To Blip or Not to Blip: The Struggle to Collaborate Creatively

Since under-employment and no overseas assignment have left her with fewer responsibilities than she’s had in the past three decades, my partner Sara, a humanitarian aid worker, rightly acknowledges that she has had more time on her hands this year.  It’s amazing what you have time to do when not responding to international, natural disasters.

Sara also reminds me that she refuses to be bored—that she’s adopted her mother’s belief that “only boring people find themselves bored.”

Not wanting to be seen as anything less than interesting, Sara’s sought new ways to create excitement in her life, adopting a “Photo-a-Day Project” that she’s hoped would image our lives in the coming year.

Sara insists that she is not a great photographer, perhaps not even a good one:

I believe, as a trained architect, I have a good eye and sense of design, but my lack of patience, photographic knowledge, and steady hands sometimes undermine the quality of my finished product.  Despite this, I aspire to create visually, and photography affords me an outlet for this creative need.

Sara’s asked me to remind readers that, earlier this year, I introduced her project here on my blog, even incorporating a few of her photos from time to time, despite the limits of our creative partnership:

This collaboration has been limited and not as easy as we had thought.  Kathy spends hours upon hours working on her writing.  She challenges herself with each word, description, and meaning, while I basically take my aim-and-shoot device and do just that, producing a fragmented, disjointed collection of photos.

She’s right that my desire to impose a narrative structure on her photographic efforts has not always been successful.  It’s true that we’ve subsequently struggled to share her photo journal in this format.

It’s also accurate that creative collaborations aren’t easy, especially when the parties attempting to collaborate are life partners.  Probably, I should not have insisted on narrative links between Sara’s photos in any given post.   My need to control and maintain my blog’s sense of creative cohesiveness interfered with my ability to incorporate Sara’s photos in a meaningful way.  Sometimes I attempt to bite off more creatively than these artistic chops know how to actually get my mouth around.  Gosh, I wish I didn’t have such a ravenous appetite for control.  When will I ever learn?

At any rate, Sara’s asked me to pass along the following message about her project:

I’ve taken a photo every day since January 1st and collected them in a computer folder, hoping I could compose something interesting from them at the end of the year.  Fortunately, a few former colleagues have introduced me to a website designed specifically to accommodate folks who want to publish one photo a day!  This site,, sets up the exact parameters I’ve needed.

So, last week I became an official “blipper”—a photo-a-day blogger, of sorts.  My photo publishing started March 22nd at “QueSeraSara”—a blip journal I’m calling  “Today’s Whatever.”   Since I could not backtrack on dates, my photos begin on the day I registered at the site.    If you’d like to see my photos, please click here .  Subscriptions are possible via RSS, or by email, if you do a free registration with BlipFoto.

Below Sara and I would like to share a few of her favorite photos taken before she set up her BlipFoto site, specifically ones I’ve not published in previous posts.  We hope you enjoy this sneak peek at what “Today’s Whatever” would have been, had it been able to incorporate photos taken before the launch date.

Lucy, a heating pad for Kathy’s sprained ankle (Friday, February 3, 2012)--

The little fashionista. Our sweetly-sweatered pooch perches on Sara's lap (Friday, February 17, 2012)--

Vietnam meets the Bourbon Trail. Kathy and Minh touring the Buffalo Trace distillery (Thursday, February 23, 2012)--

Ralph misses Minh. Oh, the comfort of couch cushions. (Saturday, February 25, 2012)--

Happy dogs! A relatively warm March has made our dogs eager for their daily walks. (Friday, March 2, 2012)--

Winter finally makes a brief appearance! Looks like we'll only have one significant snow this year. (Monday, March 5, 2012)--

A snake Sara's named "Herb" suns himself near the lemongrass. (Wednesday, March 19, 2012)--

Have you ever attempted a creative collaboration?  How well did it work?  What kinds of challenges did you face?

Note:  If you are new to my blog, you might like to know that I am writing a memoir and blogging about growing up in an organized crime family.  (The post you’ve just read is not part of that series.)  For a list of my  memoir posts, click here.  If you are interested in reading any of my protected posts, please email me at  or let me know in the comments below, and I will gladly share the password with you.

99 thoughts on “To Blip or Not to Blip: The Struggle to Collaborate Creatively

  1. oh you have a snake 🙂 – he is beautiful! Your pictures bring thoughts of winter to me – it’s sneaking up on us here soon. I will pop over to Sara’s site to have a look.


  2. I love the photos – you don’t have to be a professional to share such wonderful memories. And Sara is right – only the boring get bored!


  3. Great photos! When Nathan and I collaborate creatively the hardest part comes when things don’t go exactly as expected. Usually, I am director he is designer/TD. When he falls behind schedule, the director in me wants to be angry, but the life partner understands. It is a complicated dance.


    • Yes, I hadn’t thought of you specifically, when I wrote this, but, yes, you are the one friend I know who has direct experience with this kind of challenge. Interesting to see how it plays itself out in your relationship with Nathan. Fascinating process, really. So glad you enjoyed the photos, as well!


  4. I am the only creative soul in my house aside from my 9 year old who, sadly, still has issues sharing. My hubby and older son do not understand the creative, “artsy-fartsy” tendencies. Mostly, they just love whatever is created without any desire to help. Racing over to the site to see Sara’s photos!


    • Gosh, I have to say here, again, how much I enjoyed your article at “The Christian Science Monitor.” You should stop back by here and leave the link. I’m so excited for you.

      I’m mostly the only creative person in my family of origin, though, I suppose, my sister Lynn is creative when it comes to photography. But isn’t it nice when even non-creators enjoy your work?!


  5. What a great idea!! Love all the pictures and the “conversations” of both of you!!! Gonna go subscribe to the photo blog and see what else she has to offer!!! Love this idea but I think I have too many things going on at the moment to start yet one more project!!!! Maybe…..


  6. Kathy, and Sara,

    It sounds like a complicated situation which you seemed to have worked out. As I sat here in Vermont reading this, I kept thinking Sara needs to get her on blog and post or facebook page, and she has found her self a creative way to post a photo a day blog. Yeah!

    As you know Kathy I am in partnership with myself and my creative work, using my blog to express my journey accompanied with my photography, which I sometimes have a plan which shots to use to express or go along with the words. Yet sometimes it is the words the play the part of illustration or vise versa. So I can imagine how it would be trying to incorporate another’s vision along with your words.


    • I agree, Jeff. Blip seems to provide the perfect format for what she wants to do. I will check, but I think she is posting her site on Facebook. She’s so excited today to have visitors from my blog. She keeps reporting how many hits she has had. Makes me chuckle, as I know how one can become exicted over stats.

      About your blog–I know what you mean. You do a great job allowing images and words to dialogue with one another on your site, but you are so right. It’s a unique challenge in and of itself when one is both a photographer and writer. Great point and something interesting to think about.

      Great to hear from you today, Jeff. Hope you have a lovely Vermont Thursday.


  7. What a great idea. When I first visited your blog I liked Sara’s photos and hoped ya’ll would post more. I visited the Blip place and really like Lucy in the window and the Lexington street. She really has a great eye. Above, I love Lucy warming your sprained ankle and Herb.(Is Herb still around? What kind of snake is he? Do you know?)


    • Ah, Herb? Yes, Herb is still around, and we assume he’s a garter snake (spelling?) Last year we had a snake in our shed, but I forget what Sara named that one. We think the bottom line with Lucy is–she likes to have her photo taken. Period. Thanks for reading, Tori!


  8. I’m going to head over to Sara’s “blipper” page in just a minute. I especially love the first photograph — the expression on Lucy’s face is priceless!

    You asked, “Have you ever attempted a creative collaborative?”

    There’s no way! Your words could easily have been mine: “Gosh, I wish I didn’t have such a ravenous appetite for control.”


    • Oh, Lord, thank God I’m not the only one! It’s not that I want you to have the same struggle, but I’m relieved for someone else to admit the same thing. You really learn a lot about yourself, at least I have, when you/I take on something like a collaboration. Thanks for reading, Laurie!


  9. I just visited Sara’s new space — wonderful!

    In trying to find a “like” button or some place to leave a comment, it appears that I need to be “signed in” to do so. And to sign in, one must join. Is there a way for me to “subscribe” without actually joining?


    • I know. I’m going to try figuring out how to get her a “like” button at the very least. And, I’m not sure why you have to sign up to comment. I resisted for a few days and finally gave in. But obviously most folks won’t do that. I don’t know the answer. When I figure it out, I will let folks know.


  10. Kathryn, I would not in a million years attempt a creative collaboration, particularly with my husband, so I think you’re very accommodating to even try it! I don’t think it’s a matter of control, necessarily, but more like — this is my thing, and as hard as I work on it, I can’t turn it over to you or allow you to simply piggyback on it. My husband started his own blog, which annoyed me a little bit at first, but now I find I really like reading what he has to say, and it’s so different than mine, it’s totally cool. But .. writing is your VOICE. It’s okay to want that to be a pure distillation of what you think and feel!


    • Your comment made me laugh out loud, Betty–the fact that you would never even consider it. That made me feel a little more normal. I understand what you say about not wanting someone to piggyback, but for me–it was plain, old, ugly control–creative control–but control. It surprised me about myself, actually.

      Thanks for reading. Loved your post from Peru today!


  11. Have collaborated on a few poems as you may recall, duel poems, which is not strictly a colloboration since each writer submits their own lines in response to the other writer…so not sure that I could do a real collaboration or not.


  12. I think you got more snow than we did this year! I like Sara’s photos, especially how she takes them from different perspectives. I think a lack of photographic knowledge is a good thing. I’ve noticed that some of those who can spout out all kinds of photographic technical information, don’t necessarily take good photos. I waited several years before trying to learn technical aspects (some of which I still can’t wrap my head around — such as the rule of thirds).

    I have collaborated on a couple of projects where I took photos to go with someone’s words. Honestly, it turned out to be more work and less fun than I had anticipated, and I’m not sure I’d ever do it again. It might have had something to do with the person I worked with, too. We clashed a bit, although I don’t think she had the awareness to notice.


    • A really interesting perspective, Robin. So do you think the technical jargon can get in the way of simply learning to see in new ways?

      I also think that you have a good point about collaboration being more work. I found that to be the case, as well. Somehow it seems like collaboration should mean less work, but I think it rarely does. (Sorry to hear your creative partner lacked awareness. Kind of makes you wonder about the insight contained in the writing itself.)

      Thanks for reading, Robin!


  13. Seven years ago I co-wrote a screenplay with a guy that was once very close to me (not in the Biblical sense). I thought the end result was The Worst Story Ever Told but he was certain that we had co-written The Second Coming of Citizen Kane. He insisted that we pour a king’s ransom into entering it into countless screenwriting competitions where it deservedly lost every one. When he pressured me to co-write a follow-up with him, I just could not subject myself to repeating what proved to be a friendship-killing association since he did not take my rejection well. I’ve been very skittish about collaborating with anyone ever again.

    I look forward to checking out more of Sara’s photos. Lucy seems to revel in her close-ups and Ralph looks quite handsome, too. I didn’t realize that he’s such a big boy or maybe he’s just average-sized and Lucy is tiny toons.


    • God, V, your comments almost always make me laugh. I read this one on the way home from the grocery store. Sara was driving. Had to read it out loud to her. She laughed, as well. Sorry to hear your collaboration was such an abysmal failure.

      Ralph probably weighs about 42 or 43 pounds. Lucy weights 7 or 8. I think he’s pretty big, but technically, I suppose, he’s considered a medium sized dog. And Lucy–she just love to have her photo taken. LOVES IT!


  14. My husband and I have collaborated in photography and writing several times, with usually fun results. We tend to butt heads a bit: I’m highly idealistic, he’s a perfectionist…but it seems to all work out in the end.


    • Ah, I think you have identified the very thing that gets in the way for me. I’m too much of a perfectionist. And somehow other people tend to be so much less perfect than me. LOL God, I suppose, I need to look at my own issues with pride, don’t I?


  15. I have done a few things creatively with Marty, but it’s always been on the fly and never an “official” project together. We both have different ways of viewing the world and different goals with our creative outlets… plus we both like to have TOTAL CONTROL over the final outcome. Not exactly a recipe for positive collaboration. 🙂

    I think Sara starting her own page with the daily photos is a good idea. You’ve worked hard to build your blog and have infused it with a particular essence so that your readers (for the most part) know what to expect. Besides, Sara’s pictures are fun and interesting and deserve their own special forum. 😉


    • I agree. She deserves her own forum. And she is enjoying it so much so far. It’s funny for me to see her getting so excited about the stats! It totally cracks me up–as she often laughed at my stats-obsession.

      Yes, the need for total control makes it hard to collaborate. That was my issue, as well. Sara was much more flexible than I was. I was demanding. I didn’t like that part of myself. Yikes!


  16. Your happy family truly warms my heart. 🙂 I love Sara’s quote: “while I basically take my aim-and-shoot device and do just that, producing a fragmented, disjointed collection of photos.” I think your collaboration sounds like a dream come true…. sounds like the perfect blend of practicality and vision. I am a little envious… since with my writing, I tend to just “point and shoot” in a sense, often times unsure of where I’m going or what I’m trying to convey. I’d love to have a business partner who is very detail oriented, who can assit me in bringing forward the masterpiece (and bestseller) within….. or atleast a writing retreat or a series of writing retreats.

    Thanks for this post!


    • Oh, Currie, you are such a sweetie. Hope you realize that about yourself. I hadn’t even thought of it that way–that it makes for the perfect balance in a partnership. I love that perspective. I also love that you enjoyed Sara’s description of her process. However, I have no doubt that you will write a masterpiece. You have a great story to tell. Plus, you are so young. YOu are a damn good writer, especially for your age. Be proud, my friend. Be proud! Hugs to you————


  17. Kathy, I love taking, and looking at photos (especially other people’s photos), and had noticed Sara’s in the column next to your posts when I first visited here. And the photos included in your birthday tribute were so personal; I could pick which one’s Sara took, as the warmth oozed from them!

    Has Sara also considered starting up a blog of her own? That way, she could add her own thoughts to her photos. I’ll be visiting her on Blipfoto when I leave here. 🙂


    • I’ve often thought Sara should start her own blog, but she doesn’t really like to write. I think she’s a good writer, but it’s just not her thing. Also, I love what you say about the warmth oozing from Sara’s photos! I think you have said it perfectly. I couldn’t agree more! Great comment, Joanne. Hugs to you this evening———


  18. Fun photos. Your fashionista is adorable. The nice thing about collaborating you can choose when and how to do it. Yes, it can be challenging, but sometimes the results are just peachy. You and Sara seem to have the right amount of teamwork, creativity and spark to get past those bumps. 🙂


    • Glad you think our Lucy is cute. I’m afraid I’d have to agree–and I’m not biased or anything!

      I don’t think that Sara and I have given up on the notion of collaborating. I suspect we may will try again.

      Thanks for reading, Monica.


  19. Have you considered adding a Flickr widget to your blog? I have one on mine (woefully outdated…) and Sara could simply upload her shots and they would appear in a stream on your blog. Just a thought.


  20. Fun pictures! I’m glad Sara has found a place to display her photos the way she’d like.

    I’ve tried writing blogs with other writers before. It’s fun at first… and then it just ends up feeling like an obligation.


  21. Kathryn, I love the photo of Lucy (fashionista), looking at the back of her head in her green sweater. She looks like she could be a Dr. Seuss character there. I don’t know about you, but I think it’s fascinating to see other bloggers photos, or maybe that makes me nosey LOL, either way I loved the photos from Sara, and I think it will be wonderful to ring in 2013 looking back on the daily life of 2012.


    • I agree. I love looking at other people’s photos. I don’t think it necessarily makes one nosey–at least I hope not–LOL.

      How funny that you mention Lucy looking like a Dr. Seuss character. Sara always says she looks like “Thing 1” or “Thing 2.”


  22. I once wrote a paper for a class in cooperation with a classmate. It was difficult for me because our visions did not mesh perfectly (and I am a little of a control freak myself when it comes to my work).

    Writing is a good occupation for me. It can usually do quite well as a solitary undertaking.

    I’m going to go check out Sara’s site.


  23. I’m a little skitzo about signing up for blipfoto. I guess I just have too many social media accounts to feel comfortable pretending I’m going to start a journal there. I would like to receive RSS feeds, but can’t see how to do that. Maybe I’ll just have to check the link from here periodically.


    • I know how you feel, Christine. I resisted for a few days myself, thinking I’d figure out a way to do it without joining. Since then we’ve learned Sara can send an email invitation that prevents one from having to sign up.


      • Now I’m thinking of joining anyway. Photography is a big part of what I do. Maybe I’ll start posting photos. (I didn’t just take on another project, did I?)


      • Oh, no, Christine. I think you may have bitten off another chunk of creative responsibility. The only thing I can say to comfort you, is that blipping is really not that big a deal. You just post one photo, when you have the time. That’s what Sara likes about it.


      • That’s what I’m thinking. Sometimes I have photos and no where to go with them because I’m posting about something else.

        Anyway, my platform is chaos anyway, so what’s one more thing?


  24. How cool that you shared this here. Oh, the challenges of creative collaboration! Barry and I tried to collaborate back in college writing journalistic articles and it was a terrible failure. We fought bitterly. Each of us wanted control of the article and neither knew how to negotiate. We really haven’t attempted to collaborate like that since. Hmmm, who knows about the future? (I like that Sara’s blipping. Never heard of that before.) My favorite picture: Lucy on your sprained ankle.


    • Isn’t that a hoot, Kathy? Of course, as soon as we publish this post, I managed to fall again Friday and hurt my ankle all over again. But this time, it feels way better today. Thank God. Hope you are enjoying your weekend, my friend–and avoiding all creative collaborations! LOL


  25. What a great idea for Sara to have her own photo blog.

    I love the shots of Ralph and Lucy. I never realized how big Ralph is! He’s so handsome. (Don’t let Lucy hear me say that! 🙂 )


  26. Blipping, tweeting and blogging. Oh my. There sure is a lot these days to keep one satisfied online.

    Only one significant snowfall all year? I do believe Portland’s got you bested. Go figure!


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