I’ve met a lot of writers who write with the expectation that one day their labor will pay off. While the thought of future success is often a great short-term motivator, you’re likely to eventually be disappointed.
I wrote Crosley because I didn’t want the lives of my great uncle and my grandfather to go undocumented. My desire to pay tribute to the family I’m immensely proud of was enough motivation for me to write. I never imagined the book would become a bestseller.
I was, and continue to be, surprised by the number of readers who care enough to read about my family and learn from them.
Success isn’t typical. If you’ve got a story to tell, and gumption enough to actually write it, that has to be motivation enough. The finished product is your reward, anything that comes of it is just a bonus.
There’s a skeptic for every theory about how Ed Leedskalnin built Coral Castle.
If we’re to believe some of the theories on the Internet, Ed was an alien from outer space, he knew the secret to anti-gravity and he levitated the stone blocks into place with his mind. While these theories are entertaining, all of them lack significant proof.
Curiosity keeps us speculating, but skepticism keeps us rational.
While the skeptic in me wants answers, part of me is happy Coral Castle remains a mystery. Many spirited debates and serious conversations never would have occurred if Ed had revealed his secrets.
If Ed were alive today I doubt he could be convinced to reveal the secret of Coral Castle. Instead, I imagine he’d leave the skeptics and the conspiracy theorists to their debates, getting a good chuckle out of both sides.
Recognition usually doesn’t come quickly for positive accomplishments. While celebrity goings on are plastered on the front of magazines and webpages, the good deeds of the average person mostly go unnoticed.
I admire those who aren’t fueled by acknowledgment.
Although the Crosley brothers eventually attained notoriety, they worked humbly for many years preceding their fame. Thousands of people now know of Coral Castle and Ed Leedskalnin, but Ed died before his creation got much attention outside of Homestead, Florida.
If these men relied on encouragement, Coral Castle and the Crosley brothers’ business empire wouldn’t exist.
Lots of people work hard for recognition. Few can work hard without it.
As a writer, receiving brutally honest, constructive feedback is incredibly important to producing decent work.
Friends and family members are easy sources of feedback. If they’re not already willing to take the time to read your work, they can usually be convinced fairly easily. It’s also a lot less intimidating to hand over the product of your hard work to someone you know.
Just because this option is convenient, doesn’t mean it’s a good idea.
No matter how objective a friend or family member thinks they are, they’re still biased. Writers who are truly committed to improving their work will buck up their courage and hand over their draft to a complete stranger. Find a writers’ group that focuses on peer-review — not encouragement. Encouragement can feel great, but it usually doesn’t result in revision.
Constructive criticism probably won’t improve your self-esteem, but it can improve your writing if you’re smart enough to listen.
Ed Leedskalnin, by all accounts, was a friendly man. He allowed visitors into Coral Castle so they could enjoy his masterpiece. He made friends with some of his neighbors, and he was missed after he died.
For all this openness, Ed also valued secrecy.
In Latvia, Ed grew up close to the castles of German barons. His life, and the lives of his friends and family, were dictated by the whims of the wealthy. Ed grew up in a time and place where his class of people had little control over the course of their lives.
After moving to Homestead, Florida, Ed built his own castle. He curated and engineered his property to be an impenetrable fortress (when he wanted it to be). Although Ed claimed to have unlocked the secrets of magnetic currents, he chose to take those secrets to the grave.
Rather than choosing to pursue wealth, I think Ed gained personal satisfaction from holding onto his secrets. After growing up in a world where most power was held by the rich, I like to think Ed died with the satisfaction of knowing he would be respected, long after he was gone.
I don’t normally read young adult novels, but I recently came across a new book by an Ohio author and figured I’d give it a shot.
The book is Graham’s Charlotte by Drew Farnsworth. It was the winner of Columbus Creative Cooperative’s Great Novel Contest in 2013.
The plot centers around angsty teenager Madison Riley. Madison acquires an all-knowing cell phone and has to use it to save her mother from impending danger. I won’t spoil the rest.
Find Graham’s Charlotte on Amazon.com here
A lot of recent YA bestsellers are marketed to teenagers, but they actually target adults. I think Farnsworth can be praised for not trying to play both sides of the market. He knows his audience and he doesn’t stray from what will work best for them.
This probably shouldn’t be your first choice if you’ve already graduated high school, but it should appeal to the young adults it was written to entertain.
Wealth, power and notoriety are all fleeting.
At the height of his success, Powel Crosley owned multiple mansions, the Cincinnati Reds and a business empire. He was featured in news reports and radio broadcasts around the country.
Roughly 40 years after Powel’s death, few people recognize his name.
I wrote Crosley in part to try and change that.
From the time Powel began to garner the attention of the media, he worked to craft the public persona of a powerful businessman. Crosley isn’t the story Powel would have told. The book contains many of the failures and flaws he omitted.
The success of Crosley surprised me, but I think it would have surprised Powel Crosley even more. The same stories he tried so hard to hide, are now the very thing keeping his legacy alive.
As I was doing research for Coral Castle, I discovered Ed Leedskalnin had started conversations far beyond Homestead, Florida.
There were websites and forums dedicated to speculation about how Ed could have moved those massive rocks. Engineers, mystics and everyone in-between had an opinion on how Ed built Coral Castle. The more I researched, the more theories I heard, but few people were willing to get their hands dirty. Even those who were the most convinced they were right, didn’t have the inclination to prove it.
Wally Wallington of Flint, Michigan did. A retired carpenter, Wallington had an idea about how Stonehenge could have been erected, but he didn’t stop there. After experimenting with heavy stones, Wallington found that moving huge rocks depends on finding their center of gravity and applying basic laws of leverage.
Watch Wallington’s method in action here.
These backyard feats of engineering could be some of the same method’s Ed used to build Coral Castle. Regardless, Wallington proved more than anyone arguing in an Internet forum.
Speculation is easy. Moving tons of rock is not.
When the Crosley brothers began to get famous, the national press ran story after story informing the public of their innovations.
In 1924, Powel Crosley had his picture taken, his life story recorded and his words broadcast to the nation. Unfortunately, not everything printed and quoted was accurate.
In this case, it wasn’t the journalists who were embellishing stories and editing the truth. It was Powel.
With great success comes pressure to be great. Powel wanted complete control over the image he presented to his customers and his investors. He censored parts of his life he saw as failures, even though those moments said the most about his character.
Instead of showing his determination through his flaws, he tried to craft an image of a flawless businessman. In his desire to create a powerful image, he alienated himself from the market he was serving. He moved farther away from the everyday, flawed people who purchased his products.
Powel Crosley is known for his business empire, his inventions and his wealth, but I admire him for the one thing he chose to hide- his determination.
Long-term dedication is hard.
It’s easy to be committed to something at first. No task seems too daunting when you’re fueled by the excitement of starting something new. But after awhile, that newness wears off and you’re left with work. Hard, tiring, uninspiring work.
This is when most people give up.
The local people of Homestead, Florida thought Ed Leedskalnin was a little crazy to dedicate his life to building Coral Castle. The Crosley brothers failed over and over before they finally achieved success.
Ed, Powel and Lewis never gave up.
The Crosley brothers were just as committed to their dream during failures as they were at the height of their success. Ed kept Coral Castle going even though it didn’t attract his lost love like he’d hoped. All three men were committed to turning their ambitions into reality.
Dedication isn’t easy, it isn’t fun and there’s no guarantee you’ll succeed.
That’s what makes it admirable.