Keith Getty: Lessons in Collaboration

Lessons learned in the art of collaboration:

Many ideas grow better when transplanted into another mind than the one where they sprang up.” Oliver Wendell Holmes

Ten years ago I had the pleasure of meeting songwriter Stuart Townend. Stuart had written the beautiful hymn “How Deep the Father’s Love,” which inspired me to try my hand at hymn-writing. Our publishers, John Pac and Stephen Doherty, introduced us. I felt both excited and privileged to meet him.

Stuart agreed to write one song in collaboration with me. The song became “In Christ Alone.” We’ve written together regularly since then, and it’s been one of the most beneficial experiences in my life. Here’s a few reasons why:

• Successful collaboration weaves together individual strengths. While I often focus on the melody first, Stuart is a phenomenal lyricist. True poets and lyricists can agonize over single words and phrases for months, while composers feel equally passionately about melody. While I have strong convictions about lyrical direction, I’m not a wordsmith like Stuart.  But we each have complemented the others’ strengths.

• Successful collaboration enables you to reach higher. More than a century ago, Scottish essayist Thomas Carlyle wrote, “The lightning spark of thought generated in a solitary mind awakens its likeness in another mind.” Whether it’s by raising your standards, sharpening your focus or inspiring you to move in a new direction, collaboration brings mutual encouragement. Very few creative people live in a vacuum. We need community.

• Successful collaboration brings different opinions to the table. Good collaborators don’t always agree with you. In my world of square boxes, everything has a neat space—people, places, ideas, events, plans (including what I’m having for lunch as soon as I finish this blog!). Stuart is very different and brings to the mix his own personality, ideas, life experiences and artistic influences. So my viewpoint is constantly challenged.