Working with other people

The people who do it insist that it’s better. Are shocked that I don’t. In fact, usually don’t know the extent to which I do everything myself. Over and over and over they ask “Who does your…” this, or “Where do you get your…” that? The answer being “I do it myself,” 9 times out of ten. Maybe more.

They tell me that if I’d just let other people do B, C, D, E, et cetera, then I’d be able to focus on A. Depending on who I’m talking to, and what they think should be my focus, feel free to shuffle those random placeholder letters. Often without first-hand knowledge of my work, they assume that the quality of B, C, D, E, et cetera are insufficient – in fact, they also often assume that whatever A they’ve picked as my focus is also not up to par, on account of my spending so much time & effort on the rest of the alphabet.

Alas, I have an aversion to working with other people, and I never bought into the idea that any one human could only do one thing well.

So I spend most of my time alone. And I do most everything on my own. When I farm out part of my work to another entity, I try to farm it out to robots and other automated systems; when I put together a new book, it goes from a set of digital files to a book both in my hands and for sale anywhere without my having to communicate directly with even one other human. Even that, I’ve been considering doing myself. A few months ago I was looking into acquiring a small offset printer (& looking into binding solutions) so that I could print and bind my own books. It’s still something I’m considering. I like doing things myself. (Not to an extreme, such as making my own paper, weaving & stretching my own canvas, or creating my own pigments, but most of the way there.)

I write my books. I edit my books. I create the layouts. I design the covers. I write the copy and design the web sites. I record and edit the audiobooks. I compose the music for the podcasts. I sell most of the books by hand, standing in the street. When orders come through my web site, I pack and ship the books; I hand-address the envelopes. I paint my paintings. I photograph them. I put them online. I sell most of them by hand, often standing in the street. I am the creator. I do all the creating, then I personally put my creations into the hands of the readers and art lovers who want them.

In the few areas where my control ends and a human’s control begins, I have found that rather than getting excellence I get delays, complications, mistakes, and disappointment. I have come to accept that, for example, is not fully automated, so that whether my episodes go up on time is based on what’s happening in a particular human being’s life – a particular human being with no personal stake in their timing. So I stopped caring whether they went up on time there, and started my own podcast/site where I have full control over when episodes are posted. I have to work with people in order to participate in the First Friday Art Walk, where a significant portion of my sales take place each month. After the first few months doing it, I came to accept that things would never go as planned and to simply expect  and accept that some new problem will crop up every single month. The problems are always, always because of human error, and usually because of people with “no skin in the game” being the ones making the plans and decisions. Oh, and although I don’t usually talk to them, there are humans involved in the process of getting a book set up at my printer – so I’ve come to understand that it’s unreasonable to expect the book to be ready to print or available for sale on time, or even within the time periods contractually promised me.

I heard or read something recently that I felt clarified a point about goals I wasn’t well able to express in my long post about it. The idea was that anything you hoped to achieve, if it required someone other than yourself to do even as little as say yes, or say no, wasn’t a goal, but a dream. Things you could potentially achieve without relying on someone else are goals. But you can’t count on other people, you can’t force other people, you can’t know what other people are going to do before they do it. So things you hope to achieve that rely on someone else doing something particular, those are just dreams. Those are, at least partially, not achievable by you. Part of the point of making such a distinction is to set personal expectations appropriately. To recognize that sometimes other people don’t come through. Sometimes they do. People achieve their dreams every day. But not always. (I would say, not often.)

As easily as I can set (and achieve) the goal of writing another book, of doing everything to go from an idea in my head to a digital/physical product I can share with other readers, the getting someone to buy and/or read that book is just a dream. In the same way, every part of my work I hand off to another person to accomplish goes from being a goal I can achieve to something I have to hope & dream another person (or company, or group of people) will do their part to help me achieve. My time tables, my quality expectations, my creative vision, they go out the window and are replaced by those of the other people involved. (And the more I insist on any one of those aspects getting closer to what I want, the farther the other two get.)

The unreliability and inconsistency of other people isn’t the only (or even the primary) reason I don’t like other people, but it has a lot to do with why I don’t like working with other people. I’m anti-social, misanthropic, and -some would say- nihilistic. I don’t loathe everyone, and I’m aware that many people do excellent work – I’m also aware that it tends to be when they are working on something they care about and believe in, rather than “for money” or “for other people,” that people tend to do their best work. So… theoretically all I need to do, if I wanted to work with other people (aside from somehow overcoming my being generally anti-social), is to somehow find people who are passionate about and care about my creations, as much as or more than I do. Let me know if you see any.

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Author, artist, romantic, insomniac, exorcist, creative visionary, lover, and all-around-crazy-person.

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