plot, psychology, purpose, stoicism, Uncategorized, wisdom, writing

The Ten Perfections Applied To Writing

 

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So, if you’re a long term reader of the blog, then you might be aware that I am interested in spirituality. I’m not a magician or anything like that, but I do take an interest in certain philosophies, mainly Eastern but I do appreciate stoicism and have been reading Marcus Aurelius and Seneca but the one set of tenets that I do return to quite often is Buddhism. I like it’s rooted in human behaviours, that there’s no external deity to worship and I draw comfort from the attempt to aspire to an ideal. There are buddhist bigots out there, Myanmar is a sad example of such but nothing and no one is perfect, which Buddhism allows for. I also like Taoism and Zen as well, most religions are fascinating to me, and there are rich seams of poetry and sensuality within each of them.

So, I have been listening to an audiobook by Jack Kornfield which talks about The Ten Perfections, virtues of the religion, all delivered in his soft, warming voice, interspersed with parables, jokes and illuminating stories. I would recommend it to anyone, regardless of faith because there is a lot you can learn from considered and informed voices without a dog in the fight.

I thought about how it would apply to the practice of writing and how they might be intertwined with the Ten Perfections. Here are five or so, that might be interesting.

Equanimity – A balanced, even mind applies in respect of how you portray your characters. If you can understand that no one considers themselves a villain, that ‘good’ people are flawed and duplicitous without diminishing their goodness. Establishing and practicing this is a good way to achieve depth in your stories.

Compassion – Unsentimental is the caveat here. You show your love for the characters by making them suffer, setting them challenges between them and their goals. Their reaction, their desire is what fuels the engine of your story.

Generosity – To yourself, in terms of caring for you, physically and emotionally is a form of generosity. When you’re giving everything away, be sure to keep something for yourself in order to maintain and empower yourself. In terms of your writing, take delight in what you are creating, it’s the cheapest form of entertainment to tell yourself a story and yet the most powerful. Be generous to your characters in how you tell their story, protagonist and antagonists alike.

Morality – Your passion and genuine emotion are what will draw the reader in and keep them there. We can forgive clumsy writing, inconsistent plotlines and bad cover art if we sense that we are reading something genuine and heartfelt. Your morality informs your writing, either in opposition or consolidation. Explore that on the page – write about a homophobic nurse forced to care for a dying gay man, or a white nationalist who finds themselves working alongside a Puerto Rican. Depending on your point of view, try to explore different viewpoints with the same passion and insight that you would confirm your own.

Renunciation – I characterise this as the fear of missing out or chasing trends in writing. Renounce the voices of others only when you have found yours, be the best version of you on the page that you can be. Don’t be JK Rowling or Stephen King, they’re already out there and they got there through hard work , luck and determination. Be the best version of you. It can also refer to the discipline of a writing practice, or making sure that you read more, and to do so consciously.

           Wisdom – Your life is source material. If not the objective experiences, then the emotions that you have experienced or the things that you have learned from them. The life you have lived and live has all the colours you need to paint a masterpiece, sometimes you will need blend colours and nuances to get the shade that you need. You have lived, and learned, the difficult part is in the translation sometimes. Imagination is that path, but it is the wisdom of experience that will give you the strength to walk along it.

 Effort. There is the effort required to write, or develop a sustainable practice of writing and maintain it. There is the effort required to research and improve your craft, the effort to read rather than watch television or play videogames. There is the determination to market your work as well. Effort is important to the development of an approach to writing.

 Patience. Writing for a reply to an email that may offer success or feedback. Replies to enquiries or about submissions that seem to take their sweet time in arriving. Seeing people get deals, retweeting fan art and glowing reviews whilst you’re still waiting to find out if what you’ve written is actually any good. Patience is important but do not be passive about it. Work on your material, seek to improve in some small way to ensure that the time spent in patient anticipation was not wasted.

Truthfulness. Honesty on the page is everything. Yes, writing is a series of entertaining lies interspersed with truth. Tell the truth through the observations and actions of your characters. It is free therapy, and earnest, unvarnished truth resonates with readers in a way that the most elegant, glorious language never could. If it is uncomfortable, keep a straight face and say that it is just fiction. Stick a hobbit or a ninja in there to distract them. Yes, you’re making things up and having a fine time doing it but hold some measure up to the light of the truth within and about yourself.

Determination. Better work than yours will be ignored, lesser works than yours will be feted and celebrated. Some people will do less to get further and faster than you. Your work will sometimes feel like a trudge through a muddy path. Your family will demand more of your attention, at exactly the point that your second act falls to shit and phone calls will interrupt your most sublime reveries. This is where determination comes in. It applies regardless of whether writing is a hobby or a career for you. A strange fact is that the more effort you put into something, the better you will get and then your enjoyment of the hobby will gain depth and find new meaning. There’s something almost perverse in developing a level of aptitude for no other reason than your own pleasure. We’re encouraged to get better for the salary increase, the title but when we do it for the soul’s reward, there is something truly sublime in that.

When your heart is breaking, writing makes sense. It takes determination to write through your pain but it makes it easier to bear it all.

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ambition, blogging, books, craft, creative writing, creativity, editing, emotion, empowerment, hunger, inspiration, plot, process, reading, Two Pages, Uncategorized, writing

Two Pages (03/10/16)

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Yesterday was a major sprint in times of development of my writing projects. I had not intended to finish the notes on Until She Sings, but between Saturday night and Sunday morning, I had gotten ahead of myself and completed the work. Lawful Evil gets worked on daily, and even that warranted three pages. I just did two this morning, and put together some notes for a short story that I plan on submitting to an anthology. I’m waiting on whether one of my stories has been accepted for a charitable anthology at the moment but I keep putting work out there, because to me, that’s how you improve and develop.

So, to counter the slight malaise that comes from having finished something (yes I do get them because I know that if I gave into the impulse to keep writing all the time, then the work gets thin and inconstant. Know when to walk away hungry) I spent the afternoon reading. Marcus Aurelius, which is chockful of wisdom but not an immediate read. I find a degree of comfort and solace in stoicism, it’s a useful way to approach things in life. I then watched Robin Hood Prince of Thieves, purely for Alan Rickman, who managed to steal every scene he was in. I also dipped into a novella that I am reading for a review on Goodreads.

The time spent, although not actual writing, was still writing. I thought through the next couple of pages of Lawful Evil, the scene structure and how I could tackle the next challenges. I understand myself enough to know that when I can’t write, I can work. I am productive, focused and conscientious about the writing. I perhaps, don’t know how to market myself all that well, but that’s okay. DaVinci couldn’t tap dance, Prince couldn’t direct. There are all things we should be doing but don’t because we lack confidence or experience.  I want the focus to be on the work, rather than me and until I have paid work to show, it would be. Unless I do hashtag choked articles about finding your characters out and twee, little missives which imply I am vastly more experienced than I am. Encouragement is like cake, which most people love but too much of it makes you ill and incapable of doing anything with any degree of achievement or clarity.

General rule of thumb, if someone presents themselves as an authority on something – check to see if they’ve done it or talked about it. The difference is telling. I include Robert McKee in that, and I regularly return to Story for advice on structure and storytelling.

Lawful Evil has been a challenge simply due to my adherence to a project that has conventional scenes and challenges that I haven’t written before. My sucking at it is par for the course, but I’ve failed on similar challenges, learned lessons from them and applied those to the current project with varying degrees of success. It isn’t to say that I am unhappy with the work, just a vague sense of not nailing it. Then, I tell myself that this is an exploratory draft and I can fix what I fail at later.

Ah, the relief of process.

Until She Sings – well I am going to continue combing through that, ahead of any suggestions by my agent, because it shows due diligence on my part and also it stops me getting irritated with little faux pas that I see online, and probably annoy me out of all proportion to the effort made in the first place.

Fuck it.

I loathe the following practices of mainly self published authors –

Auto Direct Messages. I guarantee if you do this, I won’t read your book. If it’s good, I will on point of principle, avoid it. You could email me to ask me instead, tweet and ask for someone to read it and review, those are perfectly acceptable. It’s rude and ugly marketing, it shows a failure to understand that although we are all sold to, and selling to one another, don’t make it obvious.

I had a DM once that read:

I’d drink bleach to get you to check out the free sample of my book. Don’t make me do it! Click it:

No, I’m not providing the click. I even asked if, in return, they’d consider RTing a blog post, after all you’re turning up uninvited and I don’t see why I shouldn’t ask for something in return, seeing as you think it’s perfectly acceptable to put that image in my head.

No response.

Good marketing, if you really need it, offers something interesting.

Even Chuck Palahniuk did it when raising money for Lullaby. That knocked me for six, because I would have thought he wouldn’t have needed to. It’s a fart in a can, when you open it, it stinks and you don’t want to open anything else by that brand. It’s an automatic unfollow.

If your twitter feed is nothing but promotional tweets for your book, scabs of hashtags and Follow Friday then you’re getting muted at best. I like Twitter when it’s interesting opinions, amusing memes and one liners but there’s a set of tools self published authors are using that feel desperate and tone deaf. I feel bad for saying this, because I’ve been there, I did it.

It doesn’t work for me. I consider other people’s feelings too much. I like people to be interesting, who have opinions and feelings about things. I follow a guy called Troy Blackford who posts ordinary tweets – books he’s read, films he’s into, sharing things he’s excited about. I downloaded the anthology he edits, Robbed of Sleep and even submitted to it.

Funny how that works, isn’t it?

Thank you for reading. Please leave comments, thoughts and questions below.

 

 

 

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beauty, book reviews, books, craft, creativity, culture, empowerment, freedom, friendship, inspiration, life, nature, passion, politics, psychology, purpose, reading, Uncategorized

Create Your Own Religion by Daniele Bolelli

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Synopsis:

CREATE YOUR OWN RELIGION is a call to arms — an open invitation to question all the values, beliefs and worldviews that humanity has so far held as sacred in order to find the answers we need to the very practical problems facing us.

Writer, philosopher and professor of comparative religion, Daniele Bolelli, leads the reader through three thousand years of mythology, misogyny, misinformation and the flat-out lies about revealed truth that continue to muddle our ability to live a peacefullife, free of guilt and shame and the ultimate fear of death.

Our worldviews are in desperate need of some housecleaning, says Bolelli. We enter the 21st century still carrying on our backs the prejudices and ways of thinking of countless pastgenerations. What worked for them may or may not still be of use, so it is our job to make sure to save the tools that can help us and let go of the dead weight. In CREATE YOUR OWN RELIGION, he examines a variety of answers pushed forth by many religions to address the key questions of human existence and, on the basis of this knowledge, he encourages us to come up with our own answers.

Irreverent and illuminating, CREATE YOUR OWN RELIGION challenges readers to re-examine what it means to be human and bring a better way of life into existence.

Atheists can be as intolerant and strident as fundamentalists. Thankfully Bolelli has such a warm and inclusive love of life, passion and humanity that he presents a call to arms that doesn’t lead to the guillotine or the rack, but to the sadly radical idea that we’re all on this planet together.

He writes with a musical sweetness, bringing together disparate ideas and stories that reveal the savage excesses and commonalities of fundamentalists as well as clear and cogent insights into a way forward for us. He’s too passionate and smart to punch ideas into us, rather he points out the flaws and encourages us all to forge our own relationships with the world around and within us. No cultist nonsense, no sticking the knife in, just a lot to think about and it was a pleasure to read this book. There’s enough there to make me ponder a few things, mostly that I’m grateful there are people like Bolelli around to put a hypothetical arm around us and reassure us that there is hope and joy in the world.

Also he quotes Tom Robbins, which is never a bad thing. Regardless of your religious persuasion, this is a great book that I would like to see better known. There’s a measure of partisanship that I think stands in the way of our collective evolution but thinkers like Bolelli offer another way, one where we can all be friends.

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Book Reviews – Consumed by David Cronenberg

I love his movies.

I liked his book.

It is a disturbing, technically detailed, visceral read. It manages to check off a range of taboo subjects, I learned about a few fetishes that I added to my mental list of things you never want your mum to google as well as some interesting ideas about consumerism and philosophy. It’s dense, uncomfortable and as I learned yesterday morning, not the book you want to read with your breakfast omelette.

I respected it rather than enjoyed it. Liked it rather than loved it.

It lacked a solid story. The details, the characterisation all were impeccable and he managed the trick of complex, selfish, damaged characters that were actual people rather than a collection of traits like a NPC in a role playing game really well. However, it ended really abruptly as though this were a misprint.

I respect Cronenberg immensely, I love that he’s captured his obsessions on paper and at 71, it saddens me that we won’t realistically get as large a body of work in print as we have in his films but this book is something to respect rather than love. Sure, it’s disturbing but there’s a ton of stuff out there that does that, written by hotel receptionists during quiet hours and gas station attendants at four in the morning. No, it’s David Fucking Cronenberg and he jobbed the ending. It frustrated me because it was damn near perfect at points, a chilly unnerving ride through the cold places in our culture and yet the ride stopped too early to appreciate it properly.

I am open to narrative experiments and the sheer freedom of formats in literature, but you finish what you start. This kind of shut off, like a child called in from playtime to eat. Shame, really as I was enraptured by it at points.

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It is a good viewpoint to see the world as a dream. When you have something like a nightmare, you will wake up and tell yourself it was only a dream.  It is said that the world we live in is not a bit different from this
Hakagure – The Book of the samurai

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On goodness

Concern is all the justification that is required, and refusing to do a finite amount of good because you cannot do an infinite amount of good is a morally perverse position.

Iain Banks

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Writing and the noble truths

I’ve never been more committed to writing than right now.  There is a detachment in much the same way that I am detached from my heart beat or my breath.  Whatever suffering comes with it, it’s small and it passes.  Yet the suffering itself, in the resistance that comes,  the austerities.

Remember the noble truths

There is suffering,  even in getting what you want.

The cause of suffering is the clinging of mind.

So i have a practice and a pragmatic approach to the writing as I do it.

The cessation of suffering lies in recognising impermanence. 

I have no idea whether I meet any notions of external quality but I keep practicing by doing.  Success is something I feel I’ve achieved by having written. 

I’ve let go of external notions although I write with an eye on and for my audience.  I love writing and having written. I write without any reward past the process itself. 

I offer up my experiences and insights without any expectations or assumptions of expertise only the desire to share having written. Also I want to show people who are either driven or looking to write some of the practices involved. 

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