Narrative Wars: 09: “Why Is It So Hard To Change People’s Minds?”

Ever have a conversation where you couldn’t convince the other party of something? You have all the facts. You have all the information. But for whatever the reason, the other person just won’t see things from your perspective.

Never? Yeah, me neither (insert sarcasm).

Changing someone’s mind is hard. We aren’t really as open as we’d like to think (cruel irony there, is it not?). New ideas can rock our worldview. And it can make for some rather uncomfortable situations if we’re discussing them openly with another who thinks differently than us.

From a writer’s perspective, storytelling – effective storytelling – is a powerful means by which to change the course of someone’s mindset. A great story can make someone aware of something he never knew or even cause him to consider making a 180 on his own thinking.

This episode of the #NarrativeWars is a deep dive so be sure to stick with me till the end.

Every Person Has a Goliath, But How Do We Conquer It?

We all have fears. Some of which feel overwhelming when we confront them. You might even say they are “giant-sized”.

The tale of David and Goliath chronicles how a young boy overcame insurmountable odds – a literal giant. A soldier who towered above the rest. It’s heralded as one of the greatest underdog stories of all time. But I’m willing to contend that it’s not. My latest piece takes a deeper dive into the dynamics of David and Goliath and how David may have bested his opponent without simply luck on his side.

The Minimizing of Sin, the Maximizing of the Autonomous Self

Here’s my most recent article discussing a topic I have been especially challenged by as of late. Not by a belief in God, but by the ramifications for not taking sin seriously.

The Writer’s Lens E58: Can Telling A Story Expose Something?

In my last episode, I talked about exploring ideas in story. In this one, we’ll talk about how stories can bring to light something that might be wrong. Whether it be from a personal, subjective experience, or from a seemingly large scale issue.

And I also give some insight into what I used to binge on when I was a poor college student.

The Joy of a Husband When His Wife Gives Birth

There’s a lot that husbands and new dads go through when a baby arrives. It’s easy to look at what lies ahead and feel overwhelmed, even ill-equipped. Your wife or the mother of your child has done the bulk of the heavy lifting while you have been twiddling your thumbs. But you don’t have to keep twiddling those thumbs. There’s real joy to be had for the father who invests. This article is an attempt to talk through that narrative and begin that discussion.

Link:here

Amazon’s Amazing Deals Are Affecting…Amazon?

I’ve been self-publishing material through Amazon for a few years. I didn’t start out that way. I was originally working with a publishing house out of Indiana before I decided to part ways with them. They put me through several channels, including Amazon, as it was the fastest-growing distributor on the Internet. At that time of my departure, I made a jump to CreateSpace’s platform. They had an intuitive program for self-publishing and I enjoyed the freedom. But then CreateSpace was reabsorbed by…well, Amazon. The entire program was taken into Amazon’s publishing platform and I, along with likely thousands of other authors, was taken up along with it.

You can probably discern the pattern by now. If you’re in the business of building a platform – as a writer – it’s difficult to avoid the goliath that is Amazon. Jeff Bezos’ company is the biggest online retailer in the United States. It’s a multi-billion dollar agency. Its reach far exceeds that of its closet competitors and every aspiring author, like myself, knows it.

That’s why so many writers inevitably find themselves within Amazon’s premier marketplace. The allure of Amazon is its possibility of overnight success. Newbies to the industry are probably thinking just that. If I can get on Amazon, then I increase my chances of selling more books. All I have to do is publish through them and get some reviews to boost the algorithm. No sweat….

There’s nothing wrong with that sort of thinking. I’ve thought it. I still do, to some extent. And if I’m thinking like that, then I know others are doing the same. Namely, those looking to take advantage of people like myself.

Recently, Amazon came under fire for selling counterfeit copies of a book through its online marketplace. An author was notified by one of its readers how there were several typos present. The situation cost the author close to $240k in possible revenue – a massive hit – but avoidable, nonetheless. Why could something like this even occur? David Streitfeld of The New York Times sums up the situation quite well:

“The company (Amazon) sells substantially more than half of the books in the United States, including new and used physical volumes as well as digital and audio formats. Amazon is also a platform for third-party sellers, a publisher, a printer, a self-publisher, a review hub, a textbook supplier and a distributor that now runs its own chain of brick-and-mortar stores.” 

One can see the ripple effect. When you’re that big and you can do that much, it’s hard to keep tabs on everything. To Amazon’s credit, they’ve tried to address this issue, including the claims of Mr. Streitfeld. But this isn’t the first time it’s happened. In fact, it keeps happening; a reality which raises the concern as to whether Amazon will need to take further action as 2019 rolls onward.

Either way, this situation showcases one of the dangers associated with becoming such a big distributor. For the ones looking for a personal touch and a steep attention to detail – aka the aspiring author – Amazon may lose potential clients. Though many will still look to garner reviews from the tech giant, there’s no guarantee new authors will flock to Amazon for their publishing needs. Time will tell, of course. If Amazon can crack down on these problems and assure its customer base these mishaps won’t happen (at least not regularly) then that will only encourage more up-and-comers to sign with Amazon.

As for me, I like to keep my ear to the ground. Amazon does have a massive reach. Amazon does bolster an intuitive platform. And if I’m honest, I’m not really sold on other made-to-order publishers just yet. But that doesn’t mean I can’t shop around in the meantime. There’s still traditional publishing, among other alternatives for a writer with a platform. Amazon isn’t the only player in the game.

And yes, I am aware how one could say, ‘at least for now, there are options’. But I’d prefer not to end on such a morbid note. There are other online sellers like Barnes and Noble and Books-a-Million providing similar publishing services. So the biggest question is not whether Amazon will rule the world, but if buyers and authors will continue to choose the Amazonian giant down the line. Can Amazon overcome its surplus of “good problems” so as to become more streamlined and author / reader friendly?

Well, that story is still an unfolding one. Happy Amazon Prime Day, everyone.

 

 

Narrative Wars 08: What Is A Human Life Worth?

What is a life worth? More importantly, what is a human life worth?

This episode of The Writer’s Lens attempts to explore the many narratives which surround this very energized topic. A bit on the ranty side, I’ll admit, but my hope is that you will hang with me throughout. Especially if you’re someone who enjoys a good rant. If not, just do your best. That’s all anyone can ever ask.

The Writer’s Lens REVIEWS: Stranger Things – Season 3

Ah, Stranger Things. The biggest franchise on Netflix and one of the most highly anticipated binge-worthy shows of 2019. So how does Stranger Things do in its third go-round? Is it the best ever? Or is it the worst of the bunch?

This episode is all about the good, the bad, and the ugly of season three. Full disclosure: SPOILERS are ahead. You have been warned.

America’s Story Is A Work In Progress; Not A Failed Experiment

Here’s a piece I wrote over the July 4th holiday. Perhaps it’ll resonate with you if you’re an American. Or even if you’re not.

 

Reflecting on the “Seven Deadly Sins (and Writing)” Series

On The Writer’s Lens, I recently finished up a seven-episode series on the Seven Deadly Sins. You may (or may not) know them as Envy, Gluttony, Lust, Wrath, Greed, Sloth, and Pride.

And since I’m a writer, I covered how each of these famous vices pertains to writing. But I didn’t do it as a means to talk about how to avoid common grammar mistakes or haphazard editing. Rather, I wanted to cover how each of these sins can affect our mindset and our motivations. The entire exercise turned out to be a real punch in the gut. For the sake of transparency, here’s a few of the things I learned (and re-learned) from doing this series:

Nobody is immune to selfishness 

As much as we try to cultivate a selfless mindset, we are always going to feel that draw towards self preservation. It’s ingrained in our DNA. But that doesn’t mean we have to accept that and continue to indulge the impulse. Each of the Seven Deadly Sins exposes how human beings lean into their own well being before they consider another’s. And while our self preservation isn’t inherently a bad thing, it can certainly spiral out of control quickly if left unchecked.

Taking that into our creative pursuits, it can truly become a hindrance. Many times I’ve thought I had the right answer and found out later, I didn’t. Why? Because I was giving into Pride (I thought I didn’t need help); I was giving into Gluttony (I was in love with my own work); I was giving into Greed (money is no object, even to the point of bad spending) or I was giving into Envy (I wanted to be better than the next guy rather that looking at what I had to offer).

Being selfish gets all of us. Because it’s in all of us from the start.

Creative gifts are best used when they are used for others

Writing can be purely therapeutic. There’s no intent to share with anyone else. And that’s fine. But when it comes to writing for an audience, the connection we are trying to achieve shouldn’t be centered on personal gratification alone. Our message is meant to inspire, if not challenge, those who have yet to hear it.

Recently I had been feeling defeated in my creative journey. My podcast had been growing, but my writing and published work had slid. I was beginning to feel like I was not performing well due to a Sloth-like attitude. My Shadow of Mars project, for instance, has been repeatedly pushed back for creative reasons and honestly, from getting distracted too often.

But then something really amazing happened. Someone reached out to me with a note of encouragement that said what I was doing was inspiring. That was enough to put wind back in my sails – just what I needed to hear when my spirits were low.

What we produce matters. It matters to us, but it might matter even more to someone else.

No matter who you are, there is always someone doing it better (and faster too) 

Let’s say you’re good at shooting free throws. You do it in your backyard regularly and have been doing it for a long time. You make six out of 10. Or you sometimes make seven out of 10. So you think you’re pretty good. Then one day, another kid comes to play and as it turns out, he’s even better than you. He makes 10 out of 10 consistently. You’re miffed by the situation. Here you thought you were the best on the block, but looks like your perception was not reality. It’s enough to make someone want to quit. I’ll never be that good. I practice all the time and I can’t even make it 10 out of 10 times! 

Dreams begin and end with failure. If our spirits get crushed, then we might feel the impulse to turn tail and never try again. The fear of looking like a nobody makes us recoil into safer spaces.

But if we truly feel like we have something to offer, then we ought not give up. I’ve been self-publishing material since 2012. That’s seven years! And I’m still learning the best ways to get my message out there. Better and faster too. It’d be easy to bow my head and give up, but as I’ve seen my platform grow and my writing improve, I know that I’m still cultivating the best version of my message.

As for the ones around me that I used to Envy, I can turn away from that inclination and focus on what I’m doing instead.

Look at yourself for too long and you’ll lose sight of your vision

Every sin I covered had a common attribute: a propensity to turn inward.

Rarely do our visions come to fruition on their own. We need each other. Not just for the sake of having a robust audience that’ll follow our work and buy our artwork (that’s always nice!), but for the sake of building each other up; keeping us honest; and helping us bring our vision to completion.

When I first started writing books, I was completely on my own. Here’s the thing though: I thought that’s how it was done. Writers are supposed to be reclusive, self-made entrepreneurs. If anyone was going to help me, it would be an agent. Or a major publishing house. Not a community of like-minded thinkers.

My first two book launches taught me otherwise. Doing it on my own meant creative suicide. I needed a community of fellow writers and publishers. I needed editors. I needed a team to make things move forward. Even more so, I needed to be willing to invest in them as much as I wanted them to invest in me. By taking the pressure off of myself, the burden of creative success didn’t feel so daunting. But first, my Pride had to go – as it does for all of us.

 

Granted, these are only a few of the takeaways. I’m sure there are more. I’m sure there are some you could take from these insights as well. We all have our demons that we are fighting. It’s best not to feed our own if we can help it.