Some things you simply must do alone. Some things work better with a partner. Sometimes creativity is such a creature—you do better with a partner. Regardless of your partner’s apparent involvement level, it remains true that your creativity excelled because of it.
The metaphor of a mirror comes to mind. Sometimes you can see yourself reflected in another person thereby affirming your creative impulses. Other times the mirror reveals important insights or red flags that you are naturally too close to capture. These mirroring dynamics generate an enhanced creativity. A creative synergy derives from that diversity because you complement each other.
History records the accomplishments of many people who enjoyed enhanced creativity as partners rather than solely as individuals. This in no way detracts from the individual’s talent. If anything, it highlights an added dimension by virtue of the partnership synergy. Many teams of two could be cited, but here are some that have definitely riveted my attention (“In Their Own Words: Members of Creative Pairs on their Partners” [drawn from Joshua Wolf Shenk, Powers of Two: Finding the Essence of Innovation in Creative Pairs (Boston: Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, 2014)] The Atlantic, July/August 2014, p. 84):
“Vincent van Gogh to his brother Theo: ‘My pictures are not yet good enough to compensate for the advantages I have enjoyed through you. But believe me, if one day they should be good enough, you will have been as much their creator as I, because the two of us are making them together.’
Warren Buffett on his business partner, Charlie Munger: ‘Charlie does the talking. I just move my lips.’
The dancer Suzanne Farrell on the choreographer George Balanchine: ‘I would try my hardest to do what he wanted and dance well, and he would be the only judge, relieving me of having to criticize myself.’
Wilbur Wright on his brother Orville: ‘I love to scrap with Orv. Orv is such a good scrapper.’
Herman Melville on his friend Nathaniel Hawthorne: ‘Hawthorne has dropped germinous seeds into my soul. He expands and deepens down, the more I contemplate him; and further and further, shoots his strong New England roots into the hot soil of my Southern soul.’
Clarence Clemons on first meeting Bruce Springsteen: ‘Bruce and I looked at each other and didn’t say anything. We just knew. We knew we were the missing links in each other’s lives.’”