Your best writing is always about the things you hold dear. Oh, sure, you can rant and hate on something and get a good funny article or poem but it all runs out after a while- and often the haters are using the tool they hold dear- words and rhymes- as the 'subject'- but in the end cleverness devours itself and leaves that monotonous dulled feeling behind. Whereas resonant images are the gift that keeps giving. When you hold something dear you can return again and again for inspiration and material. Get used to thinking and identifying 'stuff you love'. Become like a foodie with their somewhat over the top interest in flavours and ingredients- search out the good stuff. And much of it will be in your past- places you have seen and people met and things experienced. Or it could be a story or image from a book or movie that has simply grown over the years incubating in your noddle waiting to be used. Cultivate these images, work on them, play with them: they are the essential building blocks of the dream that becomes your book, story, novel, film.
When you want to write you often use only the surface of your mind. You might imagine you are connecting to what others want or are interested in but you are really only connecting in a superficial way. You need to gain access to the resonant images that lurk - not beneath- but off to the side somewhere- somewhere warm, unrushed, with a direct line to what you hold dear. Our resonant images almost chose us, and it doesn't matter a jot if you chose to think about them like this. But if you use them to steer by your writing will suddenly be relevant and connected in a real way to what the world wants and does.
People have a good idea and they immediately want to either join an organisation or start one. Or they want to start connecting with people by writing blogs, articles or posting on facebook, making podcasts, writing books. I’m no different, periodically I imagine building a worldwide network of like minded people doing my bidding by remote control with annual conferences in palm springs or some other natty resort…but this is the way the world works- meaning everything from the Ford motor corporation to Billy Graham to the scientologists to Oxford University…in other words there is enough of this stuff going on already. No need to start another one- because the fact that something is an institution- a power structure- far outweighs the differences between it and other institutions. Am I really suggesting there is no difference between an august university and a nutty religious cult and a maker of fine automobiles. Well, kind of. People talk about changing the world- well that’s how you change it- through institutional amplification of usually a single person’s relentless singlemindedness. The world is changed- but it isn’t. It’s just different. And that world changer just gets disillusioned and goes off like Che to die in Bolivia repeating their earlier triumphs. The desire to change the world is not really a worldly impulse, it is really a desire to break through to some dimly perceived parallel reality, another world, or a world behind this world, that only tangentially connects at certain bridging points. A world suspected by many. Of course this transcendental impulse is very easily perverted by desire for attention, wealth and power- hence all the half cocked ‘doing good’ organisations that end up doing the reverse of their original intention. Or doing something but not quite the grand thing they had in mind and still not quelling the original impulse- which can only be served by looking for those bridges and not assuming you can build one or repair a broken one.
I read today of a man who predicts we will all become brains uploaded to software living in a world of robots...and people in merely human bodies will be marginalised. Apparently he has paid to have his brain cryogenically stored- frozen- until this great development happens. What happens if the brain freezer company goes bust? This happened and a lot of would-be supermen lost their chance. But what interested me is that this futurist believs he has constructed his model of the future using basic science and common sense...
It's a tricky word nowadays. It used to mean...common sense. Now it can be code for right wing politics, lack of empathy, lack of perception- the very opposite of what it originally meant. Quite a few sophisticated people sneer at the very idea of common sense; strangely these people are also the ones most likely to embrace the idea that we are 'all equal'. They think that the term has become hopelessly hijacked but still people use it, less sophisticated more common people perhaps.
Mostly it now means- 'what I find obvious'.
Maybe a word that still finds common support is 'sane'. Obviously a man who thinks the world is going to end up like the matrix but without even the dance rave in Sion is not quite sane- however much he thinks he has common sense.
People want their kids to grow up sane with the ability to regain sanity quickly after the inevitable upendings life provides. Do sane people have common sense- yes, the old style low key version that stops you from completely falling on your face.
If common sense is used to support extremism it becomes uncommon sense. It may even be right- fleeing Hitler's germany in 1933 probably looked a bit extreme to most people- but it was uncommon sense.
Regain sanity quickly, use common and uncommon sense.
Beginner's Mind is a zen concept referring to the unsullied state of mind, not riven by greed, ambition and imagination, a mind fully plugged in to just LEARNING. It's the mind of someone beginning a study of something- they don't know enough to start 'criticising' and taking a stance on things. But very shortly they will get sucked in to all the politics and received opinions that surround every subject from flower arranging to...writing.
This course- 23 and 24 July 2016 in Bridport, Dorset, UK aims to send the participants back to that earlier stage, before they even thought about writing or being a writer, maybe back to the first words they ever wrote- strangely enough mine were pure fiction 'On Saturday I went fishing with my Dad.' Only years later did I actually go fishing with my Dad - but then I find fiction writing can very often be a kind of precognition- yet another example of the varied and strange powers of Beginner's Mind. And maybe not that USEFUL, however, what is, is the ability to scythe away all the accumulated detritus that drags your pure and powerful creativity down.
If you suspect there is a lion caged within you waiting to explode with creative energy, the exercises and experiences of Beginner's Mind wiritng course may be for you.
More information at Bridportwriting.co.uk
How were the towns and cities of the UK affected by the calamity that became known as The Great War? The Military Publishers, ‘Pen and Sword’, have addressed this issue in an illuminating series including the recent ‘Salisbury in the Great War’ by Neil G M Hall. Thoroughly researched with startling illustrations, interviews with surviving family members – one lady still lives on her own in the house where she was born in 1912 - and drawing on vividly documented records Hall plots the impact of an industrial war upon a sleepy cathedral city. As expected there was much pathos. The mother who advertises locally in an endeavour to find her soldier son only to discover that he is dead – killed in the Gallipoli campaign – is just one example. There is disaster as successful businesses crumble but dollops of humour too. In what circumstances did a very young publican’s daughter learn to sing “Mademoiselle from Armentières”? Interesting – and the reference to why the local fish-and-chip-man escaped conscription lightens the load as does the trial of the animal trainer accused of thrashing his chimpanzee. Did he? Hall invites the reader to discover for himself. Hall also poses a mystery. How did a Canadian’s mascot bear morph into a world famous children’s hero? ‘The war invisibly regulated our lives‘, so wrote a Salisbury resident. Away from the trenches Hall’s skills draw the read into a wider understanding, not of battles and conflict, but the wider effect of war.
ISBN – 10 1473843731
ISBN - 13 978 - 1473843738