In a Hole in the Ground…

In a Hole in the Ground…

In a hole in the ground there lived a hobbit. Not a nasty, dirty, wet hole, filled with the ends of worms and an oozy smell, nor yet a dry, bare, sandy hole with nothing in it to sit down on or to eat: it was a hobbit-hole, and that means comfort.

I will not praise The Hobbit as a perfect work. Even as a kid, each year I read it in 3rd, 4th, and 5th grade, I saw the book’s faults. I always thought Thorin or Bilbo should have taken out Smaug — not some human who just appears and saves the day. I won’t go on about the decline of the book from that point on…it was something I saw even as a child.

But that opening and the world it created in my mind…

No other book — not even Ray Bradbury’s Dandelion Wine — put a world into my head like The Hobbit.

That opening, and the mention of comfort…

The Meaning of Comfort

There is a lot to be said about comfort, just as there is a lot to be said about stepping out far and wide and seeing the world beyond our Shires. There is even more, perhaps, to be said about returning home a very changed person.

As a child, The Hobbit was a book about adventure — a book that showed me how I could escape and see places of legend made real inside my head. As an adult, I see that one could argue that it’s a book about life.

I am happy that my life is comfortable…that I have business to attend to and friends to see. That I have words to write, and someone with whom I can share all these things (and more).

But in other ways, I am even happier to know that should I ever become complacent in my comfort, that there is so much out beyond my own Shire…and that I now have the confidence to face more than I ever imagined, all because of a little book released today in 1937

Cover to The Hobbit

Why I Write Blog Entries that Barely Anyone Reads

Why I Write Blog Entries that Barely Anyone Reads

While reading this, it hit me — at least in part — why I write blog entries that barely anybody reads.

First: the few people who read what I write generally like what I write, and I enjoy seeing what they are up to. (Most people who read this blog are people I know in person and online.)

Second: even if nobody read these words, I’d still write entries. Blog entries are different than handwritten journal entries I keep. In a journal, there’s no audience…or feeling that I’m writing for an audience. With a blog, even if no one reads, there’s a certain focus required because, in the back of my mind, I think about others reading what I’m writing.

It all got me thinking last night..

The News Effect

Somewhere in my teen years, before people chatted online, commentary was usually found in the op-ed section of newspapers. I remember hearing my step father all but regurgitate points made in the Chicago Sun Times, to relatives and family friends, as though the points were his own. In ways, I suppose they were — at least points he agreed with and carried as his own. Later, when cable came around, I remember hearing my father sharing commentary he heard on television as though he came up with the thoughts himself.

As 24-hour news stations became a thing, I heard more people presenting things they agreed with, that somebody else said, as their own thoughts.

With the rise of websites and social media, I heard it even more: people using something they heard elsewhere as their own talking points. We now know politicians and 24-hour news stations push talking points to their audiences in the hope the people watching and reading and listening present the points as their own. (FoxNews mastered this, but they are not alone in doing it.)

Why I Write Blog Entries that Barely Anyone Reads

I write blog entries to see where I stand on things. I write blog entries to take a point I find interesting and push it this way and that, to see how it holds up to scrutiny.

I write these entries as practice, to keep my mind ready to stand on its own, and to have the confidence that when I open my mouth to speak, there will be at least some structure in what I’m saying.

I write these blog entries to get things out there so I don’t feel the need to always be the one speaking, because in writing, I’ve already had my say.

In a weird way, I write these entries because I find that once I’ve had my say, I don’t mind just sitting back and listening to others, instead of always feeling the need to chime in and be heard.

Someone New (All the Time)

Someone New (All the Time)

I’ve seen the advice quite a bit:

Eat with someone new every week.

The reason: networking — to talk about what you are up to in the hope someone can help you. The theory goes, if you eat with a new person every week, you’ll eventually have a large network and maybe even — through sheer numbers — stumble upon someone who can help you in what you do (or want to do).

Rarely, it seems, do those dispensing the advice talk about what you could do for others; it seems to be “Quantity over quality until you get what you want.”

I’m not saying it’s bad advice, but it seems so shallow.

Lacking Depth

While the idea of 52 lunches with 52 different people in a year appeals to the side of myself that likes to be challenged, if my goal is to have in-depth talks about writing, podcasting, life, or other things…it doesn’t seem like a new person every week is the way to go. In a hurried world, it seems like those lunches would consist of catching up with each other — not enough time for much more than, “This is how I am, this is how my family is, and this is what I’m up to.”

Just an exchange of information that can probably be found on any person’s social media site.

Quality Over Quantity

Last Wednesday, I had dinner with a good friend. Not somebody new…somebody who knows my writing, at times, better than I do. Someone who knows what I’m trying to do with all the things I work on.

We don’t meet weekly, or even every other week, but when we get together and talk about what we’re doing, it beats sharing a meal with someone new all the time. Hell, sometimes we don’t even talk about writing and things like that — it’s not about networking; it’s about friendship

It’s not about quantity; it’s about quality!

The Thing About Shortcuts

I’ve seen people network with their own needs put forward and seen people get what they want from that move. The staying power, though, is often weak.

It’s always seemed that someone wanting a shortcut to whatever it is they want desires the result without the effort to secure that result. At some point, the work must be done, and those looking for the easy way in often can’t sustain things once they get there because they don’t like the work. So they constantly hit up everyone they know in the hope they can sustain a life through shallow relationships.

I’m fortunate to know people who make a living doing so many cool things, and those who have sustained their dreams are those who surround themselves with a handful of good friends who really understand them — not 52 people, most of whom are acquaintances — in the hope of a quick payoff through networking.

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!