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🐺 Introducing Modern Fables
Sharing whimsical tales that feed the soul, tug the heart and spark the mind
I'm excited to announce a new section in this newsletter: Modern Fables!
As I’ve spent the past two years writing my book of fables, I've had many ideas for other fables I've wanted to share. A bunch of them have been drafted already, and are eager for an audience. I've been waiting to start publishing them here for a long while, and I'm excited that day has finally arrived!
As an existing Quick Brown Fox subscriber, you don’t need to anything to start receiving Modern Fables in your inbox. You can find the new section on my newsletter page here: letter.salman.io/s/modern-fables.
I’ll still be publishing my thoughts on creativity, philosophy, art and more, just as before in Quick Brown Fox. I think of these fables as a new channel, or even a new language, with which to express how I view the world.
As the first entry to this new section, I’ve republished a fable I shared a while back, The Boat of Stillness. Check it out if you haven’t already, and look out for a fresh Modern Fables edition in your inbox very soon!
A little background on why I think fables are important: I've been spending a lot of time reading old books of fables, and I've come to deeply appreciate the wisdom in the old tales and mythologies from different cultures and societies. While most people think of Aesop’s fables, the tradition comes from many other sources, such as the ancient Indian Panchatantra, the Persian Kahlilah and Dimna, the Mughal Tutti-Nama, and so many more. The tradition of our communities sharing stories to teach us is a valuable one that I believe we must cherish. These tales are the collective memories of societies trying to guide us on how to make it through the difficulties of life. I want to do my part in preserving its tradition.
My dream is to be a fabulist in conversation with my community. I plan to share original fables of my own, as well as my re-interpretations on classics of old. Most of all, I want to hear what you see in the stories. I’d love to see comments on how the stories related to your own life or your past, or perhaps to hear what your kids thought of them if you read it to them.
We're all at different points in our lives, and it's fascinating to see how a single story can mean different things to people. I really hope you find some enjoyment and value from my fables.
Wandering Spirits: Limited Launch Bundle
An exciting update: I’ve finished drawing 17 out of a total 18 illustrations for my upcoming book of fables, Wandering Spirits. I'm now working on layout and printing options and plans. It’s pretty fun looking at font and layout tests and see how my book will come to life. I’m working with Saeah Lee on fun ideas for the hardcover edition, and am now starting to plan a limited edition hardcover bundle that will be available at launch. To that end, I could use your input.
I'm planning to offer a limited launch bundle that includes a signed copy of the hardcover edition, a digital ebook edition, as well as a digital audiobook edition (which I plan to record shortly.) In addition, I wanted to offer a few bonus items. One thing I definitely plan to include is stickers using different illustrations of the animals from the book. I'm curious to see what else you might be interested in—if you’d consider buying the book bundle, what bonus item would you want most?
Thanks in advance for your feedback. I'm excited to get this book into your hands soon!
A long while ago I read The Artist’s Way by Julia Cameron. I loved the ideas in the book, but I only got about a quarter in, and never really engaged in its suggested practices. I recently started re-reading it to give it another shot.
The book recommends two main practices: daily “morning pages” and a weekly “artist date.” On top of those, it provides prompts and exercises that last about 8 weeks to help you revive or elevate your creative practice.
Morning pages is the most interesting practice, and the one that has gained the most popularity with creatives all around the world. The idea is simple: Every morning, write 3 pages (roughly 750 words). It doesn't matter what you write about, no judgement or editing should be done. Just put the words down on the page.
In the past, I felt this practice was unnecessary for me, given I already write online a fair bit. But after engaging with the practice for about a month now, I've realized it serves a very different purpose. It's closer to meditation than creative writing, and this quote from the book sums it up well (emphasis mine):
It may be useful for you to think of the morning pages as meditation. It may not be the practice of meditation you are accustomed to. You may, in fact, not be accustomed to meditating at all. The pages may not seem spiritual or even meditative—more like negative and materialistic, actually—but they are a valid form of meditation that gives us insight and helps us effect change in our lives.
Let’s take a look at what we stand to gain by meditating. There are many ways of thinking about meditation. Scientists speak of it in terms of brain hemispheres and shunting techniques. We move from logic brain to artist brain and from fast to slow, shallow to deep. Management consultants, in pursuit of corporate physical health, have learned to think of meditation primarily as a stress-management technique. Spiritual seekers choose to view the process as a gateway to God. Artists and creativity mavens approve of it as a conduit for higher creative insights.
All of these notions are true—as far as they go. They do not go far enough. Yes, we will alter our brain hemisphere, lower our stress, discover an inner contact with a creative source, and have many creative insights. Yes, for any one of these reasons, the pursuit is a worthy one. Even taken in combination, however, they are still intellectual constructs for what is primarily an experience of wholeness, rightness, and power.
We meditate to discover our own identity, our right place in the scheme of the universe. Through meditation, we acquire and eventually acknowledge our connection to an inner power source that has the ability to transform our outer world. In other words, meditation gives us not only the light of insight but also the power for expansive change. Insight in and of itself is an intellectual comfort. Power in and of itself is a blind force that can destroy as easily as build. It is only when we consciously learn to link power and light that we begin to feel our rightful identities as creative beings. The morning pages allow us to forge this link. They provide us with a spiritual ham-radio set to contact the Creator Within. For this reason, the morning pages are a spiritual practice.
I write my morning pages in my backyard, with my bare feet on the grass. I often run out of things to say, and it in those moments that I look up at the trees, notice the birds, and watch the branches sway back and forth. In that sense, it is not the words I write, but the moments of contemplation between them that are most valuable. The practice gives me the time to make space in my mind.
When I’m done venting my thoughts, I always feel a little lighter. Emptiness is a precious resource, for it is what allows spontaneity and creativity to appear. This morning, after about 500 words of morning pages, I decided to switch to a new document and draft this newsletter. Normally, I’d delay writing the newsletter until the afternoon, fretting and procrastinating until I had no choice. But with the momentum I had built from from writing hundreds of (throwaway, somewhat meaningless) morning page words, I felt a bit more courageous and free with my creativity.
Because I took one action, it was easier to follow it with another. As I wrote in Don’t Wait for Motivation, Act for Momentum:
Tiny tasks offer us a moment of mindfulness to be fully present with our actions. On the power of the present moment, the philosopher Alan Watts noted, “Take each step as if it were the only one to be taken.”
Once I’m standing, I’m a different person. I’m not the same Salman that was lying on the couch. That was Lazing Salman. Now, I’m Standing Salman, and I’m willing to do stuff.
I write the morning pages to let the loud, bickering thoughts have their moment on the stage.
Once the voices have had their little tantrums, I can finally get to work.
I’m looking forward to more lessons as I keep reading the book. If you’ve been waiting for a signal to give it a try (or a retry), consider this your beacon. I’d love to hear from any other folks trying out the practices, or from those who’ve been writing morning pages for a while already.
As always, my inbox is open—feel free to reply directly to this email, or leave a comment. I’d love to hear from you!