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What the Call in Mythology Means to Your Life Now

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How to Write Fiction

A story starts with an image.

Any image will do as long as it gets you jazzed. I was thinking I had nothing to write about, and then just now I realized I’ve had this image swirling around my head for several months. I think the reason I repressed it is that didn’t respect it. It’s not literally fantastical, but it has a lot of magical fairy dust in its feel, in the feelings swirling around it. A sort of Disney, bubble-gum, cheesiest of romantic comedy element, that made me dismiss it out of hand. The last image that drove me to write a novel and several associated short stories a couple years ago was solidly based in realism, and so I guess I never took this one seriously.
But what does it matter as long as it gets you jazzed enough to sit down and start writing? You only need a way in. Can you imagine, for instance, if you’d had the original idea for Harry Potter? And then telling your friends about it before it had been written? They’d have been positively embarrassed for you! So, throw all judgment out the window especially if you have an image that gets you jazzed.

CRAFT

I mean if you can afford to go to Iowa or audit a college level fiction writing class that would be great, but I think that 90% of it is just reading, reading, reading—any and all of the fiction you can get your hands on, breathing it in like air, soaking it in like sunshine. And then interviews with successful fiction writers on the nitty gritty of their process. And then the other part is simply putting your butt in a chair. How many hours did you have your butt in a chair last week writing? That’s a key question. An image is a huge motivator. There might be one or several swirling around your head even as you read this that you haven’t been acknowledging. Go with it. It’s Hermes appearing in your mind. It’s the magical aid of fairytales showing up to guide you, to sustain you. Even if you’re having to work odd, dull jobs to support yourself your subconscious will be working on it all the while.

Stephen King as Your Guide

Both for craft and philosophy. I think the only way I finished my novel in 2017 was because I kept searching and watching Stephen King interviews and talks on Youtube. For sure his philosophy about writing fiction made it one of the most exciting adventures of my life. It was positively fun. I couldn’t wait to wake up the next day and see what was going to happen! They way he approaches it makes it so much fun that the only downside was I was kicking myself for not having found it years before when I could have really made a career out of it. Here’s an excerpt from his book On Writing that contains all these ideas too. I’d highly recommend it, although hearing him actually speak about it in the Youtube videos conveys that enthusiasm and confidence that will really spark you. Here’s the excerpt that will give you a taste of the philosophy:

In my view, stories and novels consist of three parts: narration, which moves the story from point A to point B and finally to point Z; description, which creates a sensory reality for the reader; and dialogue, which brings characters to life through their speech.
You may wonder where plot is in all this. The answer — my answer, anyway — is nowhere. I won’t try to convince you that I’ve never plotted any more than I’d try to convince you that I’ve never told a lie, but I do both as infrequently as possible. I distrust plot for two reasons: first, because our lives are largely plotless, even when you add in all our reasonable precautions and careful planning; and second, because I believe plotting and the spontaneity of real creation aren’t compatible. It’s best that I be as clear about this as I can — I want you to understand that my basic belief about the making of stories is that they pretty much make themselves. The job of the writer is to give them a place to grow (and to transcribe them, of course). If you can see things this way (or at least try to), we can work together comfortably. If, on the other hand, you decide I’m crazy, that’s fine. You won’t be the first.
When, during the course of an interview for The New Yorker, I told the interviewer (Mark Singer) that I believed stories are found things, like fossils in the ground, he said that he didn’t believe me. I replied that that was fine, as long as he believed that I believe it. And I do. Stories aren’t souvenir tee-shirts or GameBoys. Stories are relics, part of an undiscovered preexisting world. The writer’s job is to use the tools in his or her toolbox to get as much of each one out of the ground intact as possible. Sometimes the fossil you uncover is small; a seashell. Sometimes it’s enormous, a Tyrannosaurus Rex with all those gigantic ribs and grinning teeth. Either way, short story or thousand-page whopper of a novel, the techniques of excavation remain basically the same.
No matter how good you are, no matter how much experience you have, it’s probably impossible to get the entire fossil out of the ground without a few breaks and losses. To get even most of it, the shovel must give way to more delicate tools: airhose, palm-pick, perhaps even a toothbrush. Plot is a far bigger tool, the writer’s jackhammer. You can liberate a fossil from hard ground with a jackhammer, no argument there, but you know as well as I do that the jackhammer is going to break almost as much stuff as it liberates. It’s clumsy, mechanical, anticreative. Plot is, I think, the good writer’s last resort and the dullard’s first choice. The story which results from it is apt to feel artificial and labored.
I lean more heavily on intuition, and have been able to do that because my books tend to be based on situation rather than story. Some of the ideas which have produced those books are more complex than others, but the majority start out with the stark simplicity of a department store window display or a waxwork tableau. I want to put a group of characters (perhaps a pair; perhaps even just one) in some sort of predicament and then watch them try to work themselves free. My job isn’t to help them work their way free, or manipulate them to safety—those are jobs which require the noisy jackhammer of plot—but to watch what happens and then write it down.
In my view, stories and novels consist of three parts: narration, which moves the story from point A to point B and finally to point Z; description, which creates a sensory reality for the reader; and dialogue, which brings characters to life through their speech.
You may wonder where plot is in all this. The answer — my answer, anyway — is nowhere. I won’t try to convince you that I’ve never plotted any more than I’d try to convince you that I’ve never told a lie, but I do both as infrequently as possible. I distrust plot for two reasons: first, because our lives are largely plotless, even when you add in all our reasonable precautions and careful planning; and second, because I believe plotting and the spontaneity of real creation aren’t compatible. It’s best that I be as clear about this as I can — I want you to understand that my basic belief about the making of stories is that they pretty much make themselves. The job of the writer is to give them a place to grow (and to transcribe them, of course). If you can see things this way (or at least try to), we can work together comfortably. If, on the other hand, you decide I’m crazy, that’s fine. You won’t be the first.
When, during the course of an interview for The New Yorker, I told the interviewer (Mark Singer) that I believed stories are found things, like fossils in the ground, he said that he didn’t believe me. I replied that that was fine, as long as he believed that I believe it. And I do. Stories aren’t souvenir tee-shirts or GameBoys. Stories are relics, part of an undiscovered preexisting world. The writer’s job is to use the tools in his or her toolbox to get as much of each one out of the ground intact as possible. Sometimes the fossil you uncover is small; a seashell. Sometimes it’s enormous, a Tyrannosaurus Rex with all those gigantic ribs and grinning teeth. Either way, short story or thousand-page whopper of a novel, the techniques of excavation remain basically the same.
No matter how good you are, no matter how much experience you have, it’s probably impossible to get the entire fossil out of the ground without a few breaks and losses. To get even most of it, the shovel must give way to more delicate tools: airhose, palm-pick, perhaps even a toothbrush. Plot is a far bigger tool, the writer’s jackhammer. You can liberate a fossil from hard ground with a jackhammer, no argument there, but you know as well as I do that the jackhammer is going to break almost as much stuff as it liberates. It’s clumsy, mechanical, anticreative. Plot is, I think, the good writer’s last resort and the dullard’s first choice. The story which results from it is apt to feel artificial and labored.
I lean more heavily on intuition, and have been able to do that because my books tend to be based on situation rather than story. Some of the ideas which have produced those books are more complex than others, but the majority start out with the stark simplicity of a department store window display or a waxwork tableau. I want to put a group of characters (perhaps a pair; perhaps even just one) in some sort of predicament and then watch them try to work themselves free. My job isn’t to help them work their way free, or manipulate them to safety—those are jobs which require the noisy jackhammer of plot—but to watch what happens and then write it down.
The situation comes first. The characters—always flat and unfeatured, to begin with—come next. Once these things are fixed in my mind, I begin to narrate. I often have an idea of what the outcome may be, but I have never demanded of a set of characters that they do things my way. On the contrary, I want them to do things their way. In some instances, the outcome is what I visualized. In most, however, it’s something I never expected. For a suspense novelist, this is a great thing. I am, after all, not just the novel’s creator but its first reader. And if I’m not able to guess with any accuracy how the damned thing is going to turn out, even with my inside knowledge of coming events, I can be pretty sure of keeping the reader in a state of page-turning anxiety. And why worry about the ending anyway? Why be such a control freak? Sooner or later every story comes out somewhere.

Stephen King’s On Writing (pages 163-165)

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What Joseph Campbell Meant by Following Your Bliss

Only work at something, only devote your career/life to something that gives you pleasure in and of itself [even the nitty gritty of the process lights you up] absent money or fame.

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Bucket List

The Faroe Islands — Just saw an article in the New York Times about them. Normally I wouldn’t think much of it especially with the location, but when I clicked on the photos attached to their Google maps presence I was astounded not just by their beauty. Lots of places have beauty in one way or another, but by the mythological nature of it.

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Golf Tips

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Rumi Quotes and Poems

This one makes me think of like the bodies’ organs, the intelligence of life itself which is below the pre-frontal cortex consciousness, but which has this ability to do, if you take it all the down to the quantum level, perhaps an infinite number of processes per second and seemingly without effort. This “without-effort” motif really makes me think a lot of the sub-conscious and especially of dreams. Especially in vivid adventurous dreams you are doing and experiencing so much, maybe 10 or 100x or what you have done even in your most amazing real-life adventures, yet your consciousness seems transported there without effort. If you think of fairy-tales and mythology in general this seems a very common and central motif.