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Old Computer Work Station

Working out a thorough understanding of my writing had the alchemical effect of illuminating and solidifying my entire worldview. (photo: Pdphoto)

From time to time, people ask me where I find so many and such varied post ideas. I always answer that I have been a steady reader for most of my life, and since 1990, I have had the habit of writing down my thoughts about whatever it is that I am reading. I also copy out a few quotes now and then. Over the years, those thoughts and quotes have accumulated in paper diaries, journals, notebooks, as well as their digital counterparts. Taken as a whole, they form a loosely structured representation of an ongoing attempt to understand the world around me and my own way of relating to it.

However, this is an incomplete answer. I am by nature a thinker, but I am also uniquely motivated. As a troubled manic-depressive, I spent years in painful cognitive behaviour therapy. My need to make sense of life is greater than most. Perhaps this above all made me more determined to fit everything together. That need also drove me to study particular subjects in a conscious effort to expand my awareness in certain key areas.

My blog posts attempt to present an integrated worldview composed of elements drawn from philosophy, creativity, psychology, and spirituality. Regrettably, a poorly organized collection of notes does not automatically translate into a coherent philosophy. A catalyst was required to fuse the disparate parts into the worldview I now present. The bulk of my more useful ideas come from a special project I launched in January 2005 as a way to gain a better understanding of my writing.

I had been writing on and off since the early nineties, yet, incredibly, in 2005 I was still vague about where it was going, what I was trying to accomplish, and what my work was really all about. Troubled by my lack of clarity, I worked out a plan aimed at firming up my nebulous conceptualization of myself as a writer. After due consideration of what I had written so far, I started with the premise that I was writing “spiritual” fantasies, but remained open to a significant perspective change. The word “spiritual” was not intended to suggest any religion of the organized kind.

Word did not have its wonderful navigation pane in those days so I set up a file using an application called TreePad with an eye to describing the project and tracking my progress through it. Notes (old and new) would drive everything, and TreePad was ideal for organizing them. I began by compiling non-fiction and fiction reading lists. The plan was to examine the lives and work of other writers who had earned – for various reasons – the title “spiritual writer.” I settled on the grand title, “The Spiritual Fantasy Research Project.” Fellow intellectual types will understand how happy I was!

As always happens with me, the original idea quickly began to grow in size, scope, and complexity. The more I read, thought, and made notes, the more I could see where I might profit from further explorations. I added extensions, planned detours, and revised timetables repeatedly. In March of 2007, I decided to read the many Gene Wolfe novels I had acquired and, while deeply immersed in that enjoyable experience, lost sight of the project of which they were a part. Explorations continued, but nothing made its way back to the dedicated project file. I was moving fast and winging it. Evolution had streamlined and focussed the process. Notes now sorted into an “insights file” and a more general “reading notes” file.

In May 2011, I decided to excavate the project’s original file from TreePad and bring it up to date in Word as a way of consolidating what has become the permanent process of trying to understand my efforts as a writer.

In June 2011, after a month spent struggling with the project’s large unruly file, I realized how much the work associated with the project’s purpose had come to influence the way I think about my writing and to dominate the overall direction in which I am going. Since the project’s inception in 2005, almost all of my online book purchases, most of my reading, and nearly all my note making have been related to the project. An integrative mindset was quickly established which remains in place to this day. While there is always more to learn, the project has already done its job. My concept of what I do has expanded, grown more sophisticated.

I now see my work as being as much philosophical and psychological as it is spiritual; for me the three things overlap and merge with creativity in an interconnected concern with inner resources, human values and behaviour, society, and – most important – wisdom.

I already knew that I write novels of ideas; it was easy to see that. I knew they had a somewhat philosophical slant or aspect. One of my works-in-progress has a huge and vexing “philosophy thread.” Now I know that I write serious quasi-literary philosophical fantasy and science fiction novels. I combine the spiritual and fantasy inclinations of authors such as C. S. Lewis, George MacDonald, and Charles Williams with the more rigorous thinking of philosophical writers like Ayn Rand, Albert Camus, and Jean-Paul Sartre. For good measure, I throw in some of John Cowper Powys’ lively interest in pagan belief systems.

All well and good, but here is the most interesting result: working out a thorough understanding of my writing had the alchemical effect of illuminating and solidifying my entire worldview.

In May of 2012, I began to expand some of my insights into posts for this blog.