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Last Friday, I submitted my first book to Amazon Kindle, and it was live on the site by Saturday. Today, I submitted the hardcopy version to CreateSpace, and once they approve it I’ll have a look at the proof as soon as they can mail it out. (And by the way, the process of formatting my book was made immeasurably easier by this guide to using Scrivener software. Well worth the five bucks; I was able to do all the formatting from page margins to fancy capitalized headers in less than two hours.)

In the long process of writing my stories and prepping them for publication, I used the services of several people: a graphic artist who designed the cover, a copy editor, and two story editors. Similarly, for a children’s book that is nearing completion, I’ve been working with two artists to do the illustrations. Working with other artists has been much simpler than I was afraid it would be (aside from the nerve-racking process of choosing who to work with!). Indeed, it has me thinking that the future of creative expression is going to involve not a single writer or artist signing away his soul to a publishing company, but fluid collaborations of several different artists who work together to create their products.

I’m thinking in particular of Homestuck, the webcomic-cum-animated series that is presently taking over certain parts of the internet. The creator of Homestuck was already an experienced computer artist thanks to his previous webcomics, but in this work he kicked it up a notch, by collaborating with other artists. A whole stable of music composers provide an ever-growing custom soundtrack; other graphic artists have contributed sprites or helped with minigames. The eventual product definitely breaks new ground for what a “webcomic” is supposed to look like, in a very good way.

For myself, I’ve been noodling around with a concept for a website, that would let people contribute in a crowdsourced to creating an animated movie. If someone provides the storyboards, others could upload single animation frames, aided by the software which can keep track of it all and compile them into a true movie. Others could provide vocal tracks or foleys. I think it would be a killer concept for the large community of animation and voice-acting enthusiasts; trick is, I can’t write software, so I’d need to bring in some techies. All I have is the concept. Still, it remains exciting, and maybe when I get a few more of my projects done I’ll be able to launch the website I have in mind.

Today we have so many tools for new kinds of creative expression, and the possibility exists for even more tools as soon as someone builds them. And while much of this is driven by new software or companies like Amazon, many of the new possibilities involve collaboration between artists. The picture we have in our minds of the solitary artist laboring in his or her workshop is a badly constrained picture of what is possible. Most of the great artists had staff: Michelangelo, Rodin, to name a few. Even Alexandre Dumas wrote his book The Three Musketeers with an assembly-line process using assistants (which explains why mistakes happened, like D’Artagnan being made a Musketeer twice).

If we work with others who can complement our own strengths, we can bring many new works into the world. The prospect is terribly exciting.