The Purgery

A Writer's Blog & Resource Repository

A New Path for The Purgery

Have you ever heard the phrase: the world is only as good as we make it? If we spend a year or more of our lives curating facts and snippets of worldly experience to create art (or something like art), the least we can do is give some of it back. To take it a step further, I believe it is our responsibility as creators to give it back.

I am taking The Purgery in a new direction. I still plan to deliver lessons learned and research findings about the history of Brazoria County and the Texas Gulf Coast, but my new aim is to present this information in a way that helps others make a positive world impact through storytelling.

Why should we tell better stories?

If you have ever changed someone’s mind or advised someone on an important decision, odds are you used a persuasive story or an anecdote to do it. This is how attorneys win over juries, analysts sway policy makers, business start-ups attract investors, and campaigners influence voters. Really, the list goes on.

Human beings have communicated life lessons and cultivated empathy through storytelling for thousands of years. Effective storytelling is the transmission of truth through an interpretation of facts. It is not a gift that some people are born with and others are not. Anyone can do it, and we all have much to gain if we would only aspire to do it better.

In this age of alternative facts and skeptical media consumers, information’s credibility is only as powerful as the story that carries it. Strength of story can make or break a worldview.

How do we tell better stories?

The simple answer has four parts:

  1. Share your story with others. (It does not matter if it is fiction or non-fiction.)
  2. Request feedback.
  3. Use feedback to improve the effectiveness of your message.
  4. Repeat.

The more complex answer is something I hope to explore over time through articles I write and publish in The Purgery.

My Promise

This past year I have learned from countless individuals who I believe are authorities in their professional fields or areas of interest. I aim to impart their wisdom to you through The Purgery. Once or twice a month, I will update this blog with fun and/or useful articles on the following topics:

  • Writing & Process (Research, How To’s, Author Interviews, etc.)
  • Hard knock life experiences on the Texas frontier
  • Personal insights on what life is like living as a foreigner (which is exactly what the early 19th century people of European and African descent in Texas were: strangers in a strange land)

If there is any topic you think I can help shed some light on that aligns with one of these themes, please contact me. Let’s work together!

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  1. “In this age of alternative facts and skeptical media consumers, information’s credibility is only as powerful as the story that carries it. Strength of story can make or break a worldview.”

    Interesting thought. Can you give an example of a time when strength of story made or broke…or at least greatly impacted a worldview?

    • Hi Jathan, thank you for your comment. Paulo Coelho’s powerful fiction has affected my worldview, though it didn’t happen overnight or right after I finished the last page of The Alchemist.

      However when I drafted this post I was actually thinking about that story The Atlantic recently ran, My Family’s Slave. The emotional response to that piece was astounding – people’s hearts and minds were opened. Others were outraged and motivated to research the issue of modern day slavery in greater depth. Some criticized the author for not having done enough in his lifetime to rectify the situation. My point is that if we are going to tell stories, we should model them after that one. They should enlighten us or appeal to our humanity in some way. Ultimately they should inspire us to do something, and hopefully that thing is positive.

      • I read that article when it was published. It certainly provoked an emotional response. I definitely agree that stories should have a central message that we can learn from.

        • Thanks Nicole. I understand you are branching off and writing fiction? I think it’s especially challenging to instill a positive message or teachable moments in fiction, especially when a lot of what we create is based on experience that we as writers don’t necessarily have to live first hand. I’m not convinced we need to fully understand the complexity of messages we instill in our stories; we just have to communicate them in ways that beget more good in the world. You have done extremely well with your non-fiction (so helpful!), and I have no doubt you’ve got a strategy up your sleeve!

      • Thanks for the response. Very thought provoking. Have you written commentary on that piece in the Atlantic and its response?

        • I didn’t write anything more than a social media comment or two in response to that article, but I read a lot of commentary. The author received some pretty intense criticism – and praise too – that got me to thinking about the mobilizing power of story. Some stories inspire benevolence and understanding, while others – like propaganda – instill fear and normalize or redeem amoral behavior. The rest of them only serve to entertain, I guess.

          I spoke about this on Friday with my Spanish teacher (in Spanish, which I don’t speak very well at all), and he likened the idea to one of Tolstoy’s on “the contagious artist.”

          Anyway I’m no Tolstoian expert, but this is how he defined art:

          “To evoke in oneself a feeling one has once experienced, and having evoked it in oneself, then, by means of movements, lines, colors, sounds, or forms expressed in words, so to transmit that feeling that others may experience that feeling – this is the activity of art.”

          He goes on to say:

          “…one man consciously by means of external signs, hands on to others feelings he has lived through, and that other people are infected by these feelings, and others experience them.”

          My Family’s Slave was heartbreaking and anger inducing for many. It moved me as well, but really it was the story’s virulent spread and widespread critical response that brought on a kind of epiphany about the effectiveness of story. Why should we write or create anything at all if it doesn’t serve to help others in some way? Even then, is writing the story enough? I’m not sure. I think maybe yes. In some cases.

          Thanks again, Jathan. I think I gave you a longer response than you were angling to receive. I’m interested to hear your thoughts. Also I found you on Medium and decided to follow you. =)

          Sidenote – here is the Wikipedia link on Leo Tolstoy’s What Is Art? It’s next on my “to read” queue.

What do you think?

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