A Black Irish Satsanga

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A brief post today to follow up on Steve and my Hamlet-esque Seminar contemplations…

Richard Burton as Hamlet in 1964

For those of you who took the time to fill out our survey, we are eternally grateful.  It’s no small thing today to actually think through and constructively ask yourself… What exactly is it that I want?

It’s hard enough to concentrate when the kids are fighting in the yard, the sink’s overflowing with dishes and the ledger you promised your boss is due the next morning.

And then to literally and concretely state what you want from those you think can help you get it too?  That takes guts.  A lot of ‘em.  So thank you for taking that time out of your life and giving us your attention. We won’t forget it.

Here’s the upshot:

There’s a reason why Steve and I have gone back and forth about whether or not to appear onstage with those little microphones clipped inside our weathered shirts.

It makes us uncomfortable being the centers of attention.

When we first did it on video for Jeff Simon and his crack crew of filmmakers taking pity on us and giving us their valuable time, we both nearly threw up.  But then something happened that we both recognized.  When we stopped talking directly to the camera, and instead started talking to each other, we relaxed.

And the stuff that came out of our mouths was kinda interesting.

I wish I could tell you that Steve or I figured out that we’re best shooting the breeze back and forth and not doing the Talking Head routine, but of course it was Jeff who saved the day.

Of course there’s no getting around explaining the ground rules of our promotions.  We are running a business. Selling stuff. And Steve has become quite the Ron Popeil for Black Irish’s offerings. But those bits “Hi, it’s Steve and have we got a deal for you!” are always the last things we do when we prepare our videos.  And Jeff always puts his head right above the camera so Steve can talk to him and not that ethereal red light and empty lens.

I’m also pleased to report that Jeff and Steve did the same for me when we decided to create an hour-long Story Grid course. They stood directly behind the camera and asked me direct questions so that I didn’t make a complete fool of myself.

Jeff’s friend Matt is editing the video course now and it will be sent to all First Access members and Story Grid Editorial Department Members for FREE in the next couple of weeks.

We’ll only be sending it out to people who really care about my inside baseball writing/editing methodology.  So if you do, sign up for First Look Access at the bottom of this post or for the Editorial Department at Storygrid.com on the right hand side after a brief scroll down from my intro. You’ll get it hot off the editing bay just as soon as it’s ready.  I think it’s gonna be pretty good.

So are we going to do a Seminar or what?

We won’t be for the foreseeable future.  We got a lot of great ideas about what to cover etc., but for now it just doesn’t feel right.

I think the main thing that’s gives us pause (I’m speaking for myself and not Steve, Callie or Jeff here so don’t damn them with my words) is what seems to be a contradiction between the WHY we do what we do and the HOW we do it.

Remember that great book I wrote about a while ago?  Simon Sinek’s START WITH WHY?

My takeaway from Sinek’s book is that a business doesn’t work unless the WHY of the business is clearly defined and is reinforced with every “product” that the business sells.

Now the WHY of Black Irish Books is crystal clear to me and I think most of you too.  It is to invigorate artists of all kinds to fight the inner war against Resistance.  Get in the ring against the chattering monkey in your head and fight back to do the work you know you should be doing.  All of that stuff.

And I think our products (books and the odd video) reflect that WHY.  Even LEFT OF BANG (Patrick Van Horne and Jason Riley’s masterwork on the practical applications of the Marine Corps’ Combat Hunter Program) is about listening to the inner voice inside each and every one of us.  Not the one yammering about what we’re doing wrong.  But the one that protects us…tells us when something in our environment is not quite right.

So our offerings have all been about internal struggles, mustering the energy to wage inner wars.  Not about external musings.

But a Seminar is by definition an external experience. It is Socratic. It’s filled with noise.

Steve joked in the car on the way to our video taping that what would be best for us is to participate in a “Satsanga.”  Being a mook who grew up in Pittsburgh I had no idea what he was talking about.

“A Satsanga is a meeting of a group of people who don’t say anything.  They just sit in the presence of a guru or shaman or an enlightened one who brings the ‘truth.’ It literally means ‘being with the truth.’”

I think Steve got worried for a moment that I was seriously considering a Black Irish Satsanga…so he smiled and added…

“And the only truth that you and I can bring to a Satsanga is that we’re both idiots…”

Hence our putting a pin in the Seminar…

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  1. Mary Doyle on May 15, 2015 at 5:16 am

    Thanks for the follow-up on the survey. I respect anyone who honors their gut instinct – especially self-proclaimed idiots. That said, knowing that there’s an hour-long Story Grid course in my future has me all a-tingle. You guys (and Callie) are the best!

    • Kent Faver on May 15, 2015 at 6:35 am

      Mary – I missed the survey. Was it by e-mail? Here? Thanks – I would like to take a look at it.

      • Mary Doyle on May 15, 2015 at 8:09 am

        Ken, it was part of Shawn’s post here — “A Day or Two in the Life” from Friday, May 1. Not sure if you can still access it there or not. Best, Mary

  2. Michal J. on May 15, 2015 at 6:12 am

    Thanks for the follow-up.

    Btw, I had to re-read the last sentence couple of times to figure out why it felt wrong.

    It reminds me very much of Steve’s “pulling the pin on” (from War of Art, I guess)… which is probably why I was internally fighting the “putting a pin in”.

    Anyway, cheers to pulling pins on and putting pins in; for all the right reasons. 😉

  3. Joel D Canfield on May 15, 2015 at 6:31 am

    Whose idea was it to mention the Story Grid video to take the sting out of the nonseminar? They have a bonus coming.

    • Alex Cespedes on May 15, 2015 at 7:22 am

      haha! Same thing I thought, Joel! I’m still sad about the decision, but the anticipation of the video helps a little.

      It’s great that Black Irish keeps the WHY at the forefront of all its decisions. That revenue left on the table gets magnified in the form of long-term goodwill and trust. Kudos Steve, Shawn, Callie, and Jeff!

  4. gwen abitz on May 15, 2015 at 7:31 am

    LIKE the choice you have made for standing and being in your TRUTH. Satsanga, too, is a Sanskrit word that means “gathering for the truth” or simply being with truth. Truth is what is real, what exists. So all there is is Truth. Whenever something increases your experience of truth, it opens your heart and quiets the mind. I LIKEN it,too, to what Jon Kabat-Zinn refers to as the form of meditation MINDFULNESS.

  5. Teddy Herzog on May 15, 2015 at 10:09 am

    At the end of the day, each of us needs to sit down and write.

    Never-the-less, you and Steve sitting around shooting the shit would be valuable for a lot of us and also for yourselves. New material and ideas would emerge.

    A hand-on workshop might be something like a couple of people from the audience standing up and generating the bones of a story from thin air, following the steps of the story grid, and casual commentary from you and Steve about what is working with the outline and what is missing.

    It would be real time coaching. Most of us would be watching from the audience. A couple of us would be doing the work with you from the front of the room. But most of us would learn quite a lot from the real time process.

  6. Maureen Anderson on May 15, 2015 at 1:13 pm

    Now I know what to call the experience of being with Dick Bolles, author of What Color Is Your Parachute? Everything seems to fall away except for this question: “Are you sharing your gifts, or not?” Kind of like what you’re supposed to feel in church.

    I believe in the concept of energy transfer. It’s why buying a CD isn’t the same as seeing a band in concert.

    I will look forward to the possibility of a seminar whenever it happens!

  7. Dick Yaeger on May 15, 2015 at 3:04 pm

    I’m disappointed, but thanks for the prompt feedback. That’s one of the things that puts you guys at the top of my list. A similar survey done by nine out of ten other publishers would disappear into a black hole if they decided not to do the seminar. You’d just never hear from them. But you guys not only respond promptly, but explain the “how” and “why.” You care for your fans and it earns our respect. Thank you.

  8. Steve Hill on May 15, 2015 at 5:53 pm

    One thing I forgot to put on my survey response was a mentorship program. Trying to learn these concepts in a one-on-one basis would be extremely helpful to us budding writers.

  9. Judy White on May 18, 2015 at 7:54 pm


    The First Look Access signup does not seem to be working.

    Can you help me?

    Thanks, Judy

  10. Seth on May 20, 2015 at 8:32 pm

    There is a lot to be said about the role of community. I know that only I can do the work, but we can’t do it alone. The three Jewels of Buddhism: The Buddha, The Dharma, The Sangha. Teacher. Teachings. Community. Warrior-Artists need community, even though the work is done alone.
    The seminar concept could be more than you teaching. Although that is great. It could be about creating a place for people to be together. Invite you to consider that part. A place for the community to happen.

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