by David Carus
The one constant love of my life has always been reading. As a kid I’d leave the library with a huge stack of books almost as tall as I was and race to finish them all before I had to take them back. When I got a little older I was through the roof when I discovered I could buy paperbacks for $0.25 at the local Goodwill and started amassing my own library. It was reading books that empowered me and it was always my most successful action in life to get where I wanted to go. So you can imagine my excitement when I recently woke up and realized where technology has taken books and what reading them looks like moving towards the future.
The idea of electronic books (ebooks) is nothing new. They’ve been around for a few years, but today it is easier than ever to read them and that is changing everything. I remember my first ebooks were internet marketing related and I could only read them on my computer so they’d go unread. Who wants to read a book on their computer screen? It’s not a comfortable experience. But then things changed when smart phones and mobile devices hit the scene. Now you could read an ebook anywhere, just like real books! When the first iPad came out I couldn’t wait to start reading ebooks on it. I laid down on my bed with my iPad, ready to be swept away to the future, but it wasn’t what I expected. The ebooks cost nearly as much as regular books and after awhile my hands started cramping up because that first generation iPad was pretty heavy. So I gave up using my iPad for reading ebooks and used it instead for watching Netflix, checking email or writing notes.
A couple of years later I couldn’t help but notice some of my author friends were publishing ebooks using Amazon. They’d send a message asking me to download their ebook and many times they were free. I didn’t know how I would read them but I clicked the purchase button on my phone. I’d always planned to be a published author myself so I became more interested in ebooks the more I saw them mentioned across the internet. Amazon Kindle kept popping up and so did Nook. I found out I could download a free Amazon Kindle app on my phone and read those ebooks I’d purchased. Having a toddler is pretty challenging and in recent years I’d found it harder to read as much as I wanted but suddenly with that app on my phone I could get through tons of reading quickly and easily anytime I had a spare couple of minutes. I always had my phone with me so I could read anywhere at anytime. It was life changing.
I started to read more than I’d ever been able to read before. It was because I didn’t have to carry around physical books, prop them open or worry about losing my place. Reading ebooks had some big advantages. You could carry hundreds of books weightlessly in your pocket. You could jump from one book to another and your place in each of them would always automatically be kept. I used to hate reading books with difficult vocabulary because I’d need to have a dictionary close by to look up words. When you read an ebook all you have to do is press your finger over a word and the dictionary definition pops up! You can even make notes and highlight sections of the text. You can make the font bigger. When you’re reading in bed at night you don’t need a special reading light because your mobile device is already lit, and you can adjust the brightness!
I was loving the experience of reading ebooks so much that I bought a Kindle. My iPad had cost $500 but I got my Kindle Fire HD for $120. It was the perfect size, built for reading ebooks and the store was affordable and easy to use. It didn’t take me long to see that reading books on a device like a Kindle was a huge leap into the future. For the first time in my life I didn’t feel the need to buy physical books. Why would I when books were easier to store and faster to read for me digitally? I understand people will always want to read physical books and some couldn’t ever imagine themselves reading books electronically. I hear it all the time. People say, “I just like the feel of an actual book.” I know that feeling all too well. Books are awesome! With that said though, I think there are a lot of people that might view ebooks the way I used to view them: as unwieldy, sub-par and less accessible. For anyone that hasn’t tried reading them on a mobile device like a Kindle, a Nook or one of the smaller iPads out now, give it a try. I think you’ll be blown away like I was.
I’ve been so excited about digital publishing that it’s made me dust off my old manuscripts so my books can be part of this revolution. It’s still early in it, so if you’re an author you should get moving too. There will be those that hold on tight to hardcovers and paperbacks but as more people discover ebooks they will only continue to grow in popularity. It will become the primary way people read. There will always be physical books just like there will always be vinyl records but they will become more rare, reserved for those books we want for our special collection. I can’t imagine letting go of all my physical books but I know for the most part, I’ll be buying ebooks from here on out. I can access and read them faster. What’s more important? The books themselves or the knowledge gained from reading them? The world is about to get even smarter.
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Please read this to the end my friend. I should have listened to you long ago. Remember when I first mentioned how much I loved art and you saw that sparkle in my eye but tried to set me straight? You were smart enough to know that life as an artist is only met with struggle and starvation and you wanted to protect me from all of that. You said I should get an office job, something safe and secure and then work on my art on the side. Oh, I should have listened to you! I was such a fool!
I spent years of my life making art. I put my heart and soul into everything I created just to be met with rejection after rejection. At first it wasn't so bad because I could say I was new to being an artist and I needed more experience at it before I was good and before people could value what I was doing. But then more years passed and I knew I was getting better but people still rejected my work. I showed it to friends like you. You smiled and nodded and told me it was good but I could always tell you were being nice and didn't really mean it. You never bought my art and in the beginning that was okay because we were friends anyway and I didn't care about the money so I'd offer to give it to you for free but I could tell you didn't really want it. I started to realize that I must not be good enough so I foolishly took more lessons, studied and worked even harder! I was such a fool! I spent thousands of hours getting better, not to mention thousands of dollars, in the hopes that I could somehow make it and prove you wrong. I really believed in what I was doing and I knew that being an artist was in my blood and I couldn't imagine life without it so I actually continued on, ha!
One day my hard work paid off and someone not only loved what I was doing but they paid me money for it! It wasn't a lot of money but it was something. Remember that day? You told me it was great but that the money I made compared to how much time it took to create my art still didn't make it profitable. You pointed out I'd have to make lots more art and that I needed way more fans than I'd probably be able to find. You told me most people didn't care about art. You said people were too busy working and trying to survive themselves and how could they possibly hand over their hard earned dollars for something they didn't really need. You pointed out that my art wasn't food, it wasn't clothing and it wasn't shelter. I had to admit that you had a point and it really put me in quite a state. I spent weeks thinking about what you told me and it really started sinking in: the idea that I'd just wasted most of my life pursuing a crazy dream that was never going to happen. I started to think about going back to college. I researched which jobs paid the most. I grabbed all of my art supplies and materials, every book I had and every scrap of anything that could possibly remind me of my life as an artist and I put them in large boxes and was ready to take a trip to the thrift shop. I sat there upset, angry and frustrated. I thought about how you tried to help me so many years ago when I first had this foolish notion of being an artist. I remembered that look you gave me and continued to give me. I decided to make a wish.
I wished for a time machine to take me back in time so I could have a conversation with myself back when I was younger; back when I first thought of being an artist. You know what I would tell the old me? I'd say this:
"Don't listen to anyone doubting you and what you want to do. Don't call someone a friend who doesn't support your goals in life and who doesn't want you to succeed as an artist. No matter how much it all seems to make good, solid "sense," never let anyone convince you that what you are doing is not important. You see, artists run this planet. Without people coming up with new ideas and creating new things, the world would never grow or get better. Without artists the world would be a boring, stagnant place that no one would want to live in. You are one of the most able and gifted people on this Earth right now. It's up to you to not only make art but to make as much of it as you possibly can. The world needs you.
It's hard for some people to have as much courage as you do. They wish they could do what you can do and what you will do. It's up to you to help bring about a world where they feel they can also face all of the obstacles standing in the way of artists. The biggest ones don't come like bulldozers or Godzilla stomping towards your house. They knock at your door very politely and smile every time they sit in your living room. They put one hand on your shoulder while the other one moves ever so covertly. No matter what they do, how they appear or when they come, you must know this: they are cowards.
Just keep doing your thing and do it with all your might. Oh, and one day, years from now you will write something that you can send to any of these "friends." You'll start by telling them you're giving up being an artist. You'll be using the words they most want to hear from you. Then, once you have them believing this you will do a complete 180 flip and send them falling down into apathy about trying to harm you. Why will you write this? Because 1) you don't need those kinds of "friends" and 2) it's fun to create isn't it? (Not to mention some of your artist friends may enjoy reading it too, or you for that matter if you ever need some motivation. You don't want the bad guys to win now do you? Good, now stop reading this and get back to making art. You've got worlds to build.)"
What is a blog? It's slang for "web log" which is basically a journal or diary you publish online. In the past, diaries were something private you kept in a locked drawer but today lots of people are using blogs to communicate to the millions of people surfing the internet for content they can connect with. A blog is a great way to create something meaningful that can be discovered, shared and grow into something bigger. Want to promote your work? Want to have a place to express yourself? Looking to establish yourself in your field or start a movement of change? You're gonna need a blog.
A blog is one of the easiest things to do online. There are literally dozens if not hundreds of websites where you can have a blog for free. There's Blogger, Tumblr, Wordpress, Yahoo! and tons more. Once you have one set up you can write as often as you'd like, you can write blogs that are as long as a novel or keep them as short as a couple of words. You can also add photos and videos and music. You can pick any topic. There's no limitations to what you can make your blog about but if you pick something that is specific, unique and focused you'll soon find out that there are lots of people online that are interested in exactly what you're blogging about and you'll have a growing audience you can continue to build on and even make a living from.
How can you make money from a blog? It's pretty easy because there are a ton of ways to "monetize" your blog. You can place advertisements on your site which make you money when someone clicks on them or buys that particular product. You can sell your own product like ebooks, t-shirts or art prints. I make music so I sell digital albums. You can also ask for donations from visitors who might feel compelled to help the cause. There are even more ways to make money from a blog, like booking speaking gigs from establishing yourself as an authority on a subject. But all of this boils down to one important thing: you have to create good content.
You don't have to be a great writer like Ernest Hemingway or a great marketer like Seth Godin to get going. Any blog is better than no blog and someone will always be interested enough to read. However, you will get better and better the more you blog and your success with it will continue to increase. In the beginning you may find it slow to build an audience depending on how many people you know etc. but I have some tips to get you on the fast track to being a great blogger.
1. Make sure your blogs have social media share buttons at the bottom for sites like Facebook and Twitter. This makes your blog easier to share and go viral. It also gives you some numbers to look at to know where people are sharing your blog.
2. Reach out to other bloggers and offer to write a guest blog for them or get them to write a guest blog for you. What is guest blogging? It's a smart way to leverage the power of another's audience and traffic. When you get another blogger to write for you, your audience discovers them. You write for them and their audience discovers you and your blog link.
3. Make sure you have a title and image attached to your blog that are attention grabbing and shout: "Hey! Bet you didn't know this! You're gonna like this and want to share it immediately after reading it!" This is where the creative juice has to come out. If you struggle with stuff like this it's a good idea to find someone to work with that can help you find the right approach or angle. (I'm available for hire if you need help getting started, want someone to write a blog for you or anything else). I like helping people create and it's why I started my blog.
The internet is literally a blank canvas and your blog is one of the most important ways you paint your masterpiece on it. Have fun creating, finding the people that love what you create, keep delivering your art and in a short time you'll find yourself with a pretty swanky art gallery filled with admirers. The show opens any day you want it to. I hope to walk into it one day and see your paintings hanging where they should, with spotlights and people talking.
Millions of people have watched the movie "Rocky" but very few know the story of how it came to be created. It is one of the most inspiring stories of an artist making it that you've ever heard, even more inspiring than the movie itself that inspired millions. Sylvester Stallone was no stranger to overcoming the odds. As a baby he had to be pulled out with forceps and began life with physical limitations and a speech problem. There was only one real goal Stallone ever had in his life: to be an actor in movies. When he began acting no one wanted him because he didn't look like an actor and he spoke funny. Every agent in town turned him down but he kept showing up to their offices and eventually one decided to take him after he patiently waited an entire night for him to return the next morning. He got a few roles playing gangsters and tough guys but wanted a real career.
Stallone was extremely broke because the work wasn't enough to make ends meet. It got to the point where he didn't have enough money to pay to heat his apartment.. On a cold day he went to the public library because it was warm there. He was not a reader but someone had left a book of stories by Edgar Allen Poe and he picked it up. Stallone became so inspired by Poe's stories and the author's own story that he decided to try his hand at writing. He wrote with not much success but remained hopeful. His financial situation got worse and one day he realized he couldn't afford to feed his best friend in the whole world, his dog, and stood in front of a liquor store until he found someone that bought him for $25. It broke his heart to let him go but knew now he'd be fed.
Two weeks later Stallone was watching TV and a boxing match was on. Muhammed Ali was fighting Chuck Wepner, an underdog fighter that somehow managed to hold his own with Ali and even knocked him down. He immediately became inspired and in about 20 hours worth of writing over 3 days he had the 90 page screenplay for "Rocky." He was confident in the story and one day mentioned that he was also a writer and they were willing to take a look at his script. He was dead broke and starving at the time but his luck was about to change. He was offered $125,000 for his script! He had only one condition: he had to play the role of Rocky. They told him he was crazy and to take the money and they'd find a big star to play Rocky. He said no. They came back to him with another offer of $250,000! Stars like Robert Redford, Ryan O'Neil or others could play the part. He said no! He was starving, broke and he'd never dreamed of so much money but he stuck to his guns and said he had to play Rocky. It got up to $330,000 but he still said no! They ended up paying him $35,000 but he got the part.
"Rocky" was shot for one million dollars in 28 days and went on to be highest grossing movie of 1976, making $200 million dollars at the box office and won three oscars including Best Picture. Sylvester Stallone's story is one of complete determination and the very highest of ethics. He did not compromise his self-determinism or abandon is dreams, he kept fighting and putting his goal out front until he won. Stallone is a uniquely inspiring guy who went on to inspire countless millions of people across the planet with his tale of a boxer that goes the distance, but the true inspiration is from his own example. An interesting thing happened when he got his paycheck for $35,000. He didn't buy a car or throw a big party. He immediately went back to that same liquor store he had sold his dog at, every day until he found the guy that had him and offered him $100 for him. The guy said no! (He had grown attached to the dog in the one month that had passed). Stallone said I'll give you $1,000 dollars, just please let me have my dog back, he's my best friend in the whole world. He said no! Finally, he had to pay the guy $15,000 and a part in "Rocky" but he got his dog back. You may recognize him, he was in the movie too. He was Rocky's dog, Butkus. When you're feeling uninspired watch "Rocky" and the next time you do, think about the starving artist that didn't starve and his best friend that didn't either. It just might help you put things in perspective. You don't have to drink raw eggs like Rocky but you might want to get yourself a nice tall glass of integrity.
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Ray Bradbury, author of "Fahrenheit 451" and countless writings on science fiction and the human spirit, "passed away" yesterday at the age of 91. He was certainly one of the greatest writers in the last 100 years and leaves the world still ablaze with the fires he started with his great works and the flames he fanned in our minds. If we learn anything from his lifetime spent amongst desks typing and scribbling away, it is that books are powerful igniters for all mankind to lift up and use.
From the time he was a boy he was captivated by books like Tarzan and Flash Gordon. By the time he was a teenager his own short stories made their way into magazines and his career only continued to climb. It was not an easy road for Bradbury, not in the slightest. He is a great example of hard work and persistence overcoming social and financial limitations. His family was on government assistance and attending college was not an option to him. He sold newspapers on the street corner and spent three days a week reading books at the public library for 10 years straight. When he needed to write, he had to rent a typewriter. It was on a rented typewriter in a library that Ray Bradbury wrote his masterpiece "Fahrenheit 451."
Today's writers are very much spoiled, given laptop computers, printers and the internet, but in Bradbury's days, writing was much different. He pursued writing and books because he had a passion for it, not because every household had a computer and he happened to be good in English. He went about a career in literature through reading lots of books and then writing lots of books. Lucky for us that he chose the path he chose because the world is a much better one for it. His stories gave birth to entirely new imaginative and scientific creations that actually took shape and impacted the world. He predicted things like ATM machines, the death of newspapers, television screens taking up entire walls and people wearing earphones which would feed them a never ending supply of entertainment, all before these things happened.
Ray Bradbury was a literary giant whose footprints will be noticed for many years because we will have to keep stepping into them. His stories are so enormous in significance and scope that hundreds of years from now people will read what this man wrote and marvel at his insights and brilliance. In an era where so much attention goes onto war, violence, drugs and sex, here stands a life spent trying to get our attention where it should be, onto peace, creativity, imagination, literature, science and art. We will always have his books and they will continue to shine a light for generations of men in the future who will not have lived when he did but will surely be bettered in their time as we have been in ours by this incredible being.
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I'm David Carus. From overcoming one of the most dangerous cities in the country and graduating from one of the most prestigious colleges in America to leading an educational movement as a teacher and running for Congress at the age of 25, I decided the best hope our world has is through art.