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Dispatches from the Moth · Posted On: Aug 05, 2014


by Dan Kennedy

Joshua Shenk Dan Kennedy Final Spotlight

I’ve sat around for twenty years or so waiting for my match, waiting for the person or people I’m supposed to be creating things with. They’ve probably been with me all along, wondering why I keep talking about how I’m sitting around waiting for them to show up. I’ve read so many of those thick hardcover biographies, entranced and happy to be out of my head, but sooner or later I’m tortured by the text when I realize that nobody is here collaborating with me; not a brother who gets it like nobody else, not a guitarist who understood, a software developer that saw our shared vision, or a bulldog businessman that is the complementary opposite to the daydreaming brain I’m stuck with in my head.

Do you ever feel that way? As if every other person in the 19th and 20th century met (or was born with) some missing piece to the puzzle that made their creative life instantly analogous to The Beatles or Jobs and Wozniak or whomever? I even caught myself thinking one day that even killers had their bands and duos! The Kray brothers had each other. Leopold had Loeb, and I sit here typing alone like Steven Fucking Glansberg. That last one was a reference from the movie SUPERBAD, an amazing comedy written by two best friends — Seth Rogen and Evan Goldberg — when they were still in high school.

And then, I was reading Josh’s book, and I have to say, something shifted. Here’s the thing: you are collaborating with people whether you know it or not. That is what I somehow realized as I started reading Powers of Two. I say somehow because that may or may not be the point that Josh had in mind in writing the book. The truth is, this book, Powers of Two, will present to you several of the aforementioned collaborative duos. And honestly, I suppose there was ample opportunity to feel as alone in my work as I ever do when reading about bands and duos and pairs. But somehow, instead I started seeing just how many people have been here with me all along. And realizing how many places I had gravitated to, places that were arguable as collaborative as people I come into contact with.

The second apartment that I ever rented in New York, because for some reason when I walked in, I felt like maybe I could write a book. That wasn’t a thing I felt very capable of yet, but something about the energy of that little place made me feel like it could happen there, and it did. And then there were the magnet places, as Josh calls them in the book – places where like-minded people tend to work or just hang out. I was going to them and not even realizing it. Which is basically how I met Josh fourteen years ago when I went to try something I had never tried before at this thing called The Moth.

We’ve never sat down and collaborated on something. I’m typing to you now from the same place I typed my last book and the handful of things I’ve worked on since: alone at the big long table at home. But when you read Powers of Two, you start to rethink saying things like that. Somehow you start to wonder if you’ve ever sat alone doing your work. You start to realize just how many people you stay in touch with and how much those friendships inform your work; you start to think about the people or person you imagine writing to when you’re writing something; or the person at the cafe who asked about what you’re up to and ended up making you think about something you’re working on a little differently. You start to realize you met your Lennon a long time ago; you’ve known your Wozniak or Ive for years; the Matt Stone to your Trey Parker has been with you all along.

That night after the first time either of us had tried The Moth, fourteen years ago, we walked home talking about how scary it is to get up there and try this kind of stuff, and I think we talked about every other thing under the sun. And ever since, whenever and wherever our schedules cross, we try to meet up, take a walk, and talk about what’s going on — talk about movies or books or music we’ve been noticing, things we’ve been thinking or struggling with, ideas we’ve been considering.

So, here’s this thing: instead of sitting here continuing typing, I’ll try to record a conversation between the two of us. This isn’t anything I’m in the habit of doing with my duties at The Moth, but the other day in the studio before recording some new Moth podcast episodes, I did this. Which is to say: Joshua Wolf Shenk, Catherine Burns, Paul Ruest, Jenna Weiss-Berman, Whitney Jones, and I did this. And now you’re joining in. See, I’m not sitting here alone after all. And neither are you. We’re all collaborating with someone whether we know it or not. Keep doing your thing and never quit. With everyone you’re doing it with.

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