Solitary or Colonial?

National Blog Posting Month – March 2013 – Risk

Prompt – Would you rather start something on your own or as a member of a team?


Maybe the question could be rephrased as, do you consider yourself a solitary or a colonial achiever? Would you rather go out on a limb on your own, or with colleagues?

There are advantages and disadvantages to each, of course. When you leap into a project by yourself, you can claim full credit for the success if it works out. Of course, there’s no escaping fault if the project fails. With groups, there are others to pick up the slack, so failure is perhaps easier to avoid. But then, you also have to share credit, even if a member of the ‘team’ didn’t do much. And then there’s issues with wrangling other people to help out. Juggling other people’s schedules can be a nightmare.

Recently, I was part of an effort to write a grant proposal that involved five Principal Investigators from five different institutions. I wasn’t even in the lead of the project – but oh my goodness! – there was a lot of juggling and e-mails. It wasn’t just the five of us, but one or two other people from each institution also were involved. But somehow, we got it done. Barely.

Would I try to do something like that myself? Only if the other parties were as motivated as I was. Because it’s a lot of work, and you don’t want to also have to be a cheerleader on top of all the other things. Heck, this may be why some of my technical manuscript efforts are failing. My coauthors aren’t really motivated, and honestly, I’m not all that motivated either. Writing technical papers is painful. I’d much rather write non-technical science, or even fiction. It doesn’t help that I have anxiety, so making a phone call to try to prompt someone is in itself agony. I mean, I have a hard time ordering a pizza, much less asking someone why they haven’t completed a task.

Does that mean I’d only want to work alone? No, not really. I don’t always have the self-motivation I need, either. And there’s always distractions. Writing fiction is my one thing. No one does that with me. I’m sufficiently self-motivated. Keeping the blog is also my own thing.

Science, on the other hand, really must be a collaborative thing. There’s too much to know. I can’t possibly know everything I need to write a good technical paper or grant proposal. I don’t have all the necessary expertise to get a project done correctly, either. I have OCD. I’m a scientist. I want it done right. So I guess I’ll just have to suck up, and accept that I need to work with others. I need to make those phone calls, and get it done.

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