Last night I watched A Futile and Stupid Gesture, the new film about Doug Kenney of National Lampoon. Going into it I knew nothing about it or who was in it. All I knew was that it was one of those kinds of films depicting the rise of some creative endeavor that was huge for a few beats before disappearing into the annals of history. Don’t worry, this isn’t a review — I’ve hit my troll quota for the quarter, thank you, and don’t need to be roasted because my opinions don’t line up with some internet rando. I won’t say anything else about it other than I would love to be able to throw out an absurdist line like “buy my book or I’ll shoot this dog” and get a response other than a flash of outrage or confused stares.

Anyway, I enjoy movies about how creative people work. It doesn’t matter whether it’s a documentary, a biopic, or a highly fictionalized account of a true story. When I’m writing, I’ll occasionally put on things like All the President’s Men and Pirate Radio for inspiration. What I’m drawn to is the energy generated by a group of people who, in spite of the odds and their personal differences, all manage to pull together in the same direction and accomplish something grand.

Now, I am fully aware that these things are cherry-picked. Nothing is ever as smooth as it seems. There are dozens of details left out, annoying problems that don’t have cute payoffs later. Even the problems we get to see weren’t as dramatic as they’re portrayed on screen. But still, that energy, the teamwork, the excitement.

What I’m really wistful about is the idea of working with a group of people. I sit alone in our kitchen, working by myself. Katie is in the living room, at her desk. We interact throughout the day and bounce ideas off of each other, but we’re working on vastly different things.

Then I remember what a pain in the ass group projects were, and why I got the hell out of management, and all of the reasons I intentionally set things up so I’d be a one-person operation. I want my friends to be my friends, and my professional collaborators to be off at arm’s length, ne’er the twain shall meet. I’ll stick to movies playing in the background, and keep plugging away doing my own thing, at my own pace, without interruption.

 

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4 thoughts on “… or We’ll Shoot This Dog

  1. I get it. I like the idea of collaboration, but even with the best of people, it normally devolves into inaction and stagnation. But I still hold hope for the idea.

    1. I had a whole process for group projects worked out when I was in business school. Somehow I’m always the guy who ends up doing 90% of the work, while half of the group does a little bit each and the other half of the group does nothing — but expects credit.

      1. School group projects were the worst. But even now I remain wary of them, even with abounding good intentions. The realities of life, and how they differ for everyone, can throw the best intentioned collaboration into chaos, resulting in hurt feelings. So as much as I would like to collaborate in something with you or Richard Iorio, for example, I recognize that our very different schedules would become a hindrance.

        1. You and Richard are two people I feel I could collaborate with, but it would have to be the right project. I think we all have similar ideas about business and the hobby.

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