Some Personal Thoughts on the Life of Malcolm Lowry

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Malcolm Lowry and his shack in 1940s Dollarton

Lowry suffered from acute anxiety and had his most productive periods in a secluded squatters camp in Dollarton, British Columbia.

Introduction

Finding out roughly what kind of person you truly are is the starting point of self-understanding. Many years ago, I discovered that troubled writers are the people who most resemble me – or whom I most resemble. I may also be like other kinds of disturbed people, but they remain largely invisible while published writers leave behind a readable and illuminating record of their emotional and psychological struggles. My discovery, Continue reading

Loyal Reader Award

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Loyal Reader Award Logo

This is the award where other bloggers get to lay their claim on you!

My friend Lucinda Elliot has nominated me for the Loyal Reader Award, a singular blessing bestowed for being a good boy and showing up to read her blog posts on a regular basis. I should have asked for Air Miles! 🙂

Seriously, I enjoy the Sophie de Courcy blog very much, and recommend it to enthusiasts of either Gothic or romance novels. A big thank you for the nomination, Lucinda. You are ever a good friend and always worth reading. Continue reading

A Day in the Life of a Hermit Writer

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Log Cabin in Winter Wind

Winter can be hard on hermit writers trying to live on the cheap. (Image: WPClipart)

I suffer from manic-depressive illness. In the early nineties, I was newly diagnosed and recovering from a complete nervous breakdown. A few years earlier, realizing I had a terrible problem, but not knowing its true nature, I had taken refuge in a shack near a 10,000-acre tree farm that bordered the British Columbia wilderness. All told, I was to spend sixteen years there, many of them in combative cognitive-behaviour therapy.

Old ambitions of becoming a writer had resurfaced Continue reading

Why You Should Keep a Reading Diary

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Reading a Book

A reading diary can prompt powerful insights that enhance your understanding of the literary world and even life itself. (Image: Pixabay)

Writers, and anyone else who takes reading seriously, should consider keeping a reading diary. It is amazing how such a diary can shake loose powerful insights that enhance your understanding of the literary world and even life itself. The steady accumulation of thoughts about books, writers, and ideas has a way of revealing your own innate philosophy of life and can become a treasure trove of material should the impulse strike to do some writing of your own.

I strongly urge young would-be writers to keep a record of their reading. Believe me; you will not regret the time and effort required. You probably toy with the idea from time to time already. Listen to yourself. Continue reading

Getting the Writing Done

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Plan to Succeed

To take the next step in your writing project, you must be able to see the next step. Plans do work. (Image: Thomas Cotterill)

All wannabe authors must learn not only how to write but how to get the writing done. Surprisingly, the latter is often the harder struggle. Books about writing technique and internet sites with writing tips are abundant and easy to understand. If you have the time and resources, there are many formal writing courses available. Most people develop the basic skills simply by writing something on a regular basis. Almost anything will do: an habitually kept diary or journal, chaotically produced draft versions of assorted incomplete works, or copious entries in notebooks meant to be useful (i.e. coherent and readable) later on. Continue reading

Understanding Your Creativity

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When Inspiration Strikes

Creative people do not always understand their own creative process.

Being intensely creative can be an intoxicating experience. Consequently, there is a tendency among creative individuals to conceptualize the process in ways that are not realistic. These false theories usually fall into one of two categories. In either case, the error gets in the way of developing a true (and therefore more useful) understanding of the creative process.

Mystics, poets, and artists of all kinds can sometimes come to believe that their creativity (or inspiration) is not their own. That is, the creative process can seem so remarkable and astonishing Continue reading

H. G. Wells’ Universal Struggle with Sensuality

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Rebecca West

Rebecca West is perhaps H. G. Wells’ most famous lover. Their affair has been described as “explosive.”

H. G. Wells was a sensual man whose taste for young women got him into trouble on a number of occasions. His famous and explosive affair with journalist and author Rebecca West is only one of many such adventures. Being an intelligent man, Wells was aware of the price he paid for these extra-marital indiscretions, yet he continued with them throughout his life.

Biographer Lovat Dickson writes that Wells’ struggles with sensuality ended up in his novels: “the anguish of the sensual man who has to conform to the hard rigour of life.” Continue reading

The Unconscious Mind Is the Human Quintessence

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Painting of a sacred grove with ceremony in progress

Trees are a source of the mysterious quintessence, which is an externalization of the unconscious mind. (Image: Wikipaintings)

The concept of “the quintessence” has more than one historical root. Here I will deal with the one that really does have roots, the one that involves sacred trees. It may seem strange that people once considered certain trees (and by extension, groves) sacred, yet there is a simple logic to the belief and – not surprisingly – a link to modern psychology.

Most of us associate the practice of worshipping trees, or worshipping among trees, with the Celtic peoples of Western Europe. Continue reading

Dealing with Intricacy, Time, and Pace in Fiction

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Man and woman at centre of a spider web with a clock-face overlay

Writers and readers see the intricacy, time duration, and pacing of a work of fiction quite differently.

Simplicity and Intricacy in Fiction

Whether we write extempore or develop an outline, writers discover what happens next in the plot. Along the way, we discover unexpected aspects of our characters. This is why we need not worry about those dreaded “cookie cutter” stereotypes. With some sense of plot and characters, we go on to learn how our story material or idea works as a whole. We can see how portions of the story Continue reading

The Desire for an Idealized Self

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C. S. Lewis

The case of C. S. Lewis reveals that the desire for a splendid false self leads to self-alienation.

Both the religiously inclined and secular types strive to acquire a splendid false self. Between the two groups, the terminology may differ, but the game remains the same.

English author and academic C. S. Lewis (The Chronicles of Narnia) experienced a sudden religious conversion while still a young man. He went on to become one of the 20th century’s best-known religious writers at a time when faith – in Europe, at least – was decidedly on the wane. Whatever one might say about his beliefs, Lewis is a superb example of how a skilled writer can win a following and find substantial success by going against the dominant trend. Conservative writers take note. Continue reading