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A Beginner’s Guide to ‘Telling Stories to Live’
Somehow, you’ve stumbled upon this little corner of the Internet. Now you’re trying to figure out exactly what’s happening here. Giddy-up. Let’s go. Who runs this site? I’m John Agliata. I am a professional storyteller, expert father and husband, certified life coach, decent boys basketball coach, amateur comedian and a good faker at a whole…
So what exactly is going on here?
Well, a lot.
This website is various measures of creativity, therapy, safety, career exploration, vanity and insanity (plus a few mystery ingredients I haven’t quite identified yet) — all dumped into one glass, shaken (not stirred) and poured into a 32-ounce Big Gulp cup.
To better understand what this is all about, it’s probably best to start with something I can’t talk about or even confirm the existence of.
No, I’m not talking about him.
Hypothetically speaking, when a company does some really scuzzy stuff and gets caught and called on it, sometimes they apologize, talk about how they’re going to do things differently in the future, and make it in the catcher/caller’s best interest to take his talents to South Beach. It’s just in those company’s … DNA.
Exiting the hypothetical world and back to reality …
… There came a point in my career where I wanted to find different employment. There was just one problem: I had very little to show prospective employers beyond my resume to demonstrate what I can truly do.
As much as I would love to blame this on others, dude, I’m not about that. It was me who gave power to others to determine my competence and creative range.
When I finally broke the chains, I made a vow.
Well, three vows, actually, none of which had a thing to do with marriage:
- Never again would I be in any other position than one in which I could clearly show a prospective employer exactly what I was capable of and exactly how creative I can be in any medium for which they might have a need.
- Never again would anyone else but me determine what I can do and the value I bring to a business — and the part of the world I occupy.
- Never again would I allow anyone but me to tell my story.
So I found a great job, agreed to the money they offered and set about doing exactly what I said I would do in the interviews for the position — and then some.
In doing so, I found something I had come to believe wasn’t important:
I am a storyteller. I always have been. I just sort of forgot it for a while.
A writer is a writer only if he writes, so if you want to be a writer, just write, right?
I hadn’t written anything of value in a long, long time.
Until I did.
Meet Ms. Hollywood
Camille steps into Shriners Hospitals for Children — St. Louis on the first cooler day leading into fall with her mom, Shantay, in tow. Ms. Hollywood has arrived. The 3-year-old Evansville, Indiana, girl recently underwent the first of what will be three limb-lengthening procedures before she hits her teen years. “When she walks into a…
Suddenly, I remembered what it was like to reach people, to make them feel something.
I don’t care whether it’s the very factual 75th anniversary history book I wrote for the electric cooperative in which I served, the patient stories I’ve been writing since September 2020 for Shriners Hospitals for Children or the zany fiction that spills out of my brain through my fingers: Properly executed creativity makes people feel. What I found as I went about doing my job is that I still am pretty good at properly executing creativity.
And it was about more than my first passion — writing. I realized how much more was out there, how many other mediums through which I could tell stories. So I went and did that.
Graphic design, videos, email marketing. It didn’t matter if it was internal or external communication. I was going to bring next-level creativity to it and get better at the things I wasn’t as good at yet.
Suddenly, I had stuff. Lots of stuff. Articles, flyers, social media graphics, videos, email campaigns, marketing plans, photos and more.
But it was all under someone else’s control.
That’s fine in some aspects. I enjoy driving traffic from a teaser of one of my stories to my company’s website, for example. And I respect that the work is ultimately theirs, that I work for them and that what I do is primarily for their benefit.
I find that extremely rewarding — when something I did brings in new donor dollars or a new patient to receive life-changing care.
But I will not be caught without anything to show for my efforts ever again.
And that’s what led to the birth of Telling Stories to Live.
As is the wont of things recently born, the site started to grow.
I added a section to talk about the stories behind the stories, which, to me, are sometimes just as entertaining as the actual thing the public sees. It was very much “let’s look at how the sausage is made.”
And then it grew some more. As the creative me emerged from hibernation, I realized I had a lot of thoughts on the modern American workplace that I’ve picked up from three decades of toil.
So the stories-behind-the-stories section morphed into Ya Pay Peanuts, Ya Get Monkeys.
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Five Dumb Things About The American Workplace
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If you accept the truism that people don’t leave jobs, they leave bosses, the next question is obvious: “What do bosses do that cause their people to leave?” The answers to that are as varied as the types of horrible bosses, but it’s possible to roll those individual reasons into just a few bigger buckets.…
Democracy and Newspapers
The three most influential people in my life as a journalist are, sadly, all part of the Great Newsroom in the Sky now. Professors Michael Perkins and Bob Woodward (AKA Bob Woodward-Not-That-Bob-Woodward) helped educate me at Drake University, and Lisa Warren was the best editor of the Dayton Daily News’ Southwest Ohio papers who ever…
After that, I realized something: When I wrote, I felt better.
And there was a huge world out there full of potential stories.
So if I was going to be a writer, I might as well write, right?
Because here’s a truth: Though I love what I do, it’s not what I want to do. Even before my dream of being the next great Yankees pitcher died when my elbow exploded at 16 …
… I wanted to be an author. I wanted to write books and bring in those big advances and have my name be the big text on the cover because that’s what sold the book.
But more than that, it would mean my words had inspired people to feel something so strongly they couldn’t wait to feel it again.
Ultimately, it’s not about me. It’s about taking whatever gifts I’ve been given to help people connect with who they are inside.
My dream is to take the tales I turn, mix them with the ones still in my head and find an agent and a publisher willing to give me the push authors need to hit it big.
Do I think this will ever actually happen?
Of course not. I’d be crazy to actually place that bet.
Any would-be author need only go to a library in a reasonably large city and walk the aisles, taking note of all the writers with an actual book, books or series on a shelf whom he has never heard of and who have different primary jobs that actually pay the bills.
My dream has me on par in name recognition with King, Grisham, Patterson, Rowling.
And that, my friends, ain’t gonna happen.
Still, it’s a worthwhile dream, and it’s my dream, so I’m gonna keep dreaming it for now, thank you very much.
So over time, Telling Stories to Live became more than just a safety measure should I ever want to pursue different employment opportunities.
It became a playground where I could invite my friends to hang out…
… where creativity and self-expression flourished while I was pursuing the impossible dream …
… and, oh yeah, took care of my emotional health.
Do I hope people read what I write? Look at the videos I create? Share all this stuff with their friends and families?
Any creative person wants his creative stuff to reach people. But if I knew no one would ever look at what I’m doing, I would do it anyway.
I want to.
I have to.
I need to.
So welcome to this tiny corner of the Internet. I hope you find it a bit more hospitable and rewarding than the rest of it.
(Oh, and yeah. I know there’s 39 gifs. I had to do something to inspire you to get to the end, right?)
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