This post will mark my 251st consecutive day of publishing on Penguinate.com. For the last 8+ months, I have posted at least one article. I didn’t take any weekends off, and some days I posted more than one article. All of that work, plus what came from the beginning of November 2018, has created less than $2 worth of revenue, and August was the worst month for income, even though views were the third highest. So, I must be doing something wrong.
With this information, I have decided that I probably need to step back from publishing so much on Penguinate.com and start concentrating on the places where I can bring in more money. To that end, a lot more of what I publish here will be accessible by Penguinators (those who are a part of my wifes and my Patreon campaign) only. Not everything, just much of it.
Obviously, I’m not going to try to keep my streak alive. I may or may not publish anything tomorrow. Those 251 articles represent enough material to make a book if it had been written as such. So, I urge you to join my wife’s and my Patreon to help me continue writing and to read all the great content you get here. No matter what level you join at, you’ll have access to everything on Penguinate.com.
If you have a better idea of how to overcome this discrepancy in work versus pay, let me know. Leave your content. Otherwise, thanks so much for reading and through that supporting our creative endeavors.
If you haven’t read the introduction yet, you can do so here. The first chapter to the story will be posted on Friday Sep. 6, 2019. I’ll add a link when it comes on line. The series will then become a Patreon exclusive weekly story until it becomes a book. Join our Patreon, and don’t miss a story, get access to other great content, and find your favorite penguins.
Prologue: The Cabin in the Woods
Gerald flipped open his phone to answer it. He still used an old flip phone because it made him feel like he was on “Star Trek.” “This is Gerald,” he said.
“Hey, man, this is John.”
“Hey, John,” Gerald leaned back in his chair. “What’s going on?”
“So, I’m sure you heard that Susan got deployed to that disaster in the Lower 48.”
“Yeah, it’s crazy down there. Volunteers are heading out as soon as we can get them trained.” Gerald worked with Susan and had met John through her. She had invited Gerald and a couple of new co-workers to go camping on the Kenai Peninsula as a “Welcome to Alaska” trip.
“I know,” said John. “Anyway, we rented a cabin in the woods up north for a romantic getaway, and now that she can’t go, I was wondering if you’d like to go the cabin this weekend.”
“For a romantic getaway? Because I’m not sure Susan would appreciate that,” Gerald said.
John laughed, “No, I’m inviting a couple of other guys along. Maybe we could split the cost.”
“Yeah. Absolutely. What do I need to bring and how much will it be?”
John gave Gerald the list of things they needed to bring including bedding, firewood and food.
“Great! I’ll see you Friday afternoon.”
Gerald spent the rest of the week gathering supplies and anticipating the trip to the cabin. He picked up some firewood and some dehydrated meals that could be made with boiling water. Some of them were actually pretty good tasting, but they were for an emergency.
Each person was assigned to bring enough food to make two meals for the group. He wasn’t sure what anyone else was bringing, but he was pretty certain that John would be making something spectacular. Gerald shied away from eggs because he feared they would break on the way to the cabin. He knew they could be transported safely because he had seen John do it on that first camping trip, but he wasn’t going to risk it. Sandwiches were an easy choice if he could keep the bread from getting squished, and the leftover meat and cheese could be used for another meal or snacking if they needed it. A little lettuce, the right kind of mustard, and some red onions would make it seem like a gourmet meal. The best part is there wouldn’t be a lot of cleanup.
On Friday, Gerald put his gear in his car and went to work. When the afternoon rolled around, Gerald was waiting in his work parking lot. John pulled up in his car with all-wheel drive and unfolded out of it. Gerald always forgot how tall John was. He wore his hat and round glasses and had a soul patch on his chin.
“Hey, Gerald, you ready?” John extended his hand.
“Absolutely. My stuff’s in the trunk.” Gerald popped open the hatchback. “I’m so glad this is a long weekend.” There were two bundles of firewood and a backpack that was about two-thirds Gerald’s size. A rolled-up mat was attached to the outside of the pack.
“These four days are going to be great.” John looked in the trunk. “Is that it?”
“Only bring what you can carry, right?”
“That’s the idea.”
“Well, if I tried to bring anymore, I would fall over.”
“Alright. Let’s get it in the car.” He grabbed the firewood, and Gerald grabbed the bag. He popped up the hatchback on his vehicle and stacked the firewood on top of what was already there.
Gerald leaned in and put his bag on top of the other bags. “Hey, George! Hey, Lee! I didn’t know you guys were coming, too.”
“Hey, Gerry,” George said. “You know, John. He recruited me, and I recruited Lee.” George had a full well-trimmed beard and was stocky.
“Hey, Gerry.” Lee said. He had moved to America from another country and was making bank in Alaska doing some high-tech work that Gerald didn’t even pretend to understand.
“You guys saved the passenger seat for me?”
“Yeah,” said George. “Now shut the back and get in so we can go. We’ve only got a couple of hours until sundown.”
Gerald backed out from under the hatchback, and John shut it.
“Our cabin isn’t that far from the road, so we don’t have to hike too long,” said John. “Still, it’s better to get there while the sun’s still up.”
Gerald locked his car up and got in on the passenger side. John started the car and drove through downtown Anchorage and onto the Glenn Highway.
The drive took them past Eagle River and north. It wasn’t long until they reached the off-ramp and were headed down the access road. When they reached a red and white metal bar blocking the roadway, they pulled the car to the side and stopped.
“Here we are,” John said. “A short hike should get us to the cabin.”
Gerald opened his door and the icy air hit him. Snow crunched under his feet. Trees lined the road as far as the eye could see. Gerald headed toward the back and grabbed his bag and the two bundles of wood. It would be awkward to carry the wood, but he could manage it.
George grabbed his bag and threw a red plastic sled on the ground. “Stack your wood on this. It’ll be easier.”
“That’s a great idea.” Gerald put his wood bundles on the sled. “Do you want me to pull first?”
George stacked his wood on the sled. “No, I got it. If it gets too tough, I’ll ask for help.”
Gerald had his doubts about George asking for help, but he let it go. Lee and John put their wood on the sled, too.
“So, it’s just behind that bar and to the left. We should be there in 20 minutes,” John said.
The four men went around the barricade and hiked along the road for a little bit. Then, they followed a path that went to the left and down into a ravine. It went by a frozen river that had recently overflowed and left ice on the trail. It was slick and crunchy. The pine trees were covered in snow, and the white birch trees were barren of leaves. Their breaths frosted in the wind making it looked like they might have been steamed powered, and they were all dressed in heavy coats, hats, scarves, gloves, and boots made for the Alaskan winter.
Deep in the Alaskan woods, the state government has established cabins for rent. In a state where everything is bigger, including prices, these cabins are cheap, especially if you fill them to capacity. There isn’t much to do outdoors in the dead of winter if you’re not a snow enthusiast, but renting a cabin makes for the perfect weekend getaway, even in the cold.
The cabins are made of wood and consist of a single room with bunk beds, typically four. The beds are wood planks. The smart cabin renter brings a mat to sleep on and a sleeping bag rated to minus 40 degrees. There is a wood-burning stove for heat and cooking. There is usually a table with benches around it.
There is no electricity, which means no television, no computer, and often, though not always, no cell phone reception. Rent the cabin for several days, and when the cell phone dies, all you hear is the beauty of nature, the silence of snowfall, the light crackle of the northern Lights, and the popping and sputtering of wood in the cabin’s stove. With only firelight and battery-operated lanterns, it’s easy to adapt to the rhythm of short days.
These cabins allow you to get away from the stress of the workaday world and finally reconnect to your primal self. The four men who partook in telling these stories that I have collected were not survivalists. They had no need to prove their manliness. They weren’t all great at chopping logs, making fires, or cooking meals. Sometimes, they weren’t even very good at navigation. Still, they rejoiced in having a good time, playing cards, and enjoying the freedom that comes when constant communication is cut off.
As Boccaccio’s “Decameron,” Malory’s “Le Morte d’Arthur,” and Chaucer’s “Canterbury Tales” can attest, our forebears were, much as they were in everything, better at telling stories. For what else was there to do in times before the Internet, television, movies, and radio? While modern man finds the need and the capacity to tell stories, the ability and opportunity is much diminished.
However, it has not disappeared. For, we tell ourselves stories every day to support our world views and our self-perception whether those are based on fact or folly doesn’t matter. What parent has not told his or her child a story about how babies are born or a fairytale remembered rather than read? Which schoolchild has not told a story of what he or she wished to be true? What person has not told stories about what he or she would’ve liked to have done to some transgressor against his or her person?
Indeed, humans are not separated from animals by the ability to reason, which any raven, rat, or baboon can show, nor are they separated from animals by the opposable thumb. Humans separate themselves from the rest of the animal kingdom by their flights of fancy, their ability to create, their ability to build, to imagine, and to tell stories.
So, dear friends, as you read these stories, do not think you have any less ability to compose and relay such as these. Instead, know that you have the capability to tell as good a story or better, with a little practice, and you can take it a small step further and write that story down. Talent is not required as long as you are willing to work hard and long and diligently over the course of time to perfect the craft and art of storytelling.
As long as you have read this far and choose to continue to read, my three friends and I hope these stories told at a cabin in the Alaska wilderness in the dead of winter will entertain you for no few hours. And if they can inspire you to create your own story, in words, actions, or other media – all the better. We would love to read them and include them in our storytelling anthology.
Our stories will be released one at a time on Fridays through the power of the Internet. They will be available to Penguinators only, those who join our Patreon at any level. For even when the intentions are good, the power of a story is only as good as its ability to attract an audience. We think these stories are ones that you won’t want to miss. For the next part of the story go to the Prologue.
When I was doing research for “Polly Penguin Wants to Fly,” the above video from National Geographic played its part. This video talks about the black tips on the wings, the down washing off during the penguin’s first swim, and swimming to the north for three or four years.
All of these concepts play a part in book, which is written for four- to seven-year olds. Parents can read it to their younger children. It is fiction, and is scheduled to be released in September. “Polly Penguin Wants to Fly,” but penguins can’t fly, can they?
If you want your name in “Polly Penguin Wants to Fly,” sign up for our Patreon at any level before August 30, 2019. You’ll get a mention in the acknowledgements.
Writing a book isn’t as simple as having an idea and running with it, or at least, it isn’t for me. Writer’s need to consider what will sell, what they have inspiration for, and what their writing plans are. It’s a lot convoluted and other writers have different ways of working. For the moment, these are the titles that I can work on and why they’re included in the poll.
Extermination of the Ice Goddess – This book is about a boy who is recruited into an army that wants to eliminate the Ice Goddess. His companion is a different species. Together, they go out into the world, find the worshippers of the Ice Goddess and destroy their power sources. I’ve already got a part of the story written. I’ve been shopping it to magazines, but I think I can grow it into a trilogy or more. “No man follows the goddesses.”
Rod Serling and the Fifth Dimension – I don’t have all the materials I would like to use for research, but I do have much of them. This examination of the Twilight Zone and its creator would take time; there are five seasons of the original Twilight Zone. But it would be fun to examine his genius and what the Twilight Zone has to say about creativity. My copy of “As I Knew Him” is in Oregon, but that’s a minor problem. This could be used for comic convention presentations.
Saturday Mornings in the 1980s: A Study in Creativity – This would be a book full of nostalgia and it would examine everything about my Saturday mornings in the 1980s. Cereal, cartoons, and commercials would make up the largest components of this book. It would be fun and a lot of research.
Reimagining Tomorrow: Essays and Short Stories – There are a lot of dystopias out there and few utopias. With this book, I want to present a positive vision of the future and something we can work towards. This one will take research and brain power. It’s a little outside what I feel I can do properly, and I’m not sure I could get others to participate in an anthology style without coming up with some sort of payment. (I tried it with the “Haunted Mansion Is Creativity” and only two others participated – Thanks, mom and Darren!)
The Jungle Cruise Is Creativity – The third in the Disneyland Is Creativity series! The Jungle Cruise is one of the original attractions at Disneyland and opened in 1955, which means it has an anniversary next year. These books give me a presentation to pitch to comic conventions that may want Disney related content at their event. They are also my best-selling books. I would do this one a little bit differently because I want to examine the inspiration behind the Jungle Cruise, including “the African Queen” and the imagineers who made it successful, like Bill Evans. Also, no single tour can cover all of the humor in the Jungle Cruise since it changes with each skipper. I don’t have access to all of the information I would need, but I’m okay with that because I think I could get access to much of it by changing my entertainment provider.
Snow Wh-Island – That’s just a working title. I’ve also thought about “Fairy T-Isles.” Still a work in progress. This would be in the style and world of “The Pirate Union.” It wouldn’t be a sequel or a prequel; it would just be its own story. Something funny, something crazy, something weird, and maybe something timely. It’s hard to say what this story would actually be, though I have three chapters outlined, I have no idea where it would end up. Since my collaborator for “The Pirate Union” is no longer available for collaboration (or is he?), it will be a little more difficult to pull of the amazing humor and directions the PU took. Still it could be funny.
The Creativity Workbook – I don’t know if this needs another title, but basically, I have three sections outlined. This would be an intro to why the idea is important, and then how to improve your skills in that area. For example, believing that you’re creative is the first step to becoming more creative. The workbook explains why you’re creative, why you should believe it, and then it takes you through several different activities so that you can prove to yourself that you are creative. This book would contain fewer words than most books because it is a workbook.
Penguinate! At the Movies – This would be the easiest for me to pull together. It would consist of reviews of movies and essays inspired by the movies, most of which I have already published on my websites somewhere. I would just need to take them down, format them and then get a book cover. This would be the third in The Penguinate! series, which has been my least successful in terms of sales. Part of that is probably due to the title of the first one, which is in the process of changing to “Penguinate! Positive Creativity.”
Star Trek and Creativity: Where No One Has Gone Before – This would take a lot of research, and I only have access to part of it at the moment. Gene Roddenberry’s vision of the future is fascinating and should be great fuel for a book about creativity and moving toward that future. I don’t have access to any of the books, but I still think I could work this correctly and then use it for comic convention presentations.
So that’s a little bit about the books in my poll. If you haven’t voted already, please do. Thanks.
P.S. I have other titles that didn’t make the poll list because nine was already enough (Why didn’t I keep it to eight?) and I don’t have the necessary materials to make them happen. “My Life in the Peace Corps,” “Ray Bradbury and the Theater of Creativity,” and “My Life in the Soviet Union” are all under future consideration as is “My Life at Disneyland” though I don’t know exactly which direction, I’m going to take with that one, it’ll involve having to go through my stuff that is stored at mom’s.
There may be more ideas floating around, but I have to find the notes about them. For the moment, I’m just considering the nine that are in the poll.
While it may seem easy to start working on a new project, it’s actually one of the hardest things for any creative to do. There are a lot of reasons for this, including the need to market all of the earlier projects, the need to make money at a regular job, housework needs to be done, too many ideas without the corresponding time, not knowing which idea will be profitable, the last project isn’t truly finished but the creative person is waiting on someone else to do his or her job… The list goes on and on and includes at least one-part procrastination and one-part relaxation.
Money, Money, Money, Money, Money
As much as everyone wants artists to make art for its own sake – it’s such a rewarding experience – that’s not how the world works. Creative people have to eat to live. They have to feel safe enough to create, and they need a place where they can create. If the basic necessities of life aren’t present, it becomes infinitely more difficult to create. Some creators are lucky enough to have made songs about money that have then made money. “Money makes the world go ‘round.” “It’s all about the Benjamins, baby.” “Money, it’s a gas. Grab that cash with both hands and make a stash.” “Dollar, dollar Bill, y’all.”
Unless a creator is already famous or runs into an incredible amount of good luck, he or she has to spend 80 percent of her time on marketing and 20 percent of her time on creating. If all goes well, sales will go up and the created income will allow the creator to make more time for creating. The marketing never goes away, and according to some people, it doesn’t get down to less than 60 percent. Now, if the person has a job because eating is important, you can see where the time slips away and nothing new gets done. (Everyone has housework to be done; it’s another place to deposit creativity time instead of making something new.)
Time Keeps on Tickin’ Tickin’
Time never stops. It can’t be saved in a bottle. It can’t be used later. Every moment passed is a moment past, regardless of what you’re doing with that moment. Most creators are extremely aware of this problem, and it can be debilitating. You want to do your best work. You want to do what’s going to be successful, and you want to make something that will make the world a better place. You have 10 or 20 or more ideas, but you don’t have the time to make all of those ideas right now. Worse, you may never have the time to do them in the future because there could be no future.
How do you pick the idea you should move forward with? Most of the time, it’s a crap shoot. Sometimes, it’s inspiration. Sometimes, it’s desperation, especially if you have a project you know you could put together easily but it won’t have a huge impact. Unlike the Field of Dreams, people don’t just show up because you made a thing or things, so you need to find the thing that more people will show up for and make that. Or the thing you can put together quickly, so you can get to the more important stuff later while still having a new thing to sell. In between projects, this thought process gets convoluted.
That Naggin’ Suspicion Something’s Missin’
(Not a song lyric, but it could be.) There’s a time in between projects where the creator may be waiting on an editor or a book cover. You can’t do anything with the project until that person does his or her work. As in other jobs, when you’re waiting for someone else to do his or her job, so you can go back to doing yours, it may be difficult to concentrate on other tasks in the interim. It may feel like it’s okay to put forth the “waiting” effort; when making something new, the “waiting” effort isn’t enough. Some how the creative has to break through that block and move on or use the time for other pursuits, including marketing, side jobs, or the day job.
Waitin’ on the World to Change
There is at least one writer I admire because of the work he’s been able to do. He wrote a book a month for 18 months. That’s crazy work and amazing work! I get that part of my issue is procrastination rolled up with a pat of fear. There’s no wrong project to choose, but there feels like there is because of the whole money issue. If I choose the right project, I’ll be free to do a couple of wrong projects. If I choose the wrong project, I won’t make enough money to find out what the right project is. On the other hand, if I choose the wrong project, I’ll be one step closer to finding the right project. It’s circular.
During that author’s streak of writing, he got sick. Everyone needs time off to recharge the batteries. I understand that, too; it’s just hard to justify taking time off when the bills are coming due, and nothing is bringing in the revenue you planned on. Especially as a freelancer, it’s often feast or famine, and you gotta eat when the food is there because it may not be there next week.
Getting to the Point
(Who knew it was a song?) The whole point of this was really because I need your help. I created a poll on Patreon that I need people to answer, even if it’s just for my ego’s sake. This wasn’t the article I was going to write about the poll. I guess I’ll try writing that one tomorrow!
It’d be great if you’d join my Patreon and help my wife and I realize our dreams of “Love. Friendship. Travel. Penguins.” But right now, I’ll be happy if you go to the Patreon page and answer the poll about which book you’d want to read. If you’re not sure, come back to the blog tomorrow (you can sign up on the right for blog notifications) and check out what the titles mean and why they are on the list. Thank you.