The Story Behind The Story

I love a good story. But I really love the story behind a good story. Perhaps that’s why I am a writer? A storyteller of sorts? Perhaps that’s why the tagline for my new venture, Accessories & Memories is “behind every cute necklace is really good story (and more!)” Because I believe there really is. Perhaps that’s why I’m obsessed with the new podcast that tells these stories behind the stories.

If you ask my family, they will tell you I’m obsessed with podcasts in general – a lot of them. I was a bit too into Serial and S-town, and lately I can’t get enough of my favorite political analysis/friends from Pod Save America and FiveThirtyEight Politics as well as my favorite New York Times writers/editors/friends from The Daily and Modern Love. I’ve been busted way too many times for sitting in my car in my garage listening to the end of a podcast when I should be inside moving along life in our house and getting some kind of dinner on the table. I even just listened to a podcast analyzing another podcast – not kidding. I love the intimacy of the podcast and the platform it gives for awesome in-depth story telling.

In Don’t Keep Your Day Job, Cathy Heller the singer, songwriter and now podcaster, who has an amazing story of her own by the way, interviews truly creative people who have found ways to make a career out of doing what they love. I so enjoy hearing what these creative types are up to now, but my favorite part is listening to the stories of how they got to where they are today. What were their big breaks? What did they learn along the way? How did they mess up? How did they figure it out? I always want to know more.

Cathy recently interviewed the super talented Brian Giniewski, a ceramics artist who makes these amazing drippy clay pots out of his studio in Philadelphia. I was drawn to Brian’s story because he, like so many others, had a talent and interest for one thing but didn’t necessarily think he could figure out how to work that talent into a profession. You know when you watch your little kids draw or bake and you say to them “Maybe you’ll be an artist one day? Or maybe a pastry chef?” But the thing is you don’t really mean it because you can’t imagine your child (or maybe it was your younger self) making a career out of that creative passion.

That’s what Brian thought. He enjoyed making pottery and spent a lot of time in the studio in high school. But when it came to college and a career, he planned on going to the same school that others in his family had attended to study business or accounting. Nothing wrong with those fields by the way. I know, love and admire a lot of business people and accountants. But when Brian did not get into that college, he found himself at a crossroads.

He ended up going to another school, befriending an art professor there, studying art and then going onto graduate school for art and ceramics. After school, Brian taught art and continued to make his own pottery eventually focusing on the drippy pots, which people were drawn to. I can understand why. When I look at them I imagine ice cream cones, sunsets, melting candles and so much more. I am certain others see something completely different when they look at them. That’s art. It’s completely subjective, making you think and perhaps look at the world in a different way.

Others started to notice Brian’s work. He got his first big break on Instragram, yes Instragram. It seems that retailers sometimes scout out talent and items to sell in their stores through social media. I love that! And since I’ve learned about this, I’ve been telling friends of mine in retail, design and buying to hack on to their kids’ Insta, Finsta, Rinsta or whatever accounts and see what’s out there. Brian’s business continues to grow in part because of his beautifully curated Instagram page.

What I really love about Brian’s story, and the story behind his story, is that he gets to wake up every morning, work on his craft and do what he loves. I get that. I find myself waking up with a spring in my step (even before coffee sometimes!) to get down to my little makeshift office in a small corner of my living room and type away at new story ideas, essays, outlines and book chapters on my antique roll top desk.

And now I have one of Brian’s drippy pots on top my desk, sitting among other special things I love, to remind me to continue to keep working at my craft and try and improve my writing every day. My drippy pot is filled with Hershey Kisses, which go really well with coffee and keep me thinking and typing away. I had peanut M&Ms in there, but that got a little dangerous.

When I look at Brian’s art/my candy dish, I also think about the story behind my story, as I pretend to tell it on an imaginary podcast of the future. You think the Pod Save America guys would ever interview me?!

Like Brian, I thought I’d work in one field (and actually did for over a decade) but then through a series of circumstances, projects and events, moved into a completely different one. I pursued a pretty traditional path after college working in marketing for magazines (always drawn to the written word by the way even while working on the business side) and earned my MBA. I know – finance and accounting were killers for me, but I always loved writing up the analyses of the business cases.

While still working in marketing, I put together a collection of personal essays and eventually published them in a small book. An editor from a local newspaper who covered the book called me in my office one day to ask if I would like to write an article for his paper. My good story behind the story moment (or as my favorite talk show host/friend Oprah would say “Aha moment”) came when the editor asked me for my social security number. I became suspicious thinking this was some kind of scam. He explained that he needed this information because he was going to pay me to write for the paper. I remember putting the phone down and saying to myself oh – so maybe I could be a writer – a real one.

I still say that to myself. I still question myself. And then I look at the awesome drippy pot created by Brian or I listen to more stories on the awesome podcast created by Cathy and just write some more and more and think to myself, I guess I am a writer – a real one.

Thank you Brian for sharing your story with Cathy and thank you Cathy for telling it so beautifully.