Lessons from Lennon/McCartney: How to Make a Writing Partnership Work

Since John Lennon would have been 70 tomorrow, it has me thinking about writing partnerships.

Like a lot of folks, I adore the Beatles. Adore them! But the funny part is, I like the Lennon/McCartney songs much more than the ones they did individually. Don’t get me wrong, both Lennon and Paul McCartney were/are talented guys in the songwriting department. But when I compare the songs they did together to the ones they did individually, I see a much stronger body of work.

There’s been some speculation on exactly what type of writing partnership Lennon and McCartney had. Did they write together? Did they essentially “proofread” each other’s work yet write separately? One thing remains clear, when the Beatles broke up both men wrote different music. That’s not a bad thing, just an observation. The whole thing has me thinking about writing partnerships. How can you make them work? Do they bring out the best in you or cause you to back off creatively?

Here are some tips for making a writing partnership work.

Choose Someone With Different Creative Strengths Sometimes partnerships are forced, but if you have the choice on who you partner with, it’s a great idea to choose someone that stretches you creatively. The way to do that is by choosing someone with a different creative vibe. A partner who looks at the world slightly different than you will come to the writing table with a perspective you hadn’t thought of. It will make you examine your own writing. That’s a good thing.

Put Ego Aside and Focus on the Finished Product

Even today, what stands out in the Lennon/McCartney songbook is the amazing output. Not where the idea came from or who thought of which line. In other words, we don’t care about the egos involved, we care about the music. When you are creating, it’s very difficult to have your ideas poo-pooed. Sometimes you do have to fight for a specific line or concept, and sometimes you have to take a step back and look at the product you are creating. The finished work is what’s important.

Take Breaks

I think the healthiest writing partnerships I’ve seen are the ones where both partners keep their identity. It’s a bit like a marriage in that respect isn’t it? If you’re feeling that your creative energy is squashed, agree to take a break. Don’t break up, but arrange for times where each of you can do your own thing. Doing this will help you appreciate your partnership more when you do come back to it.

Balance the Personal Side of Your Partnership With the Business Side

Even when you are working on a creative product, the final result is business. Isn’t it? Writing a book is a creative act, but publishing it is a business move. Understand the difference between business and personal. You need both for a partnership to work. Keeping your partner “in line” (making sure he shows up on time, isn’t stoned, is emotionally ready to work, is responsible) is the business end of things. You need to do it to keep your professional life in tact.

At the same time, it is still a partnership. You need to be respectful as to your partner’s personal life because it will affect your writing. Writing is very much about tapping into emotions, and if your partner is struggling, see if you can help. Allow him to work through “his stuff” so that the two of you can creative something amazing.

Embrace the Lessons

I’m going “all Oprah” on you now and saying that yes, there is a lesson every time you work with someone new. The people in our life teach us things. Some lessons are small, some are huge, but they all add something to our life. Be grateful for them, because all of them make you a better writer.

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