The “Pens of Steel” Group Discussion Special: What Is A Digital Voice? PART 1

Welcome to the Rise of Digital Voices!

In case you didn’t already know, the Internet is FILLED with competing messages. Thanks to the onset of social media platforms, more people than ever have the ability to share their unique voice with the rest of the world. And in doing so, can create online communities where similar minds (and interests) can congregate. To share ideas. To share insights. To share individual stories.

This is the Age of Digital Voices – a time when the gatekeepers of information have been usurped by the end user.

From left to right clockwise: Josh “J.C.L.” Faltot, Brian Del Turco, Willie Scott, and Brent Mclaughlin – The “Pens of Steel”

In this very special episode of The Writer’s Lens, I sit down with three other creative voices: Brian Del Turco of Jesus Smart: The Podcast and owner/operator of LifeVoiceQuest; Willie Scott co-founder of Better Than Blended and TKI Publishing; and Brent Mclaughlin, aspiring writer. These three gentlemen make up our Cleveland creative group otherwise known as the “Pens of Steel” and for the first time, we are recording our conversation concerning this growing phenomenon of the social media landscape.

This will be the first of a three-part discussion on the topic so stay tuned for more to follow in the coming weeks.

And for more info on my fellow conversationalists, here are some links below:

Brian Del Turco

Website: http://www.lifevoicequest.com/

Podcast: http://www.jesussmart.com/

 

Willie Scott

Website: https://betterthanblended.com/

Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/betterthanblended/?hl=en

 

Brent Mclaughlin

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/brent.mclaughlin

 

Source: Podcast Link Here

Interviews with Brian Del Turco, The Voice of “Jesus Smart: The Podcast”

Welcome to the #NarrativeWars.

Brian Del Turco is a fellow creative in Cleveland and is the voice of Jesus Smart: The Podcast as well as the owner / operator of LifeVoice Quest. He is passionate about emerging voices – those looking to broadcast and share their message with others – and I’ve been fortunate to dialogue with Brian about this topic. For we live in the digital age and we are surrounded by hundreds of incoming messages, all vying for our attention.

That being said, how do we sort through them?

How do we know what is true?

How do we know what is not true?

Brian and I begin our discussion on the #NarrativeWars in part 1 below.

034: Take the Red Pill — Wake Up to the Narrative Wars with Joshua C. Faltot! 

In part 2 of our conversation, Brian and I dive deeper into the concept of #Worldviews and what they mean to each of us.

On my podcast, The Writer’s Lens, I take a look at things through the lens of a writer. I believe human beings tell stories to help them interpret their world. To make sense of things. To exchange information and share experiences.

This can ultimately shape our individual worldviews. The conclusions we make; the stories we believe; the ways we think the world ought to be.

For this second half, Brian and I discuss in greater length how we are not only in the midst of a #NarrativeWar, but a battle of competing #Worldviews too.

039: War of the Worldviews with Joshua C. Faltot

Brian is a commentator on society and culture with great and helpful insights who can also be found on SubstanceTV’s podcast at SubstanceTV.org.

#1,000…and counting

Thanks to all who have been tuning into my podcast, The Writer’s Lens.

This past week, I hit the 1,000 downloads mark so thanks for being a part of the creative / writing journey with me!

Stay tuned for more updates in the coming weeks.

And just in case you missed the latest and greatest, I started a new series (beginning with Episode 40), where I’ll be (hopefully) going from inception to publication for my second book, The Shadow Of Mars. Be sure to tune in or share with anyone you think may benefit from following along in this process.

Till next time.

J.C.L.

Support for “The Writer’s Lens”

If you’ve been wondering how to support my new podcast, The Writer’s Lens, then there’s a few ways to do so:

Listen

This may seem like a no-brainer, but the growth of any program relies on its viewership. More listens generate more opportunities for other potential listeners to find out about The Writer’s Lens. And don’t worry, there are no quizzes or exams waiting at the end of any episode…maybe.

Share and / or Subscribe

Sharing is caring. Well, unless you’re five and your parents make you do it. Either way, sharing the podcast can make others aware of what The Writer’s Lens can offer. Especially for those actively seeking the kind of content we are working on and could be of benefit to them. Have a creative friend? Someone who loves storytelling? Someone who wants to hear from entrepreneurs and creatively-minded folks? It’s encouraging to know there’s a community out there that can help you. And on that note, I’ll add that as therapeutic or fun as this can be for me personally, I’d love to see growth in other people’s lives too. The gain we get is the gain we give.

Comment / E-Mail

This may be the most frightening aspect of social media: asking for comments. We all know how treacherous the Internet highways can be so why ask for feedback? Well, because engagement creates opportunity for growth. There are always good topics I’d like to do, but may not be aware people are looking for them to be discussed. Seeing how my audience is responding helps me key into what’s working. Or what isn’t. So again, if you like what we are doing – let us know. Don’t like we are doing? Let us know that too. Gently.

Support Though Monetary Donation

There are always costs associated with doing something. Be it the time we spend or the materials we require. So, if you aren’t always able to share, subscribe or the like, you can always provide a monetary donation to help The Writer’s Lens keep moving forward, but even more so, enable this podcast to get better than what it was yesterday. Not to mention (but I will), there are some cool rewards available for those who give above and beyond.

You can check out those rewards by going here. And again, you can find The Writer’s Lens on Podbean, iTunes, and even YouTube.

Thanks in advance and talk with you all again soon!

– J.C.L.

 

I Am Still Writing And I’m (Still) Publishing A Book This Year

I don’t do the blog thing much these days. Between parenting, husband-ing, socializing, podcasting – there is very little time for therapeutic writing (though writing a book is quite therapeutic).

That being said, I wanted to put something out there. Namely how I am still writing. Just not on this platform. I’m actually trying to finish a book. Yeah, no joke.

The Shadow of Mars, the follow up to The Road To Mars, should be available sometime this year. When? I have no idea. Don’t ask me. But, I am on the second read through of the manuscript. So that means I’m about 80% of the way to my goal.

Another goal I’m pushing towards is 1,000 unique followers and listens on my podcast, The Writer’s Lens. So, if you’re of the creative type, you’re writing a book, finding your “voice”, exploring hobbies and passion projects, and interested in taking that journey with another person foolish enough to share his insights and failures, then it’s a good place to check out.

So enough of the shameless self promotion. And back to that writing thing. Till next time.

J.C.L.

 

 

Of Heroes and Ordinary Men

As of late, I’ve been reading a book called Ordinary Men. It’s a recount of German police battalion 101; a documentation of the men who served as part of Nazi Germany’s Order Police during the Second World War. The policemen, as cataloged by author Christopher Browning, are given an assignment on the morning of July 13, 1942 that would change their lives forever. And subsequently, the lives of every Jewish man, woman, and child living in the ghetto of Jozefow. Though only police officers, the battalion is handed down orders to “liquidate” the entire ghetto and thus, murder every single Jewish person – amounting somewhere in the thousands – that resided within. As you might suspect, the orders are carried out in full. But, not without consequence. In the days and years that follow, the members of Battalion 101 experience extreme regret, bitterness, and entanglement of their very souls. It’s a chilling read and a grim reminder of how quickly things can devolve into madness.

What’s more, the book chronicles how so many of these average police officers were given a choice: to carry out their orders or to simply “walk out.” The majority of them did not choose the latter. And though some did outright, a vast majority of officers participated. The details of which I will leave for those who wish to read the book themselves.

As a writer of fiction, I am in the business of creating stories. Stories that not only tickle the imagination, but project images and ideals of I would constitute as heroic. For without heroism, few protagonists are memorable.

And yet, when it comes to real life, the heroes we find in story are remarkably absent. Bullies surround a kid at school and no one intervenes. An employee knowingly removes money from the company bank account and those in the know turn a blind eye. If confronted with these situations ourselves, we’d all like to believe we’d rise to the occasion. That we’d mirror the heroes of our favorite fantasy or fiction and become the star of our circumstances. However, as I’m reading through Ordinary Men, it’s easy to see that we aren’t always as virtuous as we tend to think, nor are we as brave as we’d choose to believe. External forces – coupled by our own internal ones – drive us to self-preserve, to retain self-interest, and forego the sacrifice that might be necessary to simply do what is good and just.

But, what is good and just? Writers have been tackling what is right and what is wrong since the beginning of time. And the more specific and morally gripping the scenario, the cloudier our answer tends to become. Yet by continually engaging in stories that challenge our thinking on these matters, we continue to cultivate the best parts of ourselves: the traits most associated with what is admirable and what is desirable. And that’s worth writing about.

For more on that topic, check out my latest podcast We All Wish We Could Be The Hero.

Good. Evil. What’s The Difference To A Writer?

Good versus evil. It’s a common tale; one that’s recreated and retold over and over again: Luke vs. Vader. Aragorn vs. Sauron. Harry Potter vs. Voldemort, to name a few. As a youth, I was exposed – like so many others – to this age-old battle. Bedtime stories portrayed what it meant to be “good” and by contrast, what it meant to be “bad.”

Often, readers differentiate good from evil because the authors make it known to them. The most common form is the monomyth, as coined by writers like Joseph Campbell. It’s the idea that a hero – the protagonist – embarks on a journey, sparked by a call to action, to upend some injustice that has been done to him or others. The climax of the journey is a showdown between protagonist and antagonist; with the antagonist representing the opposite objective of the protagonist. And in most cases, it’s the villain whom the hero must upend.

Yet, not every battle between good and evil is so black and white. Popular stories like Game of Thrones present characters who one moment may seem virtuous but a few scenes later reveal their selfish intentions. Heroes and villains are thus, harder to pinpoint.

To go even further, Showtime’s television drama, Dexter, follows a serial killer who – ironically enough – only kills “bad guys.” Though murder would usually be considered wrong or evil, in this narrative, the prospect of killing villains is portrayed as good. Or at the very least, is meant to challenge the viewer as to what he or she would do if given the same situations as Dexter.

For more on this subject, be sure to check out my latest podcast episode. And be sure to subscribe to my channel, The Writer’s Lens!

2017, A Few Notes

Ah, yes. Reflection time. Every blogger / online commentator’s opportunity to throw together a good list of “me moments”. One last shameless self-plug before the new year rings in. And since I’m not beyond shameless self-promotion, I did want to talk about a few things. Some worthy of note for progression’s sake. Some not-so-much but certainly worth mentioning.

So, here goes:

Worthy of note: I started a podcast. I have a small background working in radio and looking back, I’m sad I didn’t pursue it way back when. The Writer’s Lens has opened a lot of healthy dialogue and a lot of doors too. Not to mention (but I will) I was able to start the podcast because of the generous gift of a microphone.

Worthy of note: I got connected with many other creatives. And I was able to support them via my podcast while keeping up with them throughout the year.

Not-so-great: I got really sick. I didn’t share this publicly, but I went through a strange time this year where I became ill for a really long time. In short, I was having stomach issues for a couple months and things got a little scary for a while. I don’t write this as a please-pity-me moment, but rather, acknowledging how much this put my 2017 plans on hold. When 2017 started, I was hoping to finish my second book, The Shadow of Mars, and simultaneously start a few other projects. But, all that changed right around the end of January. Creatively, I was brought to a standstill. I found my downtime filled with anxiety rather than freedom and it really took a toll on me. Thankfully, I got pain-free in summer and just in time too, as that’s when the gift of a microphone came my way (to do that whole podcasting thing).

Worthy of note: I grew bolder. Not just in my creative pursuits, but in my faith too. This year my faith was tested more than any other previous year. But instead of retreating into a safe space, I learned how to present myself in a manner that was both gracious and firm. By no means did I master the technique, but I know I made leaps and bounds in this area.

Not-so-great: Social media drained me. And I’m pretty sure it drained a lot of others too. Since I’m a self-published author and Internet surfer, I check in to social media daily. However, I didn’t do it as much as I used to (which is probably a good thing according to current studies on the topic). The angriest voices became dominant voices. Or the ones who were most controversial. Or the ones who were the most divisive. That being said, I found that dipping out – even when I didn’t plan on it – turned out to be a good decision. Every time.

Worthy of note: I got handier. This is not necessarily a creative endeavor, but I wanted to make note of it. Well, maybe it is. Let’s just say I can do more than change lightbulbs around the house now.

Worthy of note: Lastly – to keep this post relatively short – 2018 holds potential. For anyone, really. Hope is a powerful ally. It’s an ally we forget we have when things don’t go as planned. My faith in Christ is something I’ve had to learn to grow in as I’m such a cerebral guy. When I find out about something new – and it interests me – I dive in deep. I find as much information on the topic as I can. And I don’t rest until I come to some kind of conclusive end on the subject. One which I can stand on. Faith is not always as black and white as that and contrary to what some may think, this does not make it illogical or foolish. Rather, it builds a new awareness in us.

Here’s to 2018 and learning to grasp onto hope – even more than I did in 2017.

I want what you have; I want to do it better; and I want you to fail

Within the Ten Commandments, there is one in particular that focuses on our thoughts. And that commandment says this: “Do not covet.”

Depending on whom you ask, this may or may not be one of the richer and philosophically deep commandments among the bunch. Not as straightforward as “do not murder” but just as thought-provoking as “you shall have no other gods before me”, I’d argue. Those three little words give us some major insight into our thought life. How we interpret other people’s successes. How we measure ourselves against our neighbors. How we relish the thought of usurping another’s ideas and then watching as they fall.

If there’s one thing social media has taught me, it’s that looks can be deceiving. A person may tout their perfect relationship one day only to break up horribly the next. Tis a fickle place, the Internet. But, when applied to online entrepreneurship – like, self-publishing – the journey to start a following can be demoralizing. Especially when you are witness to all the other success stories that are out there.

Such becomes the tendency to compromise ourselves. Throwing money at fruitless ventures. Or adopting habits that don’t work for us. I can attest to buying business cards that didn’t make much sense for me to do so.

These are the pitfalls to avoid. But, even as I type this, I understand the difficulty in doing just that. Because we are always comparing, sizing up, and measuring ourselves by the ones we wish we could be like. I have found during my own journey that one needs to establish a healthy balance of. And even more importantly, establish a mindset that doesn’t revolve around getting everything that think is necessary.

Rather, seeing what others might desire and then trying to help them achieve it. More on that in this week’s episode.

 

Do you have deadlines? Or do you have ‘creative checkpoints’?

I have a love and hate relationship with deadlines. I love it when I make my own. I hate it when they are handed down to me (with completely unrealistic expectations for completion). But, on the other hand, I love getting deadlines from other people. It makes me want to prove myself. I have a goal and an objective that forces me to make things happen. Because if I’m honest with myself, I know how making my own deadlines can go: I get lax. I put things off. I don’t have anyone holding me accountable but me.

Such is the struggle.

Since I started writing books, I never gave deadlines much thought. I could always work at my own pace. Nobody was looking over my shoulder. Yet as I began to release more stories and I saw people reading them, the pressure began to mount.

How soon can I get the next one out? 

If I don’t finish this next project by the end of next month, will I lose the interest of my readers? 

Should I move on to something else? 

A lot of questions began to circulate; the majority of which revolved around uncertainty. And where uncertainly festers, so does anxiety. It didn’t take long for me to realize that if I worked at a pace dictated by my audience, then I was going to sink fast. I would never be able to keep up and the quality of my work would diminish. So instead of trying to create unrealistic deadlines for myself, I decided I needed to work smarter, not with a sense of fear. I needed to make checkpoints, not hard stops. I needed to give myself space to breathe; not suffocate.

As much as creatives want no borders – no barriers to their creative impulses – it is of the utmost importance that we structure ourselves around a schedule. In that way, we can allow for our creativity to flow, not constrict.

For more on that, I’ll be discussing in my latest episode: “Do you have deadlines? Or do you have creative checkpoints?”