The joy of artistic collaboration

Photo by Sharon McCutcheon on

As I write this, I’m listening to Christopher Dicker’s atmospheric instrumental music, and am transported to the moody mudflats of Ben Hobson’s wonderful literary thriller, ‘Snake Island’. The album was conceived as a soundtrack to accompany Ben’s novel, and enriches his story in the most unique way. The two art forms enhance each other, and expand the audience’s experience of both.

Most of the time writers like to work alone. We tie ourselves to the desk and spew out thousands of words until, with any luck, we have something worth sharing with others. We are also advised to read widely, to support other writers, to build a community of people like ourselves, with similar dreams and goals. People who live and breathe words like us. And I agree with the value of all of this.

The idea that’s occurred to me lately, though, is the limitation that comes from only engaging with one art form. Charlotte Wood speaks, in her excellent podcast ‘The Writer’s Room with Charlotte Wood’, of her connection to visual art in particular, to consuming it for inspiration. Artists create in so many varied media, and all can offer a breath of fresh air for a writer locked away in their metaphorical garret. I would argue that on top of reading widely, most writers would benefit from engaging with the work of a wide range of creatives, be they visual artists, musicians or filmmakers.

In a bid to be part of an exciting artistic collaboration, I submitted a piece of micro-fiction to the open callout for the 2020 Microflix Festival, and am delighted that Cassandra Atherton from Spineless Wonders has selected my work for consideration alongside the work of so many writers I admire. You can read my odd little story ‘Burgers n Babes’ on the Microflix Website until August 2020. Filmmakers are encouraged to choose one of the stories as inspiration for a short short film and the best of these will be shown at the Microflix festival in Sydney later this year. It’s still a long shot, but I’m keeping fingers and toes crossed that someone decides to adapt my story into a film, because I would love to see how a talented artist might interpret my words.

Opportunities like the Microflix festival, however, are few and far between. How can we, as isolated writers, engage with and even collaborate with other artists? And what are we set to gain from the experience?

The first step is to open yourself to consuming and supporting other artists. Listen to new music, go to exhibitions at local galleries or visit them virtually in this brave new world, follow artists on social media and look for opportunities to collaborate. Social media is a wonderful way to share work which crosses traditional boundaries or merges art forms. The digital space offers an opportunity for connection with other artists and a chance to broaden your audience.

If nothing else, a stroll through a gallery or listening to a concert can jumpstart your creative brain. And I, for one, could do with a shot of inspiration from time to time.

Have you ever collaborated with another artist? What did you gain from the experience?

By Lisa Kenway

Lisa Kenway is an Australian writer and doctor. Her debut psychological thriller, ALL YOU TOOK FROM ME, is coming in August 2024 from Transit Lounge Publishing. An early version was long-listed for the 2020 Richell Prize. A 2023 Katharine Susannah Prichard Writers’ Centre fellow, her work has appeared in Island Online, the Meanjin blog, Meniscus Literary Journal and elsewhere. Find her at or on Twitter @LisaKenway.


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