No Small Amount of Naval Gazing

Building the structure for a collective website is a really difficult task, especially when you're building it for writers, chosen for their free spirit and individuality. Maybe it's a lost cause, but I continue to think that the benefits inevitably out way the requisite headaches, and tribulations.

Three are two ways to approach the problem, and I'm not sure right now which is better. You can take the hands off approach, and provide possibilities and opportunities for your contributors. Give them lots of options and appealing benefits, and hope that everything else will attend to itself. Give people lots of room to be creative, because they are after all creative people, and don't meddle too much or you could muddle the results. The only real possibility is that without any or at least very much structure, your people won't feel very obligated to continue their responsibilities, and the other possible problem is that if you use this model you really have to be open to all of the creative improvisations of the crew, otherwise you're not really being fair.

The other option is to provide lots of structure, instructions, goals, deadlines, and form. Let people improvise on your model, but make sure that everything happens in the 'one right way.' It should give you a controlled response and being structured encourages your crew to follow suit and adopt some kind of structure. The biggest problem with this is that if you sought out free spirits, then trying to establish some sort of control and structure onto their work and their creative styles can again produce the same result. People become frustrated, confused, and they feel constricted and nothing happens.

I tell you, that's what happens reliably. About the only safe thing to do is to smile and walk down a very fine line and hope that all goes well. A very, very fine line.

I wonder if it's still considered a tangent, when it's what you started out talking about. You see, when I started writing this I wanted to show of what I've been calling the 'inspirational document' just a list of prompts and ideas that I put together outlining the kind of things I think make blogs interesting and special. There are a host of possible objectives that a blog can accomplish, but there are some things that I think blogs accomplish better than other things (and by reading this document you'll get an idea of what I'm trying to say, I hope). So what does that have to do with the two approaches to group website management? I was kind of questioning the place of this document in my management of the website(s), and believe me, like all good tangents, it seemed like a better idea when I started out on it.

Write about your life. Blogs aren't about the big picture things; they're about the little events, the soft give and take about every day life. You needn't write about something sweet or infuriating that a friend or familiar said to you yesterday. Write about something that happened a couple years ago, or even something that happened when you were a kid. A memory, an image. Defining moments are wonderful for description. Weblogs should capture, or at least attempt to capture the times when you were able to take a step back, and see things as they were: moments of insight and understanding. The mundane is also really great subject matter, things that everyone thinks about, but that maybe doesn't receive adequate attention.

Write about the time when you discovered that the world just wasn't fair, and that people didn't always mean well.

Write about a favorite outfit/shirt/pair of pants that just fit right and felt good when you wore it. Use it as a metaphor. Run with it.

Tell an anecdotal tale or three about specific individuals, and about mannerisms that defined them as people in your mind. Old aunts and uncles when you were a kid. Perhaps your grandparents. And so forth.

One thing that one of the past incarnations of TealArt and CollectiveArts tried to do was clobber the meta-art discussion. Talk about the craft of being an artist/writer, discuss the interplay between art and music, and think about the relationship between art society/culture. It can get a little intense and self serving after a while, but it's a good way to get grounded, sometimes.

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