1.1 - The Distortion - Own Your Distortion

Most will talk about “distortion” like it’s a bad thing. 

Who can blame them? The working definitions from Merriam Webster: 

The act of twisting or altering something out of it’s true, natural, or original state

A lack of proportionality in an image resulting from defects in the optical system.

A falsified reproduction of an audio or video signal caused by a change in the waveform of the original signal.

Twisting, defects, falsified. Distortion.

Lying is a distortion of the truth. Distort a guitar and you get rock and roll.

A lens distorts light. The software on your cell phone camera removes the distortion to give you the most accurate image possible. 

I visit the optometrist every year. Every modern eye doctor has a phoropter - the giant eyemask thing with a million settings they use to determine how bad your eyes are.

Better 1, or better 2?

Eye doctors have those old-school trial lens kit out on the counter in the exam room. It’s an old-timey looking box, lined with velvet, with dozens of lenses in them - it’s a novelty, I’ve never seen them use any of the lenses. As a kid, my mom was with me in the office, she would always scold me not to touch them. As an adult, when I’m left alone in the room, I touch everything. These lenses are covered and dust and never used.

This is an allegory - you have a set of lenses, it is time to dust them off and touch them. Your mother isn’t here to tell you not to.

The thing about eyeglasses: they are tuned to bring the world into focus for that one person. A set of lenses in front of our eyes to bring the light of the world into something our brains can manage. If you were to wear my glasses for an hour, you’d have a headache.

This is a long way of saying: I see the world differently than you. I will never be able to see the world as you do. Neither of these facts will ever stop us from trying to share how we see view things. This is much more than your perspective; this is your distortion. 

We use lenses to distort light to bring the world into focus. We also use lenses to distort the world to show others what we see - we call them cameras.

Even when it feels like we all take the same picture even when we take a picture that’s been taken a million times before - it came from your experience, and that picture is riddled with your distortion. When the same thing happens with our stories, our ideas, we clam up. The story has already been told, we tell ourselves, no one will want to hear it from me.

Also, the classic: my ideas just aren’t good enough.

Here’s the rub - if your ideas are similar to what everyone else’s ideas re, they will rack up all kinds of likes and get some sort of attention, but no one will care. On the other hand, share your distorted experience and there is the chance no one will get it. It’s a tale as old as time, but in that same time, we’ve seen millions of brilliant ideas come from very unusual folks.

Lenses distort light. Amplifiers distort sound. Magnets distort data. Politicians distort information into lies. Journalists distort lies into truth. A million factors in everyday life distort the world you experience, and on top of it all, you have three pounds of grey matter between your ear distorting everything into something you can understand. Better yet (worse yet?), your brain distorts it in a way only YOU can really understand.

Your existence is a collection of distortion; your existence is sharing how you’ve distorted it. I hope to show you how this is outstandingly beautiful.

You and your ideas and your story absolutely deserve to be heard the world over. I shouldn’t have to be the one to tell you this, but here we are. You are the only one who can tell your story, and there are people out there who are waiting to use your story so they can better understand their own.

I’ve worked with hundreds of people over the years who have all had the same basic need: How do I get my idea, my story, out of my head and into a place where people can use it? 

This course is the guidance I have dispensed hundreds of times over. Eventually, we’re all tired of seeing an approximation of who you are and what you might be in the books and shows and stories around you. At some point, you need a way to show YOUR story with all the grit and smudges and fuzz and noise. The world needs your distortion; it is the fingerprint of your existence.

In this course, you will create and refine your distortion through writing. 

Writing is a practice. Writing is mechanics. You will go beyond the act of writing and into a life of experiencing the world as a writer. 

As a writer, you will tear down ideas and stories so you can reassemble them, make them your own. Through writing, you will find the root of your story and then dig through the box of lenses to find the right way to distort it. 

You’re writing to get your ideas and story out of your head and mix it with the ideas and stories that already flood the world.

It’s time to get started.

Your pencils are sharp enough; even the dull ones will leave a mark.