Calling all storytellers, comedians, and solo-performers
My buddy and novelist Kyle Rutkin is exploring the many ways in which he will revolutionize the world of publishing — from releasing the prequel to his new novel The Influencer as a marketing campaign funnel to using NFT to crowdfund the publishing of his upcoming books.
I do not doubt that he will make it as a fiction writer. He will be someone you will know.
I met Kyle at the SDSU’s Writers Conference, and since then, I have harbored this silly fantasy that we will once share the stage on a writing panel, and we will talk about our journeys.
We have been in touch for several years and our journeys are somewhat similar and parallel. I’m in Northern California and he is in Southern California, we are both hustling to find ways to sell our art while we work our 9–5s, we are loving spouses, and our two daughters were born around the same time.
Unlike Kyle, I’m trying to find my success away from publishing or, rather, alongside publishing. Because I believe we live in a post-book world. I think people read books; probably as much, if not more than, as they did before.
Finding success as a novelist who only publishes books is becoming extremely hard because more and more writers are trying to make it as novelists, the disruption of the publishing industry, competing entertainment formats, and the declining interest in long-format reads from audiences.
Also, it is difficult to read more than one book a week even if we are ambitious. Plus, we don’t find ourselves going back to one writer to establish and maintain our loyalty as a reader. No. We move to the next author we want to read.
I think of our book group at Counter Arts and how it has helped me read longer formats, but even when I’m judiciously reading, I am also attending to the rest of my life, my work, my wife, my toddler, my newborn.
I imagine I will only get through the books on our group’s list this year. That’s only 12 authors. 12 authors!!! That’s nothing. Especially when you compare it against all the available existing and upcoming novels.
There are at least four or five authors I can think of off the top of my head publishing their serialized novels on Rainbow Salad — our literature publication. There are so many more writing novels or thinking about writing them out there in the inter-web. So there is plenty to choose from and that’s why just being a writer can be difficult.
Kyle’s journey also shows you that it is not only about the craft if you want to make it as a novelist. The craft has to be there. That is just a prerequisite.
You have to go out, hustle, disrupt and make sure you connect with people and put your art in front of them. That’s part of the journey that I share with Kyle and that we both share with all writers.
In the meantime, we don’t stop consuming news articles, personal essays, podcasts, videos, movies, and documentaries.
Writing books and developing readers’ audience is not the only way writers show their art. Writing could be fueling other endeavors, especially in a world of so many formats. You can choose to only write, and that’s fine.
But don’t close yourself to the opportunity of exploring other artistic formats that can prove just as gratifying. We have seen many writers find incredible success by working on telling stories, monologues, long-format podcasts, short-format vlogs, or writing scripts for movies and documentaries.
The unifying fuel is the same: the writing process.
When I started consistently writing on Medium, I didn’t think of anything other than writing. Then my wife said that it was a shame people couldn’t hear my voice because my stories were infused with it. She suggested I read some of my work on Instagram. That’s how I started telling stories on my IGTV, which is since then defunct.
I had fun doing it. I saw people watching it — supposedly. I saw people liking it — not that many. But something was missing.
When things started opening up again, I went to the local story slam and performed one of my essays. I learned I love performing my stories in front of an audience (which was actively engaging with it), and I had a chance to enjoy the many stories other seasoned storytellers told.
This slowly led me to discover a world I didn’t know existed — the world of solo art. Maybe you’ve heard of it by different names like one-man shows or monologues, but they are the same, and there are thousands of performers like me out there.
They have outlets similar to ours, and they get together and share their stories and do their secret handshakes and secret dances. It has been exciting to find ways to use the essays I’ve written here and see them take shape and come to life.
I’m currently working on three monologues at different stages of development. The first one is Racially Ambiguous, which is being workshopped at the prestigious Marsh Theater in San Francisco in March. This monologue is anchored on this article and this video. It is a reflection and commentary on not being able to fit in as an immigrant in either the American culture or the Hispanic culture while still looking to grow my family, raise daughters, and become a part of my community.
I have submitted a proposal to the National Storytellers Network for Travel in Times of Corona, Over the past two years, I’ve completed a collection of travel and photo essays from domestic trips I’ve done during these times. This monologue is a reflection on art-making, art appreciation, photography, and storytelling in the framework of current social issues, public discourse, and the pandemic.
Finally, I submitted a shorter monologue to the International Solo Festival based on The Ultimate Recipe for Marital Bliss and the essays preceding this one — the name of the monologue is Toilet Seat Politics or How I lose all my marital arguments. It covers the arc of my relationship with my wife and I hope that I will eventually develop it further to include stories about being a man raising two daughters in a world that is still chauvinistic even after the #metoo movement.
All these new avenues and outlets happened because I’m a writer like you — exploring everything Medium has to offer.
We all want our books to be published and to experience massive success in a publishing world of dwindling advances.
Maybe yours will.
But you are not just a writer.
You are so much more.
You just need to find out what else you are interested in doing and keep on writing so writing can fuel that endeavor.
This is not a new insight as Julia Cameron, in The Artist’s Way, talks about how the morning pages are crucial for all artists and how this practice is used by actors, writers, painters, and performers alike.
It reminds me of David Sedaris and how he is not only a writer. He is a solo performer, an audio journalist, a narrator, a teacher. When you go to his readings, he read-acts new material or old material from his books or NYT’s essays. Then you go buy one of his many books and get in line so you can talk to him and experience his quirky humor.
You don’t have to read to enjoy him or his stories. And that’s the point. People want to know what you think, but reading is morphing into consuming, which happens across different platforms. We don’t need to be rigid about delivering our art and ideas.
Since we started Counter Arts, we have received personal essays that we categorized under the Culture tab. Now, we invite you to send us your performances along with your essays.
We would like videos of your performances along with some copy. You can follow a structure like this article. The article needs at least 450 words besides your video. That copy can be the copy of that performance like the article below is the copy for the video below.
Or it can be a meta-analysis of that video.
In the case of my video, I could talk about the importance of finishing a set even after losing half the crowd after making a racy slightly inappropriate joke, or how sometimes I can get in my head and say the wrong words if I’m saying something outrageous; or the importance of the audience when selecting a piece to perform; or how a story time limit helps me edit something down to the bones.
It’s your choice.
Just let us be part of your journey.
Let us hear your voice.
Let us see your face.
Okay, I’m going to stop before this gets creepy.
Just send us your essay and performance combinations.