Storytelling is a Foundation

I wrote the other day about the Thoreau quote that talks about putting the foundation under your dreams. Live Storytelling has been part of my foundation. I love it. One reason is I love performing and being the center of attention. But that’s not the real lesson.

What telling true stories in front of an audience has taught me is:

  • How to shorten my stories to give them more punch
  • How to craft stories for an audience
  • The value of the immediate feedback from an audience

Writing doesn’t give much feedback. So knowing people like my stories gave me a lot more confidence. I’ve always thought of my audience so that just supported what I already knew.

But writing with brevity is not something I did in the past. It has really helped me be a better storyteller, and, I hope, blog writer. I’m trying to keep my entries short so that people can relax, enjoy them, and hopefully get something out of them.

I thank you again for being my audience. I’d love to hear from you in the comments. I do not collect emails in the comment form, in case that matters.

Castles in the Air

One of my favorite Thoreau quotes is: “If you have built castles in the air, your work need not be lost; that is where they should be. Now put foundations under them.”   

My castle in the air has always been my writing ambitions. Although I’ve done a lot of writing, quite often I replaced working for success with dreaming of it. In my dreams I have been terrifically successful: best-sellers, TV interviews, movie adaptations. 

My reality has been much humbler: a handful of publication credits, 0 TV interviews or movie deals.  

That is until recently. Publishing Tao of Thoreau through Amazon finally attached a tower of my castle to some foundation stones. Still a humble accomplishment, but at least a tangible one. And last month, September 1, 2020 to today, October 1st, I sold 32 books. I don’t know who is buying them; I’m pretty sure all the friends and family bought theirs earlier in the year, so I can only assume that these are people hearing about my book and purchasing it. 

After hardly selling books for months, suddenly Tao of Thoreau took off.

This is after an August where I barely sold any. So maybe something is happening out there. Maybe my book is catching on. 

Strangers. Reading my work. A dream coming true. 

This website is another part of this supporting structure. Again, the numbers are not world-shattering, but I love seeing my statistics. Even one visitor eyeing my work is wonderful. And I’m having fun challenging myself to beat the previous weeks stats.  

My biggest takeaway is this: writing and publishing is making me feel joy. I’ve always enjoyed writing, but now the joy of this process is spreading to all areas of my life. I feel incredibly fortunate to be where I am in my writing journey, and I am so glad that you are reading this right now. Thank you! 

Hunting Hawk

I posted before about seeing wild animals frequently, and how special and spiritual the experience is. Yesterday, on my way home, I saw a Red-Tailed Hawk scoop up a squirrel and fly with it into the trees. Not only was this a spectacular natural experience, but it also inspired some personal thinking.

I’m not sure I always believe a natural experience is a sign, but it the better story. So what could this be a sign of? My book Tao of Thoreau has really been selling lately. Perhaps it is a sign that I am capturing an audience? Or maybe not, since that squirrel would represent my readers, and I don’t want them to be eaten. Maybe it means the book is “killing” them?

Certainly, it could be a bad sign. I suppose I could be the squirrel, in the clutches of a predator. But I don’t like that story, so I think I’ll stick with the first one.

This is not the hawk in question. Please do not blame it for killing a squirrel. Though I’m sure it’s beak isn’t clean.

It’s not black and white

As I stated in my last post, gray is the color of evil in my stories, not black.  

This started as a recognition of the power of words, and the impact they have on our thinking. The white is good and black is evil dichotomy is very old, and probably predates white vs. Black racism. But that doesn’t mean it didn’t support this evil way of thinking.  

This was incredibly well dramatized in a scene from the movie Malcolm X. While Malcolm was in prison, a fellow inmate had him look up the words “black” and “white”. While white has almost completely positive associations, black is defined with words about distress, crime and evil. Again, these things possibly developed out of inoffensive feelings like fear of the dark, or of the unknown, but that doesn’t mean they haven’t supported stereotypes and prejudice. Here’s the link if you want to watch. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=51USLgPWhgc 

I really like the band The Killers, but there are lines in their new song “Boy” that bother me. I hope the lyrics “White arrows will break/ The black night” are not intended to be racial, but I can certainly understand someone interpreting them in that way. 

Besides the potential problems with these opposing colors, I think it is also lazy writing. We’ve used these symbols for thousands of years – maybe it’s time to come up with a new way to capture evil. I am going to keep using gray.  

Afraid of the Dim

I’ve always thoughts dimness was more frightening than darkness. 

I’ve had dreams throughout my life where the only light is a dim, dusty gray. I was always frightened in these dreams. Objects were just on the edge of visible, and took on a strange character, as if the gray light changed their natures into something foul, perhaps evil. 

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Milestones

Tao of Thoreau sales

It’s wonderful to have the word ‘royalties’ to finally be part of my life. I first saw self-publishing to be a kind of defeat, a huge compromise to my dream of being accepted by a publisher.

Instead, it has become incredibly affirming. Not because money, which is nice. Because people are actually reading my words. The reality of self-publishing is infinitely better than the dream of being published.

Mulch

This spring I spread mulch with painterly strokes 
Or smeared hurriedly, abstraction in brown 

My canvas: 
Rooty humps around tree bowls 
Beneath blooming bush branches 
Along Flowering paths  

My palette:  
Earth, all the shades  
From mahogany to ebony. 

My motif:  
Circles and curves 
And deep loamy earth 
The contrast of browns and greens 
That beautifies the beautiful.