expect these writing workshops to be different depending on the participants, but, having never been present for one myself, I want to see the collaborative magic happen before my eyes. Maybe, just maybe, I’ll finally catch a glimpse of true collaborative writing face-to-face.


Stayed tuned for the results.