It took Will von Bolton eight years to write Loophole to Happiness, a 585-word book that mimics his philosophy, while he traveled in more than 30 countries as a tour and music photographer. Next month, he will travel alone around the country for three months as part of The Becoming Conscious Tour, a self-tour he calls “a quest to find the mind.”
The Becoming Conscious Tour is the continuation of the 10-year journey to develop a philosophy around the metaphor of a computer. Von Bolton says he will travel wherever the road takes him, meet people he encounters everywhere and document his experiences on camera.
“I’m going to be documenting my perspective on writing,” he says. “I’ve been shooting others for 25 years of my life, so now that I’m trying to turn the camera on myself, it’s been an incredible challenge.”
Von Bolton is a Dallas photographer, videographer and writer who specializes in capturing human interaction, storytelling and documenting. Since 2009 he’s toured with acts such as Jonathan Tyler and the Northern Lights, R5, Bowling for Soup, Leon Bridges and Jesse McCartney. In spring 2016 he finished writing his first book, Loophole to Happiness, which he says was mostly written in email form to himself during tours. Clovercroft Publishing published it Jan. 1.
Loophole to Happiness is an operating system for the mind and a philosophy that can be read in 10 minutes, von Bolton says. The completely white, travel-size, 150-page book contains two- to nine-word simple phrases such as “do yourself future favors” and “challenges increase value” that can reach anybody no matter their attention span.
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“The idea that we have this metaphor now, the computer, it’s never been there so we’ve never had the opportunity to write something like an operating system of your mind, which uses that entire concept that’s almost like a physics argument,” von Bolton says. “One line can change a life, a collection can reprogram it. If you do these things and combine these ideas, they’ll create a mind that is more efficient and I think that’s what happiness is; it’s the most efficient creature.”
About 400 copies of Loophole to Happiness have been sold since its release and about 700 more are out in circulation that von Bolton has given out.
Von Bolton has been writing obsessively since the book’s release. He has accumulated volumes of top-bound spiral notepads filled with scribbled notes that vary from daily to-do lists, drawings and diagrams, and thoughts. He also sold his possessions and turned his black Toyota Prius into a full office and living space.
“I like to be by myself when I work; I’m nomadic,” von Bolton says. “I’ve lived in Dallas for, like, 15 years, but now I just go all over the place when I’m not touring.”
Von Bolton traces the start of his career to Belton, a small Central Texas town where he grew up on a ranch. He was captain of the drumline in high school and later played drums for a metal rock band called Greatness in Tragedy, whose first show in Dallas was at the Curtain Club.
“I wouldn’t be here if I wouldn’t have said yes to being in that band," he says.
In 2008, after landing in Dallas, where he worked at a studio filming mini-documentaries about local musicians, 25-year-old von Bolton was introduced to marijuana.
“I started seeing music,” he says. “That whole thing where you start mixing your senses together and experiencing just life and thinking and all these things, I started going home and really figuring out how I could channel these.”
Von Bolton turned to writing with this newfound enlightenment, writing down every thought on notepads, in emails and in the shower using Crayola markers — where he came up with the title, Loophole to Happiness. His obsessiveness with the subject bordered on manic, making him believe that with his new knowledge he could write “the next bible.”
“I know it’s taboo, still, to say those things. Whenever I had these ideas, the only words that were appropriate were biblical-scale words,” says von Bolton, who grew up as a Methodist. “I just started rambling about how I wrote the next bible [and] for some reason people thought I was crazy. Those words are like firewall words. If I say, ‘Here this is the next bible,’ it’s incredibly retro productive.’”
Von Bolton’s marriage with his then-wife, Veda, a model he had met shortly after starting the book, became strained when he began experimenting with psychedelic mushrooms and losing touch with reality. By their fourth anniversary the couple was divorced. Some quotes in the book such as, “do not let emotions direct reason” and “forgive for you” were based on his divorce.
He receives dozens of messages from readers about how quotes like those and others have helped them overcome similar challenges in their lives.
“I wrote this very selfishly for myself, but I feel like I wrote it in a way that other people can relate to,” von Bolton says. “It’s almost like a really complicated magic 8-ball. It feels like you read the ones you’re supposed to read when you see it.”
During the time von Bolton landed a gig photographing and touring with R5, a pop band made up of Disney star Ross Lynch and his siblings. In the span of two years, he traveled to 38 countries documenting the energy exchange between a pop star and 10,000 fans, life backstage and relationships, he says. Fans of R5 even recognized him on tour and have created fan pages and fan fiction stories based on him. Lynch, who has one of the first drafts of Loophole to Happiness, says von Bolton helped him start his mental exploration.
Von Bolton says he had put so much into writing Loophole to Happiness that he found himself completely broke when it was finally released, something he didn’t know how to deal with.
“It’s beautiful now because as I release this book about happiness, I am just all fucked up, and it gives me the opportunity to be patient zero to my own work," he says.
Von Bolton’s No. 1 suggestion to people going through a hard time is to write those things down on paper. He says writing has become one of the most beautiful things in his life because it gives him the opportunity to articulate feelings and thoughts and share them with others.
“You can look at it five minutes later and it looks like you can read it as a slightly different person," von Bolton says.
Traveling also helps von Bolton articulate perspective and inspires him to write. In his notepad he has drawn a picture of people on a road and on top of a building, a metaphor that explains why he likes to move around.
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“Imagine if you lived your entire life on this road right here … that’s your only perspective and everyone’s only perspective,” he says. “But then you go up to the top of a building once and then you come back down and it changes your life forever. You start telling everyone about this beauty you just saw.”
Von Bolton is currently writing his next book, Thought Wave, which he says is the first applications of the principles of being human.
“There are no adjectives,” he says. “Happiness is the most abstract word in the book.”
To help von Bolton with his travels, he has set up The Becoming Conscious Collective that will allow him to develop ideas while sharing his perspective, according to his website. Collective members can sign up to donate monthly fees and receive access to benefits, including his notes in real time, T-shirts, copies of Loophole to Happiness, the vinyl audiobook and much more.