From my point of view or yours?

Church Steeple

I saw this church across the parking lot of a Morris furniture store in Dayton. I was being dragged to go shopping for a new sofa that I didn’t want and I don’t really need, so I was in a somewhat goofy frame of mind. It’s how I handle my reality when I’m in a situation I don’t want to be. Everything gets funny.

As I looked up at this really sharp, point steeple and mused, “From God’s point of view, that is a thumbtack on a chair.”

But when the funny wore off, I started to think a bit deeply about why people build steeples on churches. It occurs to me that the best church would be built around this really cool-looking garden sanctuary so that when God looked down, he would see a place that invited him in instead of poking him in the eye… or the nether regions, depending on which direction he was facing at the time.

People build churches in God’s name, but everything about them satisfies their needs, not His. They reach toward the sky with steeples in hopes of being closer to God; they put the tower bells up high so that God’s voice can call to them. They line the inside with statues and gold candelabrae. (Lutherans also make sure there is a kitchen for coffee and donuts after the service. But they also put roosters on top of the steeple, so I don’t know what that means.)

I wonder if God looks down at us and thinks, “these people sure are a selfish bunch.”

This post isn’t really about God or religion or any of that. (If you comment about religion below, you are warned that I am a cantankerous Recovering Catholic and you should be prepared to suffer the slings and arrows of an unfiltered opinion.) It is, rather, a introspection on the relationship we have with one another. When we extend out an invitation, do you point the thumbtack pointy end out or in? Do we see ourselves from the other person’s point of view? Should we?

I don’t have the answers, but I now have the questions. I suspect that is a lot more than most people get looking up at steeples.

This blog post is part of a blog-off series with a group of bloggers from different professions and world views, each exploring a theme from his/her world view. This was about exploring the theme, Thumbtacks To explore how others handled the theme, check them out below. I will add links as they publish.

Letsblogoff with Paul Anater

Twice a week, all the #letsblogoff characters get together and share their viewpoint on a particular theme selected by the super-secret committee at the LetsBlogOff compound, apparently offshore in a secure location.

We were lucky enough to get in touch with one of those members, Mr. Paul Anater, editor of the insanely popular blog, Kitchen and Residential Design. He also acts as the editor-in-chief and LetsBlogOff pilot every other Tuesday when he is not jet-setting around the world for his day job as a Super Agent of Design.

Here is a short conversation with Paul. We hope you enjoy it as much as we did walkin’ and talkin’ with him.

MP3 File

The next #letsblogoff is this coming Tuesday where the gang will explore the theme: What is the best book you ever read?

What I take for granted

dog with writers block

Twelve hours ago, I woke up and stared at the glowing screen of my computer. I had not yet written my #letsblogoff article and since I had a full morning ahead of me, I decided to get this done so it wouldn’t cause me any stress. And I stared at the screen. And stared. And stared.

It seems as if I had taken the ability of my brain to produce #letsblogoff ideas for granted. And it was now teaching me a lesson.

A hard lesson.

There were no ready parables surrounding the theme, no pithy stories bubbling right below the surface, no snarky diatribes flowing from my fingertips. Nothing was happening except the cursor blinking on a white phosphorus screen, mocking my inability to get a story going.

Cruel irony given the theme this week.

I don’t believe in writer’s block. I believe otherwise in procrastination and sloth. I believe in distractions and the frailty of the human soul that gives in to those distractions. I believe deadlines and topics are great motivators to write concisely and to schedule. Yet, I find myself staring at the screen as the cursor blinks faster and the mantle clock ticks louder.

So this post is the result of my taking the ability to write a #letsblogoff post easily for granted. For that, I apologize if you have wandered here to read something clever. I feel like I am cheating you.

To make up for it, though, I have some spare change; a short list of stuff I take for granted without explanation.

The air I breathe, the water that comes from the tap, The New York Times on my doorstep by 5:00am, the sun coming out tomorrow and mostly the tomorrow I assume will come.

This blog post is part of a blog-off series with a group of bloggers from different professions and world views, each exploring a theme from his/her world view. This was about answering the question, What do you take for granted? To explore how others handled the theme, check them out below. I will add links as they publish.

Is it storytelling or curating? #letsblogoff

Jim Henson’s character “The Storyteller” and his dog. It is what pops into my head when I hear storytelling and it is the standard by which I measure all stories. Probably not fair, but it is what it is.

I wrote this earlier, but it applies now, so I republished for this #letsblogoff.

A while back, many bloggers decided they wanted to throw off the image of being one guy and his dog, hanging out in his parent’s basement ranting in his pajamas. They set about becoming “journalists.” And then that kinda didn’t set right because that was rather limiting their right of personal expression when they didn’t really have any facts and so they become “writers.” The latest metamorphosis for bloggers is to become “storytellers.”

Everyone now is a storyteller.

Only they are not really telling stories. They are curating facts. They are collecting events and regurgitating them. It’s the same thing they were doing as a blogger with a “new and improved” label stuck on the front only it is neither new or improved. The basic ingredients of storytelling are missing.

I recently received an invitation to Storify.com. They tout on their web site:

Turn what people post on social media into compelling stories.
You collect the best photos, video, tweets and more to publish them as simple, beautiful stories that can be embedded anywhere.

That’s not telling a story. That is assembling an exhibit piece for The Museum of Social Media. Bleckkkk.

If storytelling is not what most bloggers are doing, what is storytelling? I didn’t know myself until I received a tweet from @SaxonHenry this past Wednesday morning with a link to her blog. And with the following sentence, everything clicked.

Simply recording the boys’ actions wasn’t nearly enough! I had to determine how I would have responded to what they were doing. (I encourage you to read the entire piece.. after you get to the bottom of mine, of course.)

Saxon tells stories. I defy you to read this account of boys playing outside without feeling that film of grit between your skin and your sweat. Or read this poem and not smell the mix of old grease and pancake batter crisping at the edges, while getting an uneasy urge to run away from a life that has become banal and dull. Her choice of words, the cadence, the rhythm expresses her reaction to the story she is telling.

Jane Devin also tells stories. Her style is intense and many times uncomfortable but succeeds in ripping away a social mask that most of us have spent years affixing to our true faces. In her latest post, I defy you to read the entire post without choking back anger and a primal fear that you have been discovered for who you really are by those who have become the closest to you instead of the person you wish them to see. Jane’s choice of words, her intensely-packed paragraphs followed by a short, controlled release before she plunges you back with a half breath expresses her reaction to the story she is telling. It is almost like literarily waterboarding the reader.

In a culture where anyone can become a published author, claiming the title of a writer or storyteller without honing the craft is unfair to those who have. It cheapens their work. It disrespects their gift.

If you want to become a storyteller, then work to become one. Don’t just claim the title. Examine the elements of story by reading books like A Million Miles in a Thousand Years by Donald Miller. Watch episodes of The Storyteller. Watch the last scene of Mad Max, Beyond Thunderdome over and over. Read books by Joseph Conrad, John Steinbeck and Kate Chopin. Read Ben Zander’s book The Art of Possibility and watch his TED presentation. And read Jane Devin and Saxon Henry. Buy their books when published.

And tell stories. Lots of them. Like acquiring any skill worth holding on to, practice, practice, practice.

And while reading and listening to all of the materials I suggested above, think about why their stories work. And work to be as good as they are in telling a story that has your reaction embedded throughout.

Or stick to curating and leave storytelling to those who choose to reach beyond their five senses.

This blog post is part of a blog-off series with a group of bloggers from different professions and world views, each exploring a theme from his/her world view. This was about “answering the question, “What makes a good story?”” To explore how others handled the theme, check them out below. I will add links as they publish.

Football’s “Big Game” ads

On Monday, every blogger will turn into a marketing expert and analyze the ads from The Big Game* fifteen different ways in hopes that you won’t realize they don’t know crap about marketing or advertising. Several of them will actually know what they are talking about, but those people will be so non-confrontational that you probably won’t read them anyway.

Over here at the DogWalkBlog, we’re going to stick with what we know; dogs and dog-related accessories. Our entire criteria on judging the effectiveness of any Big Game ad is whether or not they have a dog in them. Then, we will list them further on down this page and tell you why we think they were cool or lame.

Fair enough?

Good.

*Super Bowl is a trademark of the National Football League (NFL) and DogWalkBlog did not pay any money for the rights to use it. So, we’re saying “The Big Game” (until the NFL clamps down on that one as well)

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Storytelling vs curating

Jim Henson’s character “The Storyteller” and his dog. It is what pops into my head when I hear storytelling and it is the standard by which I measure all stories. Probably not fair, but it is what it is.

A while back, many bloggers decided they wanted to throw off the image of being one guy and his dog, hanging out in his parent’s basement ranting in his pajamas. They set about becoming “journalists.” And then that kinda didn’t set right because that was rather limiting their right of personal expression when they didn’t really have any facts and so they become “writers.” The latest metamorphosis for bloggers is to become “storytellers.”

Everyone now is a storyteller.

Only they are not really telling stories. They are curating facts. They are collecting events and regurgitating them. It’s the same thing they were doing as a blogger with a “new and improved” label stuck on the front only it is neither new or improved. The basic ingredients of storytelling are missing.

I recently received an invitation to Storify.com. They tout on their web site:

Turn what people post on social media into compelling stories.
You collect the best photos, video, tweets and more to publish them as simple, beautiful stories that can be embedded anywhere.

That’s not telling a story. That is assembling an exhibit piece for The Museum of Social Media. Bleckkkk.

If storytelling is not what most bloggers are doing, what is storytelling? I didn’t know myself until I received a tweet from @SaxonHenry this past Wednesday morning with a link to her blog. And with the following sentence, everything clicked.

Simply recording the boys’ actions wasn’t nearly enough! I had to determine how I would have responded to what they were doing. (I encourage you to read the entire piece.. after you get to the bottom of mine, of course.)

Saxon tells stories. I defy you to read this account of boys playing outside without feeling that film of grit between your skin and your sweat. Or read this poem and not smell the mix of old grease and pancake batter crisping at the edges, while getting an uneasy urge to run away from a life that has become banal and dull. Her choice of words, the cadence, the rhythm expresses her reaction to the story she is telling.

Jane Devin also tells stories. Her style is intense and many times uncomfortable but succeeds in ripping away a social mask that most of us have spent years affixing to our true faces. In her latest post, I defy you to read the entire post without choking back anger and a primal fear that you have been discovered for who you really are by those who have become the closest to you instead of the person you wish them to see. Jane’s choice of words, her intensely-packed paragraphs followed by a short, controlled release before she plunges you back with a half breath expresses her reaction to the story she is telling. It is almost like literarily waterboarding the reader.

In a culture where anyone can become a published author, claiming the title of a writer or storyteller without honing the craft is unfair to those who have. It cheapens their work. It disrespects their gift.

If you want to become a storyteller, then work to become one. Don’t just claim the title. Examine the elements of story by reading books like A Million Miles in a Thousand Years by Donald Miller. Watch episodes of The Storyteller. Watch the last scene of Mad Max, Beyond Thunderdome over and over. Read books by Joseph Conrad, John Steinbeck and Kate Chopin. Read Ben Zander’s book The Art of Possibility and watch his TED presentation. And read Jane Devin and Saxon Henry. Buy their books when published.

And tell stories. Lots of them. Like acquiring any skill worth holding on to, practice, practice, practice.

And while reading and listening to all of the materials I suggested above, think about why their stories work. And work to be as good as they are in telling a story that has your reaction embedded throughout.

Or stick to curating and leave storytelling to those who choose to reach beyond their five senses.

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Mommy and daddybloggers, what’s your exit strategy?

I have two kids, 19 (girl) and 25 (boy). I blog, I tweet, I can make WordPress sing and I know all the ins and out of social media. I can cook, clean, iron a shirt or a pleated skirt and go bra shopping if called upon (not often these days, but earlier.) I have changed thousands of diapers, I have rocked each kid to sleep many, many times. I stayed up way past the point of tired to tell them stories. I have helped them through the frustration of homework and I have played in sandboxes. I have sat in emergency rooms in the wee hours of the morning and have held their hands during shots and stitches. I have held them through crying and anger after a breakup or a betrayal. And I have shared their happiness at making a team or singing on stage.

But I am not qualified to be a daddyblogger or contribute into the online dad community because I am too old. My kids are too old. “Parenting for dads has changed since you had kids,” they tell me. “Go away, old man, we don’t need your ideas. We’re the experts now.”

….

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What is creativity and 47 reasons why you ain’t a creative

Right off the bat, I’m gonna level with you and say that I don’t have forty-seven reasons why you are not creative. I don’t even have one. I just needed a funky title that the Google machinery would pick up on. Citing a list of stuff and using “creativity” in the title was a cool way of tricking that uncreative algorithm into thinking there might be something valuable (creative?) in here. There might be. I dunno.

I don’t even know you, so why do you care what I think about you? You might be creative; you may not be. All I can do is give you my narrowly-defined definition of creativity and watch you squeeze through the hole, proving you are.

Everyone wants to be a creative these days. Seth Godin says this is the Age of the Creative. The rest of us are “lizard brains.” Nobody wants to be a lizard brain. That sounds dull, slow, and backwards. Daniel Pink says that anyone who is not creative will not be able to thrive in the new world of employment. Teachers everywhere are encouraging little Johnny to explore his world around him, to be creative; right before she sends him off to detention for talking out of turn using creative language.

I promised you a very narrow definition of creativity. Here it is:

Creativity is creating something original and appropriate within the confines of your craft.

That’s pretty much it. You can’t do what someone has already done — like using all lowercase in an essay — and call it creative. E.E. Cummings already did that. You must make something out of nothing that was not there before. It must be appropriate, i.e., elephant poo on a painting is not creative. Really, it’s just kitsch. And you must be aware of and adept at applying the rules of your craft. Then bend or push the rules with purpose.

Most of what we call “creative” these days tends to be sloth and impatience; folks who are too lazy or in too much of a hurry to hone their craft. Instead, they color sloppily outside the lines and call it creative. Real creativity takes years of hard work and dull practice before it ever sees the light of day.

Have I poked at you hard enough? Do you find yourself disagreeing with me? Are you angry enough at me for not including you in the creative club? I sure hope so! Add your creative comments below. I dare you. Just be original, appropriate and stretch language to express yourself.

Proper grammar is required.

This blog post is part of a blog-off series with a group of bloggers from different professions and world views, each exploring a theme from his/her world view. This was about “answering the big question, “What is creativity?”” To explore how others handled the theme, check them out below. I will add links as they publish.