Independence in Writing and Whisky

“Every path but your own is the path of fate. Keep on your own track, then.”
― Henry David Thoreau, Walden

“Independent” has such a strong, rebellious connotation that burns beneath the word. Independent means you’ve clawed over the walls that society has closed around you. Independent propels you outside of convention and circumstance. Independent is the beacon light that those left behind the walls shift their gazes toward, wondering, waiting, longing, hoping, regretting.

Independent, however, does not mean alone. Independence, in a way, cannot exist without others to recognize and support the endeavor. Unnoticed independence is similar to a tree falling in a forest: does it make noise? Yes; but without anyone there to hear the crash, the noise is for naught.

I’ve made a lot of noise in the past few weeks in both the writing and whisky worlds. In late October, I launched a campaign to fund an independently-published memoir/travelogue that examines how people mature into adults through the analogy of the whisky maturation process. The campaign caught attention of writers and whisky fans alike, and was featured in several online and print outlets.

Readers know I love discussing the connections between whisky making and storytelling. In the process of my campaign, I had the pleasure of connecting with several people who are making whisky and who are creating stories, and like me, they are doing it independently. The thread we all share is the reliance upon others to help our independent visions come to fruition.

I wrote a piece about my Kickstarter project for independent writing advocate Molly Greene’s blog. Molly is a writer whose debut self-published novel, “Mark of the Loon,” is a sassy mystery featuring four female friends with strong individual personalities. In addition to writing creatively, Molly is a mentor to many new writers, helping them to navigate the murky waters of publishing, editing, building audiences and creating a buzz for their efforts.

Molly and I had a wide-ranging conversation about the challenges that face an independent writer, one who is trying to do everything on their own. To her surprise, when she first started to blog about her questions and struggles with independent writing, she discovered dozens upon dozens of other independent writers who were stuck at the same spot as she. An interconnected community developed around her solo endeavor. Molly is still independent. She is still working to build sales for her book. But, she does so with the encouragement and support of a network that she didn’t know existed when she sat down to write the first words of, “Mark of the Loon.”

That spark of independence is what drives a woman from New York to import an inherently Scottish drink from France. Allison Patel is known to many in the whisky community as “The Whisky Woman” through her blogs and her tweets. But, Allison is more than a member of the community. She stands independently from it as the innovator and visionary of Brenne whisky, the aforementioned French whisky import that is finished in Cognac casks.

Like Molly, Allison ventured down her creative path at her own inner urging. Sure, Brenne fits a unique market niche that appeals to a certain demographic. But, the impetus for Brenne comes not from market research analysis, but from an individual’s recognition that her fledgling whisky palate would have liked a smoother transition from the world of wine and cocktails to the world of whisky. Allison found her whisky, bottled and imported it, with the underlying fear that all people who venture away from the comfort of the crowd experience: How would a newcomer to whisky, importing a spirit from a non-traditional whisky country, finished in Cognac casks, of all things, be treated by the wider whisky world? Would whisky connoisseurs support her new endeavor or shoot it down? In less than two months, Brenne has been featured prominently and positively in numerous media outlets, whisky blogs and tasting events. People, many people, are drinking and enjoying what was once an unrealized dream.

Sprinting into the darkness that surrounds an individual endeavor can be a solitary process like Molly writing a book, a logistical leap like Allison arranging an international business, or a bullhorn shout like my Kickstarter campaign. Carin Castillo, of Sia Scotch, is doing all three.

Carin is in the midst of a Kickstarter campaign to fund her Sia Scotch whisky blend. Sia comes from years of Carin’s passion for whisky – sipping with a solitary focus as she tried to identify the flavors from different whiskies that most appealed to her; devoting months to business and marketing logistics; and planning and launching a broad-reaching Kickstarter campaign to fund her dream. The initial response was slow in relation to her overall funding level. But, as the word of her project spread and the support of the Kickstarter and whisky communities grew, so did her funding. With less than ten days to go, her Sia campaign has already passed its $39,000 goal.

We are four individuals (three beauties and me – makes me feel like Bosley in “Charlie’s Angels”) who at various points in our lives thought, “I can’t do these things that society expects of me; but, I MUST do this thing that I expect of myself.” We share a desire to connect with the earnest earthiness of creating something with our hands and our minds.

I think that’s why so many people root for individuals who take risks, even if they don’t embrace the same level of independence in their own lives. They see our efforts as something that is more than us and more than them. They understand that within our endeavors lie the very elements of human creativity.

Our individual efforts don’t succeed because we rise above everyone else. We only find success, approbation, meaning and fulfillment because everyone joins together to lift us up and helps us thrive as the individuals they believe we can be.

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2 Responses to Independence in Writing and Whisky

  1. G-LO says:

    Great stuff Rob! I’m proud to say that I have had numerous positive interactions with two of the people mentioned (do I need to name names? heh) in this article and I wish the other two great success. While I’m no fan of the Rocky films (being that I grew up in South Philly, this gets me into trouble!), you just gotta love the underdog!


  2. Rob says:

    Thank you! Yes; there are so many wonderful people I’ve been able to meet in the whisky and writing world, including a beer-drinking Phillie!

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