What makes it so difficult?
With collaboration of any kind, you're forced to examine how you work: your thought processes, how you make decisions, how you define and divide tasks, what your priorities and goals are, and your procedures and timeline for completing the work. These are usually unconscious, but in a group setting, you have to confront them because everyone else's will be different. This is where the conflict comes in: in trying to accommodate different assumptions, methods, goals, and work styles. What makes things even more difficult is that most people give very little explicit instruction in how to negotiate, compromise, work out a plan, and find ways to use the strengths of all group members. Furthermore, even group leaders who want to specifically design plans around the strengths of their group members have difficulty because most people don't know what their strengths are, and if they do, they often have trouble articulating them. So the entire process tends to be fumbling through, on a deadline, working toward an ill- or hastily-defined goal that (all too often) no one really would have chosen in the first place.
That said, I like collaboration. I really do. I have had some fantastic collaborative experiences, both in school and in personal writing projects. During good collaborations, I feel alive with possibilities and more confident that good ideas will rise to the top because two or more people had to approve them, and they had to be explained clearly enough for at least one other person to understand. I focus more on the process than on the product, more on the ideas than on how people will judge me based on the final product. I have to think about why I want to do a particular thing and justify to another person why the end result will be better for it. This has eliminated a lot of self-indulgent, lazy, and just plain silly ideas on my part.
While there is some truth to the waggish quote about meetings, the fact remains that we are stronger together. Go