The Writer’s Lens – Interview 18: Despite Popular Belief, “Story and THE Story Are Connected”

My latest interview is with a couple of gents I got connected with recently. Erik Marti and Stephen Lauterbach are the voices of Despite Popular Belief, a podcast that tackles several interesting topics, like the Leviathan, the Salem Witch Trials, and predestination; doing so through a Biblical worldview.

I was on Despite Popular Belief talking about the power of storytelling. Now, I get to ask Erik and Stephen about their own stories. How they came together, how they developed the idea for Despite Popular Belief, and how they see the podcast in the future.

You can check them out on Spotify, Google Play, and iTunes. Or follow them on Facebook and Instagram @DespitePopularBelief.

The Writer’s Lens – E62: “It” and Fear Through the Lens of Children and Adults

I’m not a big fan of scary stories. They aren’t the type of story I indulge regularly.

However, that’s not to say that I’m antagonistic towards scary moments. If a story is good; if a story is intriguing; if it seems to be headed somewhere other than just another scare, then I’m better at accepting the scares when they come.

That being said, I wanted to comment on the recent reimagining of Stephen King’s “It”. Not the story necessarily, but whether or not the onset of terror is more intense when a) it’s a child or b) it’s an adult. The answer might be obvious, but what does this mean outside of fiction? What is the truth behind a child’s helplessness and the responsibilities we have as adults to watch out for them? This episode is an attempt to scratch the surface on perhaps several more conversations.

Check out my latest episode here.

The Writer’s Lens – E61: “The Lion King” and What Redemption Looks Like

One of my favorite films of all time. Arguably one of Disney’s greatest works from the past 30 years, The Lion King is the coming-of-age tale of Simba, a lion cub destined to be King of Pride Rock, who is framed for murdering his own father, Mufasa. Whose evil uncle, Scar, takes over in Simba’s absence, runs the Pride Lands into famine and death, but is confronted by an aged and courageous Simba, who has spent years running away from his problems.

It’s a great story, further accentuated by its iconic music and iconic voices (James Earl Jones, Jeremy Irons, and Nathan Lane, to name a few). And though its popularity is undeniable, does The Lion King truly offer up a redemptive narrative? Simba regains what was rightfully his – the throne of Pride Rock – but is that all there is to a good redemption story? This is my analysis episode for Disney’s The Lion King.

The animated one. Not the live-action-which-wasn’t-live-action version of 2019. Enjoy.

The Writer’s Lens – E60: “Dark” and What If Time Travel Was Possible?

In the first episode of a new series, I take a look at themes supporting popular books, shows and films.

First up is the Netflix original, “Dark”; a show that puts a twist on time travel. Or rather, puts its audiences minds in a twist with its complex characters and increasingly complex plot developments. Great writing aside, it made me wonder something – which became the catalyst for this episode – What would we do if time travel was possible?

The Writer’s Lens E59: The Exalting and Glorifying of Ideas

After a couple weeks’ break, we’re back to finish this small series on Exploring, Exposing, and now, Exalting Ideas. What does it look like when an idea is glorified? And how might we be more cognizant of the ideas we are ingesting?

This one got a little ranty, but that comes with the territory.

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.

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.

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.

 

 

Narrative Wars 05: How Do We Develop Our Worldviews?

You may or may not know the story of the Hitchens brothers – Christopher, the elder, and Peter, the younger.

Christopher was a prominent figure in the anti-religion, pro-atheistic worldview camp while Peter is a well-known voice for the pro-faith, Christian community. Their philosophies would have them at odds, but both men share the same mother and father. Their bloodline could not be tighter. And yet, each man arrived at a very different way to interpret the world.

How did this happen? Aren’t we all just slaves to our DNA? Or is there something else at play rather than blood and guts and bone?

On this episode of the #NarrativeWars, I begin to unpack what causes us to formulate our worldviews. And how stories tend to reflect and / or challenge our personal ideologies in the process. Keyword here: personal.