Building (and Burning) Bridges

Portland, Oregon, has a TON of bridges that span the Columbia and Willamette Rivers, unsurprisingly earning Portland the official nickname of “Bridgetown.” As the Willamette divides Portland down the middle, starting at the top, there’s the St. Johns Bridge, Fremont Bridge, Broadway Bridge, Steel Bridge, Burnside Bridge, Morrison Bridge, Hawthorne Bridge, Marquam Bridge, Tilikum Crossing, Ross Island Bridge, and the Sellwood Bridge way down at the bottom. So, with my car packed up full of my belongings (again), I departed Portland thinking about all bridges in my life…

The very first bridge in Portland was the original Morrison Bridge, built in 1887, also happened to be the longest bridge west of the Mississippi River. It was an architectural marvel, finally allowing people and horse-drawn buggies alike to pass over the Willamette. It was originally a toll bridge, but the toll was dropped in 1895. The Morrison Bridge has been rebuilt a number of times, the most recent redesign was in 1958.

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St. Johns Bridge, Portland, OR.

My favorite is the beautiful blue St. Johns Bridge, where you’re 205 feet off the water!

Bridges physically connect two locations that would otherwise be unconnected (or too cumbersome for success), bonding the “places” (not just the physical locations, but the inhabitants and spirit) together through building and exchange of a bridge. Goods, people, whatever. We all know this. Bridges are cool. But if you really dig down on the friendship-bridge metaphor, it is both inspiring and painfully honest.tumblr_nvrmk9sId81rt7qgbo1_500
It takes a lot of energy to build a bridge, and equal energy to maintain it. Both sides of the bridge benefit from the connection, some more than others at times.  If the tedious, general upkeep is not maintained (the check-ins and touch-ups), even a well-built, and well-traveled, bridge can break down over time. Here it comes… the same is true with our friendships.

I love Portland, and I had a great time living there. I made some amazing connections, friends I’ll keep for the rest of my life. But what about those people that didn’t become my best friends? What about the people that wronged me? And perhaps more introspectively, how do we address the relationships that have grown to become imbalanced? How do we build the right bridge?

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Tower Bridge, London. (Not in Portland)

There are so many quotes about burning bridges, I chose not to include one in this post, simply because we all get the metaphor by now. We like burning bridges because it’s an instant satisfaction, exciting, energy-filled exchange where you hope the end result will be complete and total destruction of your enemy and there’ll be exclamations in of worldwide vindication that in the end, they were wrong and you were right! And we all know, it rarely (if ever) ends like that. Instead, you’re emotionally drained, somewhat ashamed, slightly confused, and the ripples of your outburst will continue to echo outward, essentially ruining your reputation behind you (i.e. burning other bridges)… Not so cool now, huh?
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But old bridges aren’t actually burned. Not even old wood ones. Bridges, when they’re decommissioned, are for the most part disassembled. The bridges are stripped down to the bare bones before destruction. Many pieces will be salvaged, reused, repurposed, into other objects in our everyday lives. What if we applied that principle to “decommissioning” our bridges?

What if, rather than exploding at that friend that never returns your phone calls or text messages, you simply, gently, emotionally disassemble that bridge, piece by piece, and put that energy into other facets, other friendships, other bridges?tumblr_nnszn1e0ZY1rt7qgbo1_500
The need for connections is a symptom of the digital landscape we’re currently creating. The idea that things can be connected is being celebrated. The belief that everything should be connected is, in my opinion, sometimes needless and counterproductive. Some bridges just don’t need to exist, and that’s okay. We are not only defined by who we choose to associate with, but also who choose not to associate with.

Some bridges should not exist. You don’t need to be “friends” with that guy that never calls you back. You don’t need to be “friends” with the owner of the company that fired you. You don’t need to be “friends” with that roommate that you really didn’t like. The truth is, those were never large, sturdy bridges to begin with. They were footpaths. A dangling line across a chasm. It served it’s purpose when you needed it, but it isn’t intended to last the rest of your life. These bridges are okay to let go.

I’ll be honest, I wanted to burn bridges. SO BADLY. Ultimately, I just let them be. There’s was little fire. Maybe we’ll cross over them again sometime in the future, or maybe they will fall into the relentless river of time and life. I valued them, but I can’t look back at the bridge and wonder if it will make it, I’ve got to keep moving forward, over the bridge.IMG_1007The bridges that we should be spending most of our energy on are the bridges to the future. What are we doing today that will connect us, in a positive way, to where we want to be in the future? What kind of incremental bit of progress, which plank can I add today, to get me one step closer to the other side, where I ultimately want to be? And who can I connect with, work with, support, and partner with, where we can achieve our goals together?
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For me, that’s filmmaking, and that’s not going to happen in Portland, Oregon. And despite all the reasons to stay (Fall in Portland is the best, the solar eclipse, Crater Lake, etc.), I have to build on my 15 years of screenwriting and put it all into action, to finish building that bridge, with a complete move to Los Angeles.

So yesterday, I loaded up my car with every item I own (for the sixth time in just over two years), said goodbye to Portland, and I’m currently on my migration South.
(Bonus drive over the Bay Bridge!)tumblr_n25hg1eshy1rt7qgbo1_500

I’ll see you in Los Angeles!

CHE

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Photo Set: Northern Ireland

The trip to Northern Ireland was by far the most important part of my trip. I was going to meet a “new” friend, someone I’d written about extensively over the last five months, to interview him and speak with him about the project. This is what I love about writing! 
Our adventure started at Waterloo Station…

Northern Ireland is picturesque, with rolling green hills of farmland and trees. It is a place of tradition, simple needs, and simple wants. Life on the family farm. Animals.IMG_1445  This is the cottage my friend Colm built, by hand, on his family’s land, which he can trace back thousands of years.… and these are his cows!The first night he took us to Brysons for dinner and a couple of pints (of Guinness, naturally). He’s well known around there, and rightfully so, he’s been going to that same bar for over 30 years!After a morning spent working, we decided to break for the afternoon and do a little exploring around Northern Ireland. We had a couple destinations on our list, but we were up for the adventure! Colm told us some great history about the places we visited!
This is the Northern Coast!
As a Game of Thrones nerd, Matt absolutely had to see The Dark Hedges!We also checked out Dunluce Castle!The last night was really special though, when Colm took us to The Crosskeys, a bar that’s been operating since 1654. Yes, 1654. The history there is never-ending, and there’s even a ghost that haunts the bar! We stayed late (like 3 AM), long after the bar had closed, drinking Guinness and singing songs with the a group of guys and the owner. It was one of those nights when I was given a rare opportunity to get a peek inside someone’s idyllic life, and it felt like a scene from a musical. Despite the downsides, and Colm’s had many, his life is rather wonderful.

Unfortunately, we had to leave early on Sunday, but spending the weekend with Colm was an experience I’ll never forget. Until next time, he’ll just be “going with the flow.”
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BONUS: In the picture below, I am holding an actual comm, a letter written on cigarette paper and smuggled out of Long Kesh Prison in the early 1980’s. These tiny pieces of history were integral in spreading the horrors of what happened inside those walls.

This finishes my European trip! Relive the beauty, starting back at Photo Set: Love in the South of France!

Photo Set: London and Rochester, England

I’d had about as much romance as I could handle, so it was finally time to say goodbye to France and move onto the next destination. I hopped on the high-speed train from Paris to London, under the English Channel.IMG_1146
It was a really cool experience, and apparently super efficient, which made me question why we don’t have these high-speed trains in the United States. Commuting around California would be so much easier!
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My time in London was going to be primarily spent writing and researching, but I did manage to get out and see a few things. The first night I spent with my cousin, then joined my friend in Waterloo for the week. It was go time!
Naturally, I checked out the London Eye and Big Ben because they were so close by!IMG_1190IMG_1194IMG_1239
Here’s a segment of the World War II memorial. I couldn’t possibly capture it all.IMG_1223
And Big Ben! IMG_1225
This is a Marriot hotel now, but for 64 years, this building was the London County Hall!IMG_1237Mary Jane Seacole was a Jamaican businesswoman known for setting up the “British Hotel,” a pseudo-hospital for sick and convalescent soldiers during the Crimean War. In 2004, she was voted the greatest black Briton.IMG_1690
I ran into a friend in a tiny bar (small world right?) and she invited us to join her and her friends for their Fourth of July festivities, on the lawn by Tower Bridge. We may have been on the other side of the pond, but we held it down for ‘Murca. Shotgun!IMG_1292
The Household Cavalry Mounted Regiment… naturally.IMG_1300
One of my favorite little gems in London is The Graffiti Cave and The Vaults Theatre, by Waterloo Station. If you’re into street art, this is the place to check out! The entrance is relatively unassuming, reeking of danger and “Do Not Enter,” but we all know that’s where the best stuff is normally hiding…
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It’s an entire tunnel covered in graffiti, top to bottom. It’s unbelievable! So colorful!IMG_1305IMG_1312
This is a shot of the ceiling! Anybody know the artist?IMG_1313
… if so, let’s get on a conference call! (That was a joke about the four phone booths.)IMG_1333
It turns out, a friend of mine from my days in Australia lived just outside London in Rochester, so I took a day to go see her and explore Rochester. It’s a really cool city! And look, another awesome castle!
IMG_1345The Rochester Castle was built in 1087 to protect England’s south–east coast from invasion.IMG_1591IMG_1360
And this beautiful church!
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Charles Dickens lived in Rochester, and is said to haunt the moat on Christmas Eve.IMG_1372

As a first-time American traveler in Europe, I was enamored at the age (old) and resilience of the buildings and castles. There’s so much history in Europe, it’s like America is brand new!

I took the train back to London late on Thursday night, because we had to be up and out early on Friday. The sole reason for my trip, the research, the history, was the next destination on my trip… Northern Ireland.

CHE

Did you see the other photo sets? Photo Set: Love in the South of FrancePhoto Set: Saint-Malo, The Walled CityPhoto Set: Mont Saint-MichelPhoto Set: Normandy and Cancale, and Photo Set: Dinan and Paris

Photo Set: Dinan and Paris

We left Saint-Malo and headed toward Paris, not without making a pitstop in Dinan, a beautiful old village along the way. Gorgeous old architecture, and beautiful views!IMG_0887IMG_0919IMG_0909IMG_0938IMG_0898IMG_0896We arrived in Paris at the perfect time, rush hour… which also happened to be happy hour! I booked a bed in the Generator Hostel, located not too far from where Graham and Kate were staying, so after taking this picture from their window, I kissed them goodbye and headed toward my hostel.IMG_0965IMG_0974IMG_0986IMG_0991I only had one day in Paris, and as I wandered around one of the most romantic cities in the world, I was making a list of the places I wanted to see in Paris… when I come back with someone I love. (Yeah, that’s sappy, whatever! It’s my trip!)IMG_0995IMG_1059Accordingly, I spent most of my day at the Eiffel Tower, eating a baguette, drinking Rose, smoking cigarettes (sorry, mom!), and writing in my journal. It was so quintessentially perfect that I couldn’t possibly not, you know what I mean?IMG_1062I also made this cool time-lapse!ezgif.com-optimize
My last night in Paris could have been a quiet one, if everything had gone to plan. As I was heading up to the rooftop bar to watch the sunset, I ran into a group of young travelers from Southern California. We chatted, drank, played foozball, then headed out to Bastille for dancing. This is the last clear picture I took that night.IMG_1140.jpgThe last morning in Paris, I checked out, and walked along the river (trying not to throw up from a vicious hangover), heading to the train station…IMG_1114IMG_1123
My trip to Paris was far too short, but I definitely have a list of things I need to come back to see. What’s the old phrase, “Always leave them wanting more?” Well I want more Paris, that’s for sure.
But now, the adventure must continue, I was about to jump on a train to London!

BONUS: Is it just me, or is this Space Invader?
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Check out my other photo sets from France! Photo Set: Love in the South of FrancePhoto Set: Saint-Malo, The Walled CityPhoto Set: Mont Saint-Michel, and Photo Set: Normandy and Cancale.

Photo Set: Normandy and Cancale

It was a rainy day. We’re talking, big, fat, ugly drops. We debated the game plan…
“We’ve come this far, I would remiss if we came all this way and I didn’t go to the Cemetery at Normandy.” Graham said, matter-of-factly. “They didn’t exactly call off the invasion because of rain either.”
He was right, of course. So we loaded into the car and drove the two hours to the Normandy American Cemetery and Memorial. When we finally arrived, it was apparent this was not intended to be an enjoyable experience. It was meant to change your perspective on a pivotal moment in world history. New appreciation. Gratitude. Respect.I didn’t take many pictures of the museum, you should really go see it yourself if you can, but some images were just too powerful not to capture…
The memorial, established June 8, 1944, features this beautiful, 22-foot tall bronze statue titled The Spirit of American Youth Rising from the Waves There are 9,387 Americans interred here, most killed during the Normandy invasion and the ensuing battles of World War II…
… many are still unknown. The mosaic ceiling inside the chapel at the cemetery, depicts faith in a time of war.IMG_0745The weather finally got to us, so we sloshed our way back to the car and made our way home, with a dinner pitstop in Cancale, famously known as the “oyster capital” of France. And let me tell you, they weren’t kidding!IMG_0757
The small town is nearly overrun by restaurants, close to all of which specialize in some kind of seafood… and oysters. It’s no surprise when you hear that Cancale harvests roughly 25,000 tons of oysters every year!IMG_0760IMG_0772By the time we finished our amazing (and cheap) dinner, the rain had finally let up, so we spent the last remaining daylight at the beach (before the tide came up) and on the pier in Cancale. Special.IMG_0781IMG_0795It was the perfect way to spend our last night as a group together.
Tomorrow the group would be splitting ways, most returning home to the states.
But me? My European trip was only halfway done…
IMG_0799… next I was heading to Paris.
CHE

Catch up on the trip! Love in the South of FranceSaint-Malo, The Walled City, and Mont Saint-Michel!

Photo Set: Mont Saint-Michel

Mont Saint-Michel is an island commune located approximately a kilometer off the Normandy coast of France, and it looks like a goddamn fairy tale. (It is, nearly, a fairy tale, as the city was the inspiration for the Disney film Tangled.)IMG_0399Part monastery, part fort, part village, Mont Saint-Michel is designed to mirror the feudal system, with the monastery at the top, the village at the bottom, and there were allegedly houses outside the walls for farmers and fisherman.IMG_0407We arrived in the afternoon so the tide was still low, allowing you to walk around the outside of the walls (if you so desired). It was really rocky and muddy, so I decided to pass, but inside the walls is unbelievable… yep, that’s a drawbridge!IMG_0409Narrow, steep streets, lined with little shops, restaurants, and cafes.IMG_0412According to the legend, the archangel Michael appeared in 708 to Aubert of Avranches, the bishop of Avranches, and instructed him to build a church on this rocky islet. From then on, it was referred to as Mont Saint-Michel.IMG_0418Saint Michael, considered an “archangel,” was not only a healer, but also a defender of the people, famously depicted slaying Satan in the form of a serpent. The Eagle represents Saint Michael himself, so there’s gorgeous gilded statues interlaced with the architecture. Here’s the Eagle head!IMG_0444IMG_0462Behold… the abbey! A destination for monks (and once used as a prison), the abbey is breathtaking, silent and still, a series of Gothic rooms and vaulted architecture. Since the island is somewhat small, and flat land is difficult to come by, the sacred space is divided into many rooms for their individual purposes!IMG_0467

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The dining hall had a beautiful overhanging installation of feathers, hanging over the middle of the room. It was easy to imagine the long tables of monks dining here.IMG_0496IMG_0512One of my favorite parts of Mont Saint-Michel is the giant tread-wheel, which required six workers to power the hamster-style wheel, allowing the monks to haul up thousands of pounds of stones and supplies from the landing below!

IMG_0533IMG_0521IMG_0575IMG_0473From the ramparts, you can see (intruders?) for miles! The tide’s starting to come in!IMG_0558IMG_0557The bridge to access the island was built in 2014, allowing later access to the island and helping with the tidal flow around the island. (See how the water came in?!)IMG_0607
Walking along the walls and ramparts, it’s hard not to feel a little romance, right?IMG_0632
Cemeteries in magical places like these are especially fascinating to me, when you consider the small population (under 50) that has lived here consistently over the generations, and those that have fallen here by chance, now remain forever.IMG_0657IMG_0660Mont Saint-Michel is by FAR one of the most magical places I’ve ever been to in my life, so I had to snap this panorama before I left, and I think it’s the best photo I got.IMG_0685And the trip continues! Where to next you ask? We take a somber, rainy trip, to the American Cemetery in Normandy.

CHE

Did you see the photos from Chateau de Bouthonvilliers and Saint-Malo, The Walled City? You gotta check them out!

Photo Set: Saint-Malo, The Walled City

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Saint-Malo, located in Brittany, Northwestern France, is a walled port city on the English Channel. A friend of mine read All The Light We Cannot See, which takes place in St. Malo, and convinced us to spend a few days there intra muros… inside the walls.

Saint-Malo, a port town, was historically notorious as the home of the corsairs, French privateers and pirates. Walking around the port, you can see why this little city has been so popular for so long.

Jacques Cartier, credited as the discoverer of Canada, hailed from Saint-Malo!

I was immediately enamored with the old cobbled stone streets, narrow and caked in history, with the intricate brick patterns guiding you down the city’s adorable streets and alleyways, where you could find boutiques, bakeries, and high-end jewelry shops.

In late 1944, General Patton’s US 3rd Army, advancing into western France, laid siege to Saint-Malo and it was only through a large scale bombardment that the last stubborn German defenders were dislodged. Accordingly, a majority of the city was destroyed… but they rebuilt, and it’s remarkable.

 

The tide plays a major role in the defensibility of the city. When the tide rises, the beaches disappear and accessibility is limited, or completely eliminated all together. This swimming pool is above ground at low tide, and the diving platform is completely under water at high tide.

The National Fort, built in 1689 is only accessible at low tide.

 

You can walk (almost) all the way around the entire city on the raised walls, looking outward or inward. There was a little bit of construction so a segment was blocked off, but we walked most of it!

Quality people watching going on up here!

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… and some delicious crepes. Check out that chocolate!IMG_0260Last, but certainly not least, I knew I would love Saint-Malo forever because their official mascot is an Ermine wearing a cape. Yes, you read that correctly, a weasel wearing a motherfuckin’ cape. Here’s a shot of their drain covers to prove it:Saint-Malo is definitely on my list of places to recommend to anyone traveling through Northwestern France. Really cool spot. Lots of history and gorgeous views.

Where to next? Mont Saint-Michel!

CHE

Did you see my photo post about Chateau de Bouthonvilliers?

Photo Set: Love in the South of France

Last month, I embarked on my first trip to Europe; a whirlwind of love, travel, work, and adventure. It was the trip of a lifetime, which would start in Paris, France, for a best friend’s nuptials. I connected with friends after landing at Charles De Gaulle Airport, cohorts heading to the truly destination wedding.

Our train was delayed, so why not catch a quick nap in the park by the Natural History Museum and the Botanical Gardens, right? Right.

In order to reach the chateau, we had to take two trains from Paris to Bonneval, where we were picked up at the train station and brought to the breathtaking Château de Bouthonvilliers. It is absolutely gorgeous.

IMG_9751IMG_9829IMG_9833IMG_9758The sprawling Chateau is complete with carriage house, chapel (with underground cave), swimming pool, and a one-acre garden! Oh yeah, did I mention there’s livestock, too? No big deal. (Side note: I wanted to kill the three roosters. Still do, as a matter of fact.)

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The caretaker, Edward, told us many stories about the Chateau, starting with the amazing fact that the property has been in his family for over 300 years! It was home to some very important historical figures, the location of some “secret world history,” and don’t forget about the high-ranking Nazi Officials that took over the chateau during World War II. (They fled when Patton came through.)

I wasn’t initially able to come to this wedding, and I was truly heartbroken about it, but something magical came up with regards to a project I’m working on, and I was going to be flying to Europe after all… so with some good graces and friendship, I was able to loop in the wedding after all! Best choice ever!

Back to the Chateau. Here’s the Carriage House! Those colored tiles around the edges are awards the property has won… I think?

I slept with some old friends out in the carriage house… which was also really fun! It’s like we were teenagers again, bunked up dorm room style! Now we’re just older, a little wiser, and drunk, right?

The little chapel had a “cave” (pronounced “cah-va”) underneath it…

… jam-packed with wine, champagne, beer, and foie gras. If you wanted something, you just picked out a bottle, wrote it down in the book (honor code!), and they’ll bill you for it later! Simple, and unmistakably dangerous.

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The bride and groom are some of my best friends in the world, and I was honored to be there with my other close friends, pitching in as we could to make it truly a dream day. The wedding was absolutely gorgeous (as expected) and I have no shame in admitting I openly wept at the sentimentality of the beautiful moment. Love is all you need!

First dance for the newlyweds!

I can’t remember what time the first dance was, but we didn’t stop tearing up that dance floor until 4 AM. (Special shoutout to the DJ for throwing on “Ignition Remix.”)

It was one hell of a wedding, you guys.

Bonus Adventures: One morning we took a quick trip into Bonneval for a little breakfast. It was an adorable little village!

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There was a “welcome party” thrown by the groom’s mother at another quaint country house nearby, located in France’s “bread basket,” the region where most of the wheat in the country is grown.

I mean, look at all those baguettes!

Where did we go next? Saint-Malo, the Walled City

CHE

Hey Artist, Start a Newsletter!

I love creative people.

There’s something inherently fascinating to me about people that create art. Whether it’s painting, music, film, writing, racing, manufacturing, or some other creative outlet, I get a ton of joy out of speaking with people about the motivations and ambitions behind their art. If given the chance, I’ll give my “two cents” about how they can turn their art into their full time job. Regardless of the genre of art you create in, chances are my first bit of advice is to start a newsletter.

In the constantly moving digital landscape of today, the most important thing you can do is to deliver consistently. If you deliver quality work on a consistent basis, people will begin to incorporate your work into their lives. Just as we know what day of the week our favorite television show comes out, delivering your content on a consistent basis will create an expectation of delivery and people will work you into their routines to consume it. Dependability and reliability are essential for building trust. Again, consistency is the keyword here.

That’s where the newsletter comes in, and it’s actually way easier than you think. In the beginning, there’s no need to get bogged down by third-party websites and apps to help you deliver a high quality newsletter to thousands of subscribers. Google allows you to send up to 500 e-mails a day, so chances are that’s going to be more than enough to get started with.

img_6990Step 1: Ask your friends. Unless your artistic talent is a complete secret (why?!?!), your friends will know what kind of art you make and, if they’re actually friends worth having, they want to support you in your artistic pursuit (in the least financially taxing way possible). The easiest thing to do is shoot your friends a quick text message, asking them if you can add them to your new mailing list. Unless they’re a complete asshole, chances are they’re gonna say yes!

In the half dozen times I’ve done this, I’ve never once encountered somebody who didn’t want to be included in the newsletter. People I’ve added without their permission, however, never hesitate to let you know they’re not interested.

Step 2: Build a Spreadsheet. I’m sure the idea of a “spreadsheet” scares the most sensitive of artists, but when you’re starting out, having an organization system for your contacts is essential. The reason I recommend starting with a spreadsheet is because, later in the process when you’re ready to upgrade to those newsletter programs, you can easily upload your spreadsheet into your contacts list. It doesn’t need to be complicated, but you do need to make sure that at a bare minimum, you have their First Name, Last Name, and E-mail Address.

PRO TIP: If you don’t want to manually input contact information, I recommend making a simple Google Form, asking for their contact information, which will dump their answers into a spreadsheet on your Google Drive. Post this Form on a landing page and share the web address on your social media accounts and include a link in the bottom of your e-mail.

Step 3: Pick a delivery day and stick with it. As we went on ad nauseam earlier, consistency is key. Think about what day you’re want to send out your newsletter, and be sure to consider the time you’ll need prior to create and deliver the content. Don’t make promises you can’t keep. I’d also spend some time thinking about “where” your content fits into your subscriber’s lives. If you’re a motivational writer, you may want to consider sending out your e-mail early in the week (when people are motivated) and early in the day (when people need a jumpstart). If your speciality is nature photography, maybe think about sending out your newsletter in the middle of the week, while people are making plans for the weekend. (Bonus points if you can build the expectation into the title of your newsletter like, “MAD Potential Mondays” or “Don’t Die on Saturdays.”)

PRO TIP: With a little searching, you can easily find an extension or Google App that allows you to send e-mails at a later date. Find what works for you!

Step 4: Engage. You want to share your art, you asked your friends if you could share it with them, you found a day that works for you, and now you’ve sent out the first edition of your art newsletter. Congratulations… now get back to work! Now is the most important time to engage with your readers. Ask them what they thought of your art. Ask what they’d like to see in the newsletter. Ask if they’d consider sharing it with their friends. This first wave of support is the most important, you want your readers to share your content, letting the ripple extend beyond your reach. Feed the animals and they’ll feed you back!

Step 5: Monetize. Okay, this is way down the line (most likely months or years), but it’s worth keeping in mind early in the process. When it comes to cultivating an online presence, the most important thing you can have is a robust mailing list. Having a solid mailing list allows you direct access to your readers, which opens up longterm financial opportunities like brand cultivation, selling merchandise to your readers, or advertising space in your newsletter to sponsors. I promise you don’t need hundreds of thousands of fans, in fact, some people (like Kevin Kelly) believe all you need is 1000 true fans.

Sounds easy enough, right?

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Instagram: Aaron Morales (@RatxLife)

Let’s say you’re an artist, like my friend AaronHe draws cartoons containing some odd, dark, creative characters. I really like his stuff and one day I can see it on shirts and skateboard decks (apparently he’s already done shirts, so he must be onto something).

I asked him if he’d considered starting a newsletter, and he (like many), simply thought it was too much work. I told him it didn’t have to be too crazy, just one comic and a little paragraph about it, with a call for sharing at the bottom. Again, the guy goes to school and he works nights, so the free time he does get he tries to spend with his girlfriend, his pitbull, or drawing. The thing he does not want to do is spend his hard-earned free time building spreadsheets. I totally get it.

I might have begged him to reach out to his friends and ask if they would be interested in receiving his newsletter, and he did. I laid out the four steps above for him and told him about another artist that I’d give the same advice to…

Week 1: First Newsletter. He sent out the newsletter to his closest 20 friends from his Gmail account. Just one comic on Friday. A few people responded, but it wasn’t a standing ovation his first time at bat. No biggie. Onward!

Week 2: Second Newsletter. The all-important follow up. Successful delivery of the first newsletter shows that you have the ability to craft and deliver an e-mail (good for you!), but when the second e-mail newsletter shows up in your readers’ inbox, their thinking shifts. They recognize you’re serious about this newsletter thing, so subconsciously, they’re gonna give it a tad more attention than they did the first time. Again, a few more people responded, complimenting him on the cartoon and newsletter. He even got a few shares on social media and picked up a few new readers. Progress!15302514_373258299674168_1234013622_o

Week 3: He missed it. Sometimes life gets in the way, or you aren’t inspired, or whatever, but he did not send out his newsletter on the third week. To many newsletters, this could be a death wish. He tried, he got off the ground, but crashed on week three. One could assume in the finicky world of e-mail newsletters that many would have crossed him off the list and moved on with their lives…

But that’s not exactly what happened. In fact, he received a few e-mails like, “Hey! It’s Friday. Where’s the newsletter?” In just two short weeks, he had already worked his way into the Friday routines of some of his readers. Circus clowns only need “that one person” to laugh in order for everything to be worth it. Your newsletter shouldn’t be much different, if it matters to one (other) person, it’s worth it!

He buckled down and got the newsletter out for Week 3. His tribe was content… for now.

Week 4: Back on it. Now that he knew his cartoon newsletter was not only being read, but also anticipated, he got back onto the newsletter game with more fervor than ever. He worked hard on his craft, working long hours into the night. He was being relied upon now and he promised himself (and them) he wasn’t going to let them down. He started promoting, and sharing, and encouraging others to sign up for the newsletter. The rest? You’re gonna have to join his newsletter to find out.

If you’re an artist, consider starting a newsletter. It’s simply another venue for you to display and disseminate your art, but unlike Facebook and Twitter and those message boards you thought would promote you, direct e-mail is the most likely to be opened and acted upon. If you’re knocking on their door, chances are they’re gonna open up for you. And when they do, I hope you’re standing there with your best art in your hands, ready to share.

CHE

P.S. If you want to join Aaron’s newsletter, leave your name and e-mail address below and I’ll pass it along to him!

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Instragram: Aaron Morales (@RatxLife)

Go Camping in the Rain

There’s nothing quite like camping the rain…

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It was raining before we even left Portland. We’d been planning this camping trip for a while now, having been postponed a handful of times this summer. Time was running out to go camping. A little rain wasn’t going to stop us from getting our “nature time.”

We pulled into the campsite and immediately go to work setting up the tent and canopy. The ground was wet and there was a trickle of smoke from the remains of the last campers. We decided it was best to put the canopy over the fire pit to start drying it out for a fire later. I wandered off to collect wood for the fire. I had a feeling we were going to need a lot of them. The best way to find firewood at these kinds of camping sites is not to go into the woods, just go next door. I found a trash can full of nearly dry wood for the fire.

Once everything was set up, the weather lightened up to a slight drizzle, so we went for a walk in the direction of the pools. We didn’t know how far away they were exactly, but we knew we were walking in the general direction and they would be hard to miss. At one point, we veered off the path and headed down the water. We walked by a family campsite, where they yelled “ya’ll want some liquid sunshine?”

We walked over to the campsite, seeking refuge under their canopy.

“Do you know how far are we from Opal Creek?” We asked them.

“Probably 15 miles.” One of them responded. “You want a beer?”

Sure. Why not.

This was a beautiful moment. It took us wandering around in a forest in the rain to encounter to be reminded that we’re all in this together. Walking around in the rain sucks. It sucks a little less if you’ve got a slight buzz on. Seek shelter and share a moment with us. We talked about the weather, getting into camp late, what we studied in school, and when we’re heading home. Chances are, in any other place than that moment, I would have said nothing to these people. I’ve grown a little bit. Thanks, nature! We finished our drinks, said our goodbyes and good lucks.

We headed back to camp, jumped in the car, and found a closer trail head to the Opal Creek Pool on the other side of the river. We’d do it tomorrow. It was time to head home and build a fire. Building a fire in the rain, with wet wood and sticks, is a challenge. It’s absolutely doable, but it’s a feat worth putting yourself through. Enjoy the struggle, because the satisfaction of sitting around a warm campfire when it’s raining is a beautiful thing. You created the fire that’s giving off warmth. You’ve contributed. You succeeded. Be proud and char that weenie.

The rain didn’t give up all night, beating ceaselessly against our tent as we cuddled up in our sleeping bags. Who knows how much sleep we actually got. But when we peaked our heads out of the tent in the morning, the rain had stopped. Again, I got to making the fire and again, it was a struggle. Finally, it caught and we agreed to burn all the wood I collected. Pure satisfaction. And sure enough, the rain picked up again, but we didn’t care. After lunch we packed up the campsite and drove to the trail head. Even in the rain, the hike to the Opal Creek Pool is beautiful. It’s just over 3 miles to the pools, with a walk through the Jawbone Flats creek near the end. It’s a great hike. Beautiful.

I’ve been on a lot of hikes. Short hikes. Extended day trips. Sunny hikes and rainy hikes. Growing up in Southern California during a drought, I always had an odd perspective on rain. I know the Earth needed it, but when it finally did rain, we stayed indoors out of it’s reach. Is that a negative connection? Maybe. But hiking in the rain makes you more cognizant of the little things. You’re thankful for shelter. You’re thankful for the reliability of your car. You’re thankful for the food you eat. Even the air tastes and feels better when you breathe it in. This is a slice of an inglorious life in the middle of mother nature, far away from the comforts of your everyday life. Camping inspires you to grow through appreciation.

It’s only when things are not ideal, when you’re camping in the rain, do you realize how truly fortunate you are to just “be.” Get outside. Go into nature. Go get wet.

CHE