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What WWF Teaches about Cooperation & Collaboration

I recently started playing Words With Friends with Terri Nigro.  I’ve known Terri all my life, although we’ve met only three times that I recall. Still we have a special connection.

So it’s been fun getting to know her better through the messages we exchange during our games. Like the one after she played etwee.

What the e is that? I wrote.

In my cross-stitching I use an etui, which is a pretty little container to hold scissors and needles and stuff. Etwee is a very unconventional spelling,  but it stuck.

OK, so I was surprised anyone still cross-stitches. (I don’t get the knitting thing either.) But I was even more surprised by the suggestion Terri made in our second game.

I’m working toward the 800-point game. You in?

In a few keystrokes, she’d turned our competition on its head. Sure, one of us would outscore the other. But our real goal was now to earn the highest possible total score.

And with some more creative words from Terri—aaliis? Nth? WTF?—we reached 845. Our new goal? 875.


Kudos to Terri for that change in perspective. Because it reminded me that sometimes an endeavor that seems to pit two parties against each other can actually benefit both.

It’s a lesson I had to learn early on as a writer. To my chagrin, not everyone appreciated my stylish prose and witty turns of phrase. Quite the contrary.

And so I occasionally closed my office door after talking with my editor and flung a sheaf of well-marked papers across the room. But a little maturity taught me that often my editors were right, sometimes they weren’t, and either way they were the deciders.

I also learned to draw a sharp line between writing I did for others and writing I did for myself. The first was professional; the second, personal. I push back on the professional, but I put up a fight when the writing tells my story.

Today most of my clients are tactful enough to say a positive word or two before the but …

Your creativity always amazes me …

I’m sure readers would find this very entertaining …

I found the introduction quite unexpected  …

But the but is there nonetheless. Right, wrong or indifferent, my clients are bold enough to tell me what they’re thinking. And the only way to respond to that?

Thank you. Thank you so much for your input. You’ve made some excellent points. I appreciate your honesty.

Ultimately my clients and I both want the best end product. And once I recognized that any criticism related to the gray morass on the page, not the producer of it, I spent a lot less time picking paper up off the floor.

And when cooperation leads to collaboration, it can be downright transcendent.


Two hours ago I played sax in Words with Friends for 28 points and Terri played axeman off that for 56 points.

Yowza! Normally I’d be worried about the fact that Terri is now 36 points ahead, but no: We’re aiming for the highest score.  So we build off of each other. Actually it’s a relief.

Much of the time, I write alone. On those rare occasions when I work with another writer, bouncing words and ideas back and forth, lofting them ever higher, it’s almost as much fun as ping-pong at summer camp when I was 14.

On a Sunday not long ago, I was working with a creative director, polishing up the copy and design for a product my client and Microsoft were introducing together. The collaboration was so energizing, it almost seemed a shame they had to pay me. Almost.

Because I was no longer a lonely writer stuck in a garret, throwing words at the page and hoping they’d stay. I had a co-conspirator who helped me break out of the tower and find even better words with more holding power. As though we’d created our own addictive word game.

Like Terri and me, setting each other up, maxing out the Triple Letter and Triple Word squares and using up all our letters in one go to boost our score over 800.

In the end, my clients and I are aiming for the highest score too—the best open rate, the best click-through rate, the best conversion rate, the best revenues. And the only way to achieve that is to work together, aim high and hope the message sticks with the customers and moves them to act.


PS—So who is Terri? One of my 51 first cousins. But even after I moved to the States, we lived on opposite coasts. Which is too bad, because we share a passion for words—and a desire to hit that 875 game.