Have you met Rachel MacDonald and Tara Bliss yet?
This time we’re talking about a specific project. Their eBook ‘Spirited: Soulful Lessons on Clarity, Connection + Coming Home (to You)” is their newest collaboration – and it’s been getting rave reviews. The acclaim is well founded. Their beautiful creation is the soulful eBook of the year.
My curious nature meant that I was immediately interested in the behind-the-scenes of this project. What did collaboration look like for these friends practically? Both women are already managing their own growing coaching businesses and personal projects. How did this baby see the light of day? And how did they grow it to the polished work it now is?
If you’re just as curious, rest easy. Luckily Rachel and Tara agreed to pull back the curtain and share all the deets here. Read on – I know you’re going to love this one!
(PS You’re gonna want to get comfy. This post is a little longer than usual, but so SO worth it.)
Give us the skinny. How did you come up with the idea and decide to work together?
Tara: This is our second collaboration actually, and Spirited was born thanks to our first collab back in February of this year.
We had created an online community (about 80 women strong) and planned to create for them a Survival Kit-type guide for managing the little monsters that accompany online business: comparison, self-sabotage, self-doubt, etc, but our ‘little guide’ hit puberty pretty quickly and before long, it was banging down our door demanding that we invest more time, attention and soul into it.
And so we did. When energy was running high, we gave it all to the book. When it started to peel back, we gave it space. We truly honoured the process and didn’t ‘push’ anything. The book didn’t even reveal its name till the very last bend!
We’ve been telling our tribes that Spirited has carried us all year, not the other way round, and I really believe that. It gave us an opportunity to explore the topics that women (and some very cool men) are hungry for, and that we ourselves are curious about and contemplate, often.
This meaty project took a while to complete, right? How did you stay motivated to keep going?
Rach: Sure did, and it morphed quite dramatically from the original concept.
In looking back, the pivotal parts of the process were those moments where the book evolved – sessions at the beach where we filled pages and pages with new ideas, an energy-fuelled day in Tara’s lounge room, text messages and emails back and forth – and it was always those ‘Here we go!’ peaks of motivation that carried us through to the next phase.
There was never any doubt that this book would be released into the world. We wanted it to be rich, multi-dimensional, honest and relatable. It had to have soul, and plenty of it. The book grew in length by about 80 pages (!) – again, we just followed the call – and once we could see it start to take form, it wasn’t a question of getting motivated. It was simply about honouring that big energy spinning expectantly around it.
Tara: We’d be lying if we said we remained motivated from start to finish, because the truth is, there were so many peaks and troughs in energy with this book, that we’ve lost count. It certainly took us on a roller coaster of a journey.
What’s remained unchanged though, was a steady belief that whatever it was that we were creating (as Rach said, it was a morphing concept), it was going to be incredibly useful, authentic and that it would make a difference in the reader’s life. Those were the non-negotiables.
In the end it was the Lift! from the book itself that help us cross the finish line. Adrenaline, enthusiasm and sheer joy collided, and momentum started to build – most of the work was done in the final three or four weeks.
What’s been the best and worst part of collaborating together?
Tara: For me, the thrill of writing in Google Docs, seeing Rach’s pink cursor zipping around the place while I was writing at the same time takes the cake. I could feel her in the Spirited draft with me. The whole process felt raw and loaded with presence; often we’d both meet up, pouring our words and energy into it, leaving each other comments and encouragement in the side bar, hooting and hollering over what each other had written.
Team work at it’s finest.
The worst? In total transparency, I’ve sat on this for some time, and… nope. I’ve got nothing. Blessed to work with this angel.
Rach: Absolutely agree. When you’ve been used to riding solo at home, blogging away with your sweet self, there was definitely a huge novelty factor in creating together, at the same time, in the same document. We tossed around comments like ‘I love where you’ve taken that’ or ‘Hell yeah sista, that is SO GOOD’ like confetti and our friendship well and truly lead the way.
To see something you’re both so invested in and both have a vision for unfold in front of your eyes was a magical experience and something that still puts a dopey smile on my face. I’m grateful this book allowed us to deepen our bond even more, while sharing a message we’re both so passionate about with the world.
Let’s peek under the hood. What are the practical steps and tactics you used to write the eBook together?
Rach: We captured ideas with pen to paper at first and then transferred the good bits to Evernote, where a shared folder housed inspiration, unformed paragraphs and words of wisdom.
A Google Doc was where the vision took a practical, concrete form, and after laying out the topics in order, we divided the lessons up and wrote our parts, filling in the gaps.
The design came together literally overnight – a moodboard was zoomed off to design genius Sian Richardson and she came back with the cover and inner template layout the next day. It goes without saying she absolutely nailed it.
Special mention must go to the Self Control App (for Mac) as well – perfect for blocking social media distractions before sitting down for a big writing sesh.
What advice would you share with someone thinking of collaborating with a friend in the same field?
Tara: It was suggested to Rach and I a few times that we create a ‘contract’ and set down some guidelines for the collaboration, and I know many, many people would agree with this. But we chose not to do that (via a few ‘I love you and I don’t think that’s necessary’ text messages).
The two of us know the landscape of our friendship well; we hold similar intentions in our heart, and at the end of the day, we both want to live lives rich with meaning and joy, so in essence, we had an unspoken contract of love. I know it sounds cliche and incredibly dorky, but we followed our guts, and it worked for us.
I think it’s super important to play to each other’s strengths, too. There were days where I was writing thousands upon thousands of words, and Rach was deep in the vision of the book; the aesthetic of it, the emotion of it, the possibilities. We may not have worked in the same way, but like yin and yang, when our approach to the work combined, magic was made.
Having said all of that, I totally understand that this type of Dream Team scenario may be a rare one. It takes total trust and a willingness to dissolve huge amounts of ego in allowing someone else to rearrange, edit and expand upon your words, but it’s a process I revelled in and will always remember. I felt all in! I felt like every word I wrote was Rach’s too, and she had just as much right to edit my stuff as I did, and vice versa. It was sacred.
But nonetheless, if your project is built on a foundation of heart and generosity, and you feel in your body that collaborating with someone you love and respect would be an expansive experience, why not just go for it?
Rach: Hear, hear! Aligned values, deep respect and honesty are vital and make for a collab that works on all fronts.
What’s something unexpected you learnt about yourself through this collaboration?
Tara: Ego aside, I learnt that I’m more prolific than I give myself credit for. That the more I sit down to write – hey, whaddya know – the more I write.
I actually found the writing process incredibly freeing and easy, and having Rach as a cheerleader amplified that for me, without a doubt.
Moving forward, I’m going to trust that when I’m devoted to a project, simply sitting down and making room for the words will act as the portal for expression of the written word. Spirited has certainly cleaned up any cobwebs of creative self doubt, that’s for sure.
Rach: This book was a potent reminder of how deeply fulfilling creative work like this is – from setting the intention, right through to the words and design – but even moreso, how inspiring it is to work with one of your besties on a project that sets both of your hearts ablaze.
It’s an entirely different feeling to write half of a 20,000-word book (something I’d never done before) over say, a blog post, and let’s just say I danced in the mash up of cosmic guidance, rhythm, momentum, friendship, devotion and accomplishment.
I learned how important it is to sit down, do the work (whether batched or in bits) and celebrate every step of the way.
I also found that I had a huge surge of energy for the project when I could see it visually. As soon as the design concepts started coming through, it was ON because I could really feel it. Words + visuals = boom! That’s the way my brain works and I’ll take that learning into every project I do moving forward.
(Heads up: If you decide to invest in your own copy of Spirited using this link I’ll get a % of the sale).
(Gorgeous pics by Hannah Millerick)
Here’s your key take away:
Collaboration is an exciting concept and your personal experience with it will be entirely unique every time. That said, here’s what I know: If you’re open to it and actively seek collab opportunities they’ll stretch you and you will grow as a professional and as a creator.
The key is to feel fully supported in any joint ventures you decide to take on, Maybe that means a contract; it definitely means agreement. Just like Rachel and Tara, go with what feels right and in complete integrity.
Now I’d love to hear from you in the comments. What’s your experience with collaboration? What’s your #1 tip for collaboration success?