I am a manic-depressive made philosophical by my long struggle with the disruptive mood disorder, during which I spent sixteen years living as a forest hermit. I write philosophical essays, fantasy, and science fiction. My attempt to integrate creativity, psychology, philosophy, and spirituality imbues everything I write. You will find hundreds of related essays and articles on my blog. I live quietly in British Columbia's scenic Fraser Valley, a beautiful place in which to wax philosophical.
I have been in psychotherapy for a very long time and have acquired a philosophical interest in some of the ideas behind the various psychological schools of thought. Inherent in them all is the concept of “liberating” the patient or client. I am sure no professional would ever put it this way, but psychologists are like the Allies storming ashore in Normandy to liberate Europe from the tyrant’s grip and restore democracy.
Psychotherapy seeks to liberate the sufferer from emotional pain thus restoring greater freedom of action. (Photo: Wikipedia)
No matter how one conceptualizes it, liberation implies some kind of oppressive situation from which the sufferer would like to be freed. Right away, we have a two-part scenario: the source of the oppression and the subject who suffers yet is not able (either from ignorance or incapacity) to do anything about the painful situation.
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, and the fact that I too wrestle with writing books and stories, prompted over two decades of reading literary biographies.
Lowry suffered from acute anxiety and had his most productive periods in a secluded squatters camp in Dollarton, British Columbia. (Photo: public domain)
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! 🙂
This is the award where other bloggers get to lay their claim on you!
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.
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.
Winter can be hard on hermit writers trying to live on the cheap. (Image: WPClipart)
Old ambitions of becoming a writer had resurfaced so, being essentially shipwrecked anyway, I decided to live off my savings and have a go at writing full-time. The 1990s proved chaotic and painful years for me, so much so that I was never able to finish anything, yet they “made” me as a writer. For years, I kept a diary of my struggles. Those of you who long to be a hermit – writers or otherwise – may romanticize such an existence, especially one lived in a beautiful semi-wilderness area teeming with wildlife, yet the lifestyle itself really is quite mundane. What matters is what you do with all the time. I invested mine in making Jung’s journey of individuation and learning how to write. These two immensely rewarding activities literally transformed my life.
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.
A reading diary can prompt powerful insights that enhance your understanding of the literary world and even life itself. Some of this blog’s posts are based on my own diary entries. (Image: Pixabay)
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. Not only will you reap the benefits I have already outlined, you will also find the steady stream of entries a natural form of rewarding writing exercise.
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. I have written in all these ways. You probably have too.
To take the next step in your writing project, you must be able to see the next step. Plans do work. (Image: Thomas Cotterill)
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.
Creative people do not always understand their own 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 that ideas and impulses seem to come from somewhere else or from someone other than the creators themselves. These individuals modestly assume that they could not possibly have come up with such impressive results on their own. For some, the source feels in some way divine and is presumed to lie with “the Muses” or with God. For others, the origin must lie in a mystically enhanced version of the unconscious mind. Both scenarios place the origin of creativity outside the conscious ego. The creator is just a channel.
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.
Rebecca West is perhaps H. G. Wells’ most famous lover. Their affair has been described as “explosive.” (Photo: public domain)
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.” Personally, I think that Wells was a bit schizoid about the issue of sensuality. At times he emits, as Dickson puts it when discussing The Sea Lady, “a low passionate cry of distress for beauty lost and pleasures forgone in the line of duty.” Dickson goes on to claim that for Wells, “to withstand the temptation to escape, to turn resolutely aside from desire, not to know the glorious swift rushing imaginative passion — that is the beginning of death in life.” Yet, as Dickson correctly points out, Wells sees only ruin in the pursuit of sensuality: “But the end of the escape is the death of hopes, ambitions, even life itself.” The idea that yielding to sensuality brings disaster originates in Wells’ failure to gain a science degree after falling in love – while still a student – with his cousin Isabel.
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.
Trees are a source of the mysterious quintessence, which is an externalization of the unconscious mind. (Image: Wikipaintings)
Most of us associate the practice of worshipping trees, or worshipping among trees, with the Celtic peoples of Western Europe. Tacitus (writing about Celts in his book Germania) says, “The Grove is the centre of their whole religion. It is regarded as the cradle of the race and the dwelling-place of the supreme god to whom all things are subject and obedient.”
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 relate to each other and to the work in its entirety. From the writer’s perspective, during the drafting or outlining process, intricacy has grown out of a relatively simple original conception.
Writers and readers see the intricacy, time duration, and pacing of a work of fiction quite differently. (Image: public domain.)