Another Social Media Break

Another Social Media Break

It’s that time of the year: time for my annual electronic equivalent of retreating to a cabin in the woods by taking a social media break. I’m not sure if it will be a break from all social sites, or just Facebook, but this afternoon I said, “Time for the annual Facebook break!” I logged out and removed the app from my phone.

I’m not sure about other social sites right now because I can filter Twitter to see only what I want to see. (I do that on Facebook, but Facebook insists on still showing me things I’ve requested be hidden). Google+ and Tumblr are free of drama, politics, and stress for me — places I can visit and leave refreshed. So we’ll see about those other sites as the week moves along.

The Problem with Facebook

I don’t know why it just seems to be Facebook for me, but it seems there’s usually a topic of the week that gets discussed — and it’s often discussed with a certain angst.

  • One week, talk about how depression kills. Then: “Robin Williams was a coward!” [Battles ensue.]
  • Another week, people doing the ice bucket challenge. Then: “This is why you are a dummy-head for doing the ice bucket challenge!” [Battles ensue.]
  • This week, people talking about a bunch of nude photos of female celebrities leaked online and shared. Then: “If they didn’t want the photos out there, they shouldn’t have taken them!” [Battles ensue.]

I know these same arguments are happening on Twitter, Tumblr, and Google Plus, but I only follow publishers, photographers, artists, and other people who tend to talk about positive things and creating work they love.

So I can’t say it’s Facebook’s problem exclusively. But I can say it’s the only network that keeps presenting things in my feed I’ve requested to not see.

“Are You Crazy?”

Most people I know understand why I take these annual breaks, but there are always a few who can’t fathom giving up the social sites they frequent. Those who use social sites to promote their work, and who know I do the same thing, usually ask:

“But doesn’t that affect your numbers?!”

I’m not a huge fan of tracking things; if you know me, you know I just like making the things I like and if people look, read, or listen — great. If not, it’s not the end of the world. For me, the most satisfying part is in the creation. This isn’t to say I don’t like having a following…especially as that following keeps growing.

When I take a break from one or all social sites and don’t say, “New podcast!” “New story,” or “New video,” it’s reflected in fewer downloads. I’m not there to remind people to check out whatever new thing I’ve created, so fewer people check out what I’m doing. When I think back to every year I’ve taken a break, all the way back to the 101-day break that kicked it all off (and what I learned in taking that break), there is an initial fear of losing the following I have. It’s not long, though, before I remember the sense of peace that comes from stepping away.

Fear of Missing Out

Fear of missing out is enough of a thing that we’ve turned FOMO into a buzzword. With each break I’ve taken, someone has asked me if it bothers me that I miss out on what’s going on — as though nothing happens outside of social media.

Even during the breaks from all social sites, I still read and replied to blogs. I still saw people. There was email. Those closest to me knew how to get in touch if there’s an emergency (or if they just wanted to hang out or say hello). So what do I really miss, outside of the rage of the day or week?

[It didn't even hit me until just now that there is a midterm election coming up, which means all the people who rarely/never spoke with me in high school (but requested to be friends on Facebook because, I assume, they think I share in their view that our current president is a Muslim lizard man who will impose Sharia law on us before 2016), will be out in full force soon. I won't mind missing that!]

I may miss out on some good news along the way, some funny memes, and other things, but what is gained from these breaks is something that makes me a better writer.

Writing is What It’s Really All About…

For me, Jonathan Franzen’s words about electronic distractions holds weight:

It’s doubtful that anyone with an Internet connection at his workplace is writing good fiction.

I write best when I disconnect from distractions. I also write more when I disconnect from distractions.

I started the novel I’m working on almost three years ago. With a life, day job, weekly podcast, other writing, and additional things I do, my goal for a solid draft of a new book is every three years. I’m on pace to make my self-imposed deadline if I disconnect and focus.

So that’s what I’m going to do…

My Favorite Thing About Podcast Movement 2014

My Favorite Thing About Podcast Movement 2014

This weekend, I attended Podcast Movement 2014. I considered writing one of the early, big recaps about the conference online — packed full of tasty SEO hooks and smart moves along those lines. But I realized this weekend that kind of thing just isn’t me.

At the same time, I was reminded what is my kind of thing…

The Friday Night Plan

Podcast Movement opened Friday night to a large crowd full of all kinds of cool people there to network. I knocked out day job work early and planned to zip into Dallas to get there before the crowd. I would have done just that were it not for a Coloradan I met years ago and a Haligonian I’d never met until that night…

During a previous conference, I saw a tweet from a guy in Colorado asking for a ride from the airport to the conference site. I previously wrote about it, here — but if you don’t want to read that, here’s the gist: my wife and I planned to arrive early to check into our room and start the weekend, but we left later to give a stranger a ride. In the process, we made a good friend. So when I got a message on Podcast Movement’s community from a guy in Halifax, Nova Scotia who was going to attend the conference, I decided to offer him a ride to Dallas.

It’s not every day someone sends you an introductory message that reads:

“I like the cut of your jib, good sir!”

(Seriously, that was Jesse Harley’s introduction to me.) So later Friday afternoon I offered Jesse a ride to the conference. He sent email during a connecting flight saying he appreciated the offer and would love that, only…he boarded his connecting flight before providing flight info.

A Wild Guess

When my workday ended, I headed for DFW Airport. I took a wild guess which flight he was on and decided to sit and wait in Terminal D. (A Halifax flight connecting in Toronto was coming in about the time I figured Jesse would arrive.) I emailed and told him I’d be waiting; I told him if I was in the wrong terminal (I was) that I’d swing to wherever he was to get him. He arrived later than planned and told me where he was. I zipped over there, found him at his baggage claim, and…we quickly realized his bag was lost!

Imagine: you’re coming into a new town for a 3-day conference and you only have the clothes you’re wearing! (The bag didn’t arrive all weekend, although I think Jesse will get to pick it up tomorrow, in time to head home with it.) You’ve arrived late, and you’re tired and hungry after dealing with a baggage claim guy who was so quiet and mumbling and out of it that you start looking for the candid cameras and wait for the punchline.

But the punchline is this:

“Your bag is lost and we have no record of it anywhere.”

Hanging Out (Not in Dallas)

Instead of zipping to the conference, since Jesse was hungry, we got a bite to eat locally. Between being tired, finding out his bag was lost, and the ambiance of a TexMex restaurant (they don’t have those in Halifax), it was a bit surreal for Jesse. When they brought him a margarita the size of his head (and a complimentary shot at the end of the meal that he described as “being punched in the face with a bag of sugar!”), that was the capper. We decided to not rush to Dallas.

I could have been there Friday, making connections that could have helped Men in Gorilla Suits, Hell Comes with Wood Paneled Doorsmy other blog, my YouTube channel, and even hyped the things I’m planning to do in the vaguely-near-future. Instead, I hung out with a really cool new friend, driving around Grapevine Lake and taking the long way to Dallas so we could talk about all kinds of cool and geeky things.

The Best Part of This Weekend

Podcast Movement was a great conference. (They’ve already announced next year’s venue: The Omni Hotel in Ft. Worth.) I enjoyed today more than yesterday; today, the sessions seemed more about specifics and less about hype. I got to see friends and meet new people. I was reminded again of my initial shyness in crowds, but how I quickly open up because I love hearing about what others are up to — more than telling people what I do.

You might think the best thing about this weekend was meeting Jesse — and in many ways you’d be right. But the absolute best thing was introducing Jesse to Mason Pelt.

Like Jesse, Mason is obsessed with media — especially video. I’ve known and respected Mason for years and figured he and Jesse would get along great.

Here’s proof that they did:

 Jesse Harley and Mason Pelt

Lost luggage and three days in the same clothes be damned! When Jesse Harley talks about video production, he becomes a blur of excitement.

What I’m Good At

If you ask me what I’m good at, my answer is usually, “Juggling, writing, being nice to people, and listening.”

I’m not the best at pushing my own stuff, but I’m good about taking chances and introducing people to each other — even if it doesn’t benefit me in any way.

Seeing Jesse and Mason chatting was the best part of my weekend.

On Second Thought…

Okay, I lied: this was the best part of the weekend!

Jesse Harley and Christopher Gronlund and Podcast Movement 2014

Any time you can help out someone you don’t know and — after a taking a silly photo — get a big hug goodbye and part good friends is a great weekend!

Here’s to a safe trip home tomorrow, Jesse…and to hoping the airline has a lost bag full of clean clothes waiting for you just in time for the return trip to Nova Scotia!

Why I Podcast

Why I Podcast

I’ve had people ask me, “If you don’t make money with Men in Gorilla Suits and Hell Comes with Wood Paneled Doors, then why do it?” Here are five reasons:

  1. While I love the solitude that comes with writing novels, it takes a while to complete a book. Podcasting gives me a weekly sense of completion — not one that comes every few years.
  2. Men in Gorilla Suits is just as much an excuse to hang out with Shawn Kupfer on a regular basis as it is to complete something new every week.
  3. I like picking any topic I find interesting and running with it. Look at the list of shows we’ve done and you’ll see we’ve forced ourselves to really examine how we feel about much more than a single focus. (Not that there is anything wrong with podcasts with a single focus; in fact, if you asked me what you should do to get a large audience, I’d say, “Focus on one thing and do it really well — not discuss random topics every week like we do!”)
  4. I like making our weekly images for the site. Seriously — it’s a blast!
  5. I like when a show takes on a life of its own and I go back and listen and think, “I’m especially proud of that episode!”

But what I like most about podcasting is the people I’ve met along the way!

Podcast Movement

Podcast Movement 2014 IconThis weekend is Podcast Movement. For a first-time conference, it’s bringing in over 600 people from all around the world.

I’ve already been chatting with a guy who makes short films and shoots video in Canada. One of the people who inspired me to podcast will be up from Austin. There will be plenty of local podcasters from the Dallas/Fort Worth area whom I see at a monthly podcast meetup.  And there will be a lot more people I don’t know and look forward to meeting.

All the sessions look great — Gary, Dan, Mitch, and Jared have done a great job getting presenters for no matter where you are with podcasting and your goals.

Get in Touch

If you bump into me at Podcast Movement and want to get in touch (or even get in touch before the conference), here’s how to do it:

Social Media:



Oh Yeah…

Cash Car Convert LogoThis week’s Men in Gorilla Suits podcast is about subcultures. There’s a bit about podcasters as subculture from roughly the 9:00 mark to the 11:15 mark, including a bit about James Kinson’s Cash Car Convert, which is really a lot more than just how to save money by buying a cash car.

James is a panelist at the Getting A-List Guests for Your Podcast at Podcast Movement on Sunday. While I plan to attend Darrell Darnell’s Advanced Audio Editing Techniques at that time (we don’t have guests on Men in Gorilla Suits), all the panelists for the session with James look great — check it out!

No Change in the Weather

No Change in the Weather

The day after the summer solstice, I posted this entry…about how I was waiting for the heat of Texas summer to broil me.

It has yet to happen.

Odds are, it will happen, but this summer rivals one of the better Texas summers I remember.

It was in the lower 70s today. An area 30 miles north of us almost got almost a FOOT of rain this morning (we got two inches of rain).

With mild temperatures and flash flooding — I am not complaining.

In fact, the weather has made me think…

Change in the Weather

In that entry earlier this summer, I posted this:

I know the weather will change. Our drought will continue, and some lakes will dry up completely this year. The sun will be big and bright and offer no quarter as it sears all it touches.

Those days are coming, but for now, the weather is nice.

And…writing and other things I’m doing are also nice, lately.

Do Not [Try to] Predict the Future

It’s easy to say, “I’m usually busy in the summer at my day job; therefore, I will be busy and unable to write…”

It’s easy to say, “It’s hot in the summer; therefore, I will wait for cooler weather to get back to walking…”

It’s easy to look at any pattern and call a near future that may or may not happen…

This is another novel that will not work out as planned…

This is another exercise program that will not work out as planned…

This is another job that will not work out as planned…

I could say those things, but this week, things I didn’t expect to come together with the current novel came together. It’s been a good week for walking and moving my body. My day job isn’t a job I hate. (An improvement from the past.) Things are comfy and good.

The Funny Thing about Predictions

Anyone who knows me knows I think predicting the future is a silly thing, but every day, people tell others what will happen. Worse: many tell themselves what to expect. We often predict futures that never happen…or futures that never happen because we’ve convinced ourselves it’s not worth the effort because things always seem to work out a certain way.

This morning, one of the major interstates in America was cut off because almost a foot of rain fell in a matter of hours. That’s a bit much, but I’ll say this about the summer rains: they are cleansing!

And, just like the summer rains this season, if you allow yourself to just go with the flow, all your preconceived notions about the immediate future may be washed away…revealing something rather wonderful!

Muscle Memory

Muscle Memory

I played tennis for the first time in a couple years this morning. Well, I should say, “My wife and I knocked tennis balls around at 6:30 this morning.” I didn’t actually play a full match…or even a set or a game.

I haven’t actually played tennis for quite some time — back when a friend and I played every Tuesday night. It didn’t matter if it was 100 degrees out or 25 degrees out…Tuesday nights, unless it rained, we played tennis.

Letting Things Slip

It’s easy to let routines slip: going to a weekly juggling club, tennis on Tuesday nights, and other routines that come and go in my life. There have even been a few times I didn’t write fiction as much.

These things always come back, though — and when they do, it’s important to not be discouraged.

This is where a lot of people let things slip for good. When things come back, the memory of doing something with regularity often shouts:


And because we were once at least better at something we’ve let slip — maybe even good or great — it’s easy to think, “Man, I stink at this and was kidding myself that I could get back to it.”

Muscle Memory

I used to juggle at least 4 hours a day. When I take a long break from juggling and get back to it, I get frustrated. Juggling numbers is harder; moves that were almost automatic seem like they are now fighting against rusted joints. But something wonderful always happens: in time, things come back. Muscles remember how to juggle 5 things well enough that I get some good runs with 6 (and believe, “I can do 7 again!”). More than that, though, my mind cuts loose — and I start doing things I’ve never even thought of before.

In a short time, I’m not only back to where I was when I stopped, but…I’m better — even after a break. My mind is no longer locked into whatever pattern it was in when I stopped.

Muscles remember; my mind, acting like a muscle itself, tells my muscles to do things I never dreamed I could do when I juggled at least 4 hours a day.

Back to the Tennis Court

I won’t say with any degree of confidence that I’m ready for the old Tuesday night tennis matches. But there were moments this morning when I thought, “Don’t chase that shot down,” only to have my legs keep moving and then: my mind and body working as one to send a shot I thought was impossible to reach back into play.

It’s more than a just reminder that tennis is a thing I do. This morning was a reminder that anything I’ve let fall to the side, for whatever reasons, should never leave me thinking, “Who am I kidding…those days are done…”

All that needs to be done is pick things back up and do something long enough for muscles to remember what to do. (And not let your brain get in the way!)

The Payoff for Doing What You Love

The Payoff for Doing What You Love

My friend Weldon recently got his perfect job: cataloging and grading comic books and comic art for a large auction house. In recent weeks, he’s held the original artwork for the first appearance of Wolverine and the original art from a page of The Killing Joke (the page where Joker shoots and paralyzes Barbara Gordon…yes, he got to hold an original Brian Bolland page). He also held the first Batman comic book and Action Comics #1.

Millions of dollars worth of art and comic books have passed through his hands in recent weeks. Some say he’s lucky; others have asked how they can get a job like that.

The answer is simple: by doing what you love, without expectation of anything more than the love of the thing — and creating opportunities for yourself that might one day pay off.

That’s how Weldon got his recent job.

“Lucky” Friends

I’m fortunate to be friends with a lot of “lucky” people. By lucky, I mean the perception that some people have regarding how friends came to illustrate comic books and book covers; how they came to write novels and record the voices for well-known cartoons; how they became people who spend their days doing exactly what they love.

I’ve heard people say those who do what they want for a living are lucky. While luck (or some kind of break) often factors in after years of hard work, if it’s luck — it’s luck they made for themselves.

What many people never saw in these friends are the years of hard work behind the scenes. People staying home on Friday nights in their 20s because they were at an art desk. Using vacation time to work on their thing, instead of going to a beach and relaxing. Taking the lowest job in a creative company and working their way up. The effort of it all can be exhausting. Years of working alongside “nobodies” while others clamored for the attention of those who could help — the hope of a shortcut to fame. Eventually, those “nobodies” bubbled up and connections were made…and a hand of help was extended.

Hey, I’ve been doing art for this publisher — let me put you in touch with them…

Luck has little to do with it.

How Do You Get to Do What You Love All the Time?

I still have a day job, so take this next bit for what it’s worth. It is, however, based on what I’ve seen happen in the lives of more than a few people I know.

How do you get that dream job? By doing what you love with no expectation other than doing the thing you enjoy doing. Do it first and foremost because you love it — not because you want a huge following.

Mel Brooks once said:

I don’t really do anything for the audience ever. I do it for me, and most of the time the audience joins me.

Live by that. Do what you love because you love it — not because you want to be a brand. Do what you love because you love it — not because you want a big audience. Do what you love because you love it — not because you want fame.

If you do what you love because you love doing it, maybe one day what you love will become the bulk of what you do.

But if it doesn’t, you’ve still won.

Back to Weldon

Weldon once made six figures selling software, but Weldon has always been happiest when he’s worked around comic books. From his early days of working in comic books stores to eventually editing and marketing comic books, it’s a field that often didn’t bring in tons of money for him, but it’s always made him happier than selling something solely for a paycheck.

There are decades of struggling for what Weldon loves, in much the same way artists struggle until their love pays off.

So the answer to “How do I get that cool job?” is to do what you love.

Independent travel writers aren’t born overnight. People making a living with their YouTube channels didn’t just build it and watch the audience roll in like the tide. Most successful novelists wrote 1-5 books before ever being published (and then wrote another 1-5 novels before they saw decent money (and even more never even see that)).

What looks like an overnight success rarely is.

There Are No Shortcuts to Great Work

One doesn’t sit down to write fiction for the first time and create a masterpiece. No one has sat with a cello and done something like this from the start. Canvases and brushes don’t guide an artist’s hand; decades of hard work do.

The friends I have who make a living doing what they love didn’t go all in and hope for the best — it was never a gamble because they just did what they loved for no other reason than they loved it and always pushed themselves to get better. There have been times in Weldon’s life that it might have seemed to those who look only at numbers that he was painting himself into a corner.

Clearly, he wasn’t:

Original Alex Ross and Steve Rude art.

Oh, just some original Alex Ross and Steve Rude art on Weldon’s desk…

Original art for the first appearance of Wolverine. (And the first Frank Miller Wolverine sketch.)

Holding the original art for the first appearance of Wolverine. And to make the image cooler? Why not bring in the first Frank Miller Wolvie sketch…from Weldon’s personal collection.

Batman: Killing Joke. Original page - the shooting of Barbara Gordon.

I think it was Weldon who introduced me to Camelot 3000 back in the 80s. So I’m not TOO jealous that he got to hold an original Brian Bolland page…from a great one-shot comic book. (Batman: Killing Joke.)


Weldon Adams holding Batman #1 and Action Comics #1.

Just another day at the office: Weldon holding Batman #1 and Action Comics #1.