Writing is the best therapy

Perhaps I overstate my case. If writing isn’t THE best therapy. It’s a very good one. And an excellent article at Harvard Business Review sheds some light on why.

I am not alone in believing that writing can have a stress reducing and revelatory effect. A research psychologist at the University of Texas, James Pennebaker, has conducted a number of controlled experiments that confirm the effectiveness of writing as a therapeutic tool. He found that writing about thoughts and feelings arising from a traumatic or stressful event—what he calls expressive writing—helped many people cope with the emotional fallout of the events, and they experienced less mental and physical damage in the long run.

Pennebaker also found that writing had long-term effects on diseases such as asthma, chronic fatigue syndrome, post-traumatic stress disorder, and arthritis. It turns out that when people write (or use dictation) approximately twenty minutes a day for three to four consecutive days (preferably at the end of the day), they will likely have fewer medical visits (half the rate of the people who don’t write or use dictation).

The Wave in the Mind by Ursula K Le Guin
The Wave in the Mind by Ursula K Le Guin

I worked with writing for many years in therapeutic settings, and can add some first hand observations on the therapeutic value of writing. Have you ever imagined a story in deep, immersive detail and then sat down to write it, only to find that all you have are a few shredded images and shades of emotion? (This is, incidentally, why writers learn to dream on the page, as dreaming done off it is largely wasted effort.) We’re wired to believe that our thoughts are whole and complete. But my experience is that our minds befuddle us with mere fragments of ideas. It’s only when you sit to write them down that the thoughts take on concrete form in words. Writing is, in the most literal terms, thinking.

The problem with those fragmentary, illusory thoughts is that the mind can turn them over and over forever without reaching any useful conclusion. If that’s true with stories, it’s twice as true with worries. Bad memories and fears for the future sit in our mind, half born, but filling us with anxiety. Which becomes stress. Which in turn becomes all of the chronic physical conditions noted above, and many more.

The act of writing our worries down forces them to take form. 9 times out of 10 we realise the worry has no form, or that missed essential facts make it irrelevant. Your mind is worrying on a trip to the dentist that will be terribly painful. When you write the worry down, you realise the dentist won’t hurt at all, and will actually relieve the pain you are already feeling. On the occasions the worry is real, writing it down can help place the problem in the context of our life as a whole, and achieve kinds of healing that are much harder when the fear is unexpressed.

All writing has therapeutic value, but sitting to write about traumatic experiences can be in itself traumatic.

You have to be careful about using the tool, however. Pennebaker cautions that writing about trauma may initially trigger temporary distress. He also emphasizes that the timing of the writing matters. Studies have shown that people who write about a traumatic event immediately after it has occurred may actually feel worse after writing about it, possibly because they are not yet ready to face it. Pennebaker advises his clients to wait at least one or two months after a traumatic event before writing about it.

Therapeutic writing is best done with some guidance from a fellow writer, or if alone, at a time and place where you can banish the negative emotions after you have raised them. I do my own writing practice in the early morning, when the clear light of a new day can burn away feelings of anger, hurt or other suffering that the “morning pages” might bring up.

Read more about writing and the art of creative recovery in the work of Julia Cameron or explore meditation and wordplay with Gail Sher’s One Contnuous Mistake

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Alan Watts on finding security in insecurity

Almost two years ago I ditched all my worldly goods, except for a backpack and a laptop, and went travelling. I suspect many people would assume an experience of that kind would be a little scary and make them feel rather insecure. But for me, the opposite is true. Getting rid of the physical possessions that most people rely on for a sense of security has made me feel much happier. But why?

Alan Watts was very close to my age of 37 when he published The Wisdom of Insecurity, the book that first brought him to widespread public attention. Today Watt’s philosophy of Zen buddhism and Eastern wisdom is more familiar, but in the first half of the 20th century, before the counter culture, his worldview was radically different from mainstream society.

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The Wisdom of Insecurity by Alan Watts

 

Most of us believe that we become more secure by protecting our self. The world, we believe, is an aggressive place, so the more we can separate our self from the world, the safer we will become. So we walls and houses, make laws, employ police and security guards and imprison people who break the rules. We separate ourselves from nature, and panic when dirt or insect life invade our artificial spaces. And we hoard things, we fill our houses with stuff because it makes us feel secure. And most of all, we crave money. We live our entire lives in relation to financial calculations of what will make us richer or poorer.

The irony, as Watt’s adroitly points out, is that the very things that make us feel secure, actually increase the risks and problems in our life. Cut off in our houses, watching our tvs, we lose the community, family and friendships that actually make us secure. Divorced from the natural world we plunge in to depression and behaviours like overeating, which create so many of the health  problems from heart disease to cancer that cripple our lives. We pursue money, but lose sight of real wealth. Our bank balances swell, but we miss all the experiences that make life valuable.

“the working inhabitants of a modern city are people who live inside a machine to be batted around by its wheels”

The wise alternative, as the title of Watt’s short book make clear,  is to actively choose insecurity. We’re actually more secure with fewer material possessions, because we are more flexible and better able to adapt to change. We are more secure living in a community than walled away from other people in our houses. We are more secure if money is distributed around the community, rather than hoarded by the most fearful individuals, so that no one is hungry or has reason to steal. These things seem obvious when considered openly. And yet we continue to repeat the same mistaken drive for security over and over again.

The Wisdom of Insecurity is a wonderful expression of Zen buddhist philosophy, addressed to the modern desire for security and the plague of anxiety that dogs modern life. Our material circumstances seem better than ever, and yet we live in states of anxiety that are barely comprehensible. Watt’s makes the cause of that anxiety blindingly clear, and his book is an essential read for anyone attempting to unpick their terror in the machinery of modern life.

“The externalised symbol of this way of thinking is that almost entirely rational and inorganic object, the machine, which gives us the sense of being able to approach infinity. For the machine can submit to strains far beyond the capacity of the human body. and to monotonous rhythms which the human being could never stand. Useful as it would be as a tool and a servant, we worship its rationality, its efficiency, and its power to abolish limitations of time and space, and thus permit it to regulate our ives. Thus the working inhabitants of a modern city are people who live inside a machine to be batted around by its wheels. They spend their days in activities which largely boil down to counting and measuring, living in a world of rationalised abstraction which has little relation to or harmony with the great biological rhythms and processes.” 

If you recognise yourself,  batted around by the machine’s wheels and pushed in to action by your iPhone status alerts, the The Wisdom of Insecurity is one step towards finding a different way of being.

Alan Watt’s Zen buddhist wisdom is matched by Thich Nhat Hanh’s five principle of spiritual power and the intelligent insights in to wholehearted living of Brene Brown.

The teachings of Alan Watts animated by the makers of South Park

Yes, the creators of South Park have given many gifts to the world. Now they’ve turned their attention to Buddhism and Zen philosopher Alan Watts by animating a selection of his teachings, in their usually hilarious and irreverent style. It’s wonderful. Press play and enjoy.

And match Watt’s spoken word with his written thoughts in The Way of Zen and This Is It.

Are video games the end for sci-fi novels?

The megastructure is one of science fiction’s most enjoyable guilty pleasures. There is no other genre of literature that takes quite such glee in describing buildings, whether made by the hand of man or alien. Arthur C Clarke’s Rendezvous With Rama is little more than a guided tour of the titular spacecraft through the eyes of its human explorers. Only in science fiction can an entire novel be dedicated, in immense descriptive detail, to conveying the spectacle of an imaginary structure to the reader.

SFs most famous megastructure is the ringworld, a stripe of artificially-constructed land encircling a star, first envisioned by author Larry Niven in his 1970 novel Ringworld. The idea made Niven one of the most famous SF authors of his day, at a time when the novel was still the most powerful way of casting the full spectacle of sci-fi into the imaginations of the audience. Movies and television reached a far larger audience, but too often fell short of the spectacle sci-fi readers created for themselves.

Read more.

The shitty #vatmoss laws mirror our shitty piracy laws

If you haven’t encountered it already #VATMOSS refers to a bloody awful new law passed by the European Union on the taxation via VAT of digital goods – which includes things like ebooks and online courses. The aim of the law is to stop Amazon and other big digital retailers from running all their VAT through Luxembourg and hence dodging taxes. The outcome – intended or otherwise – is that every single person or business selling any digital product to anyone in the EU has to register for VAT. A massive and expensive admin burden, so expensive it will stop most of those people trading.

Crappy huh? It’s certainly in the running for shittiest law ever written. There’s a petition to stop it here, you should go and sign it.

“All of us, us citizens of this world, need to get much better at seeing the big picture of laws made to govern digital technology.”

There is also a lesson to be taken from #VATMOSS, one we all need to start learning. In reality, unless tax authorities aggressively enforce these new laws, most people will ignore them. In this regard, #vatmoss is very similar to the current laws on digital file sharing, commonly called piracy. Potentially huge fines and prison sentences can be used against people who pirate digital goods, but because so many people do just that, in practice the laws are not enforced, except in largely futile “show cases” that inflict horrific damage on a few individuals, in defence of laws that no sane government would every pass, let alone enforce.

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Information Doesn’t Want To Be Free by Cory Doctorow

 

#VATMOSS and our piracy laws both exist for the same reason. The attempt to treat digital goods in the same way we treat physical goods. Everyone knows that digital goods AREN’T the same as physical goods, so why are our governments proceeding as though they are. In both cases it’s because of vested interests, who want to hold back progress to defend the status quo that happens to benefit them (and their bank balance).

Our piracy laws have been heavily lobbied for by media corporations, including major publishers. Those businesses have an established business model, and they want digital goods to fit in to it. Creators tend to support these laws. Most writers I know are against piracy, and consider it theft. There are notable exceptions of course. I’m quite outspoken in favour of file sharing. Not because I want to hurt the careers of writers, but because I want to see laws that are in line with reality. And the reality is digital music, films and books etc can and will always be shared and pirated by people. We need laws that work WITH those facts, not laws that IGNORE facts in favour of vested interests.

The facts are that millions of people now make small, or occasionally large, sums of money selling digital goods online. Making a law to make all of those people sign up for VAT in a dozens of countries is patently ridiculous. And yet, here we are. Because once again, our law makers are treating digital goods like physical goods. In the case of #VATMOSS this seems to be primarily a matter of ignorance, and governments who simply don’t understand that millions of their citizens are exercising their entrepreneurial talents and generating wealth by making and selling digital products. But I would not be surprised if any number of vested interests have nudged the #VATMOSS laws in their current absurd direction.

All of us, us citizens of this world, need to get much better at seeing the big picture of laws made to govern digital technology. I’ve offended no small number of my fellow writers by telling them bluntly I think they are selfish to support existing piracy laws. Yes, I understand the pain of people copying your books without paying. But that’s simply the world we live in now, and supporting laws that aren’t in line with that reality are not a solution. And in the mid to long term, it leads to laws like #VATMOSS, that most writers will be against. We all need to start prioritising the common good in digital law making, otherwise the digital commons will quickly be divided between more powerful vested interests.

Why has the imagination been sidelined in literature?

Imagination is a powerful force for progress. So why has it been sidelined in the one place it should be most welcome – literature.

In his now famous quote, Albert Einstein claimed that imagination was more important than knowledge. When Einstein wrote those words in 1929, those who knew about such things might have said putting a man on the moon was impossible. But those who imagined more, including writers of science fiction, knew better. We know that imagination is a powerful force for progress in our lives and in society. And yet it seems that in the place imagination should be most celebrated – in stories, fiction and literature – it has long been sidelined.

The Wave in the Mind by Ursula K Le Guin
The Wave in the Mind by Ursula K Le Guin

Ursula K Le Guin, arguably the greatest living writer of imaginative literature, made a powerful defence of imagination in her speech to the National Book Awards on Thursday, at which she was presented a lifetime achievement award. Le Guin dedicated her win to the “the realists of a larger reality” who for 50 years had been excluded from literature’s awards, her “fellow authors of fantasy and science fiction – writers of the imagination.”

It’s hard to dispute the exclusion of writers of imagination from mainstream literature, not simply from its prizes but from every part of literary culture. But why has this happened? The standard explanation draws on one part quality – genres like science fiction simply aren’t “well written” enough – and two parts the idea that imagination is in some way childish. Writers of imagination are fine when they address children and adolescents, but adults are meant to get their head out of the clouds and keep their feet firmly planted in reality.

This idea reaches further than literature of course. Over the same five decade period Le Guin references, our education system has systematically sidelined the imaginative disciplines of the arts and humanities, until we find ourselves at the position today where any non STEM subject has seen a de facto obliteration of its status and funding. That’s not a criticism of STEM subjects or their creative potential, but as Einstein was trying to tell us, those subjects are at their strongest when honed by a powerful imagination.

Such an imagination can look at our world today and see the vast potential for it’s future, and the terrible risks that threaten progress. It’s no coincidence that the imaginative literature of science fiction has made utopia – the discussion of how to make a better world (a discussion Le Guin has played no small part in) – one of its core themes. It seems more than credible that the forces that might lead us to a dystopian future might tend to surpress those powerful imaginations that can envision their defeat.

Imaginative literature itself has been in a virtual civil war in recent years. When fantasy novelist N K Jemisin called for a global literature of imagination, in a speech that echoes Le Guin’s both in its meaning and its passionate intensity, it was a recognition that imagination can not be limited by gender or race. But the venomous, racist attacks made on Jemisin in response suggest that some, a small but bitter minority, do not agree. When that same, bitter minority were involved with block voting at this years Hugo awards, they were sent packing by award voters outraged at an attempt to limit and politicise imaginative fiction.

Anne Leckie’s clean sweep of this years major awards for science fiction, and Sofia Samatar’s victory at the World Fantasy Award, suggest imaginative literature is indeed becoming global and starting to overcome boundaries that had held it back. Despite, or perhaps because, of the barriers placed in its path, imaginative literature arrives in 2014 far stronger than it has been for decades. Ursula Le Guin’s honouring at the National Book Awards is one of many indications that, far from being excluded any more, imaginative literature is now at the very heart of literary life.

But if anyone is responsible for that change it is not publishers, or even writers, but readers. The internet and it’s massive disruption of the traditional publishing industry has allowed readers not just to vote with their wallets, but to evangelise for imaginative literature across thousands of blogs and fan forums, to support diverse new writing through crowdfunding and other platforms, and to become the new writers, editors and independent publishers of imaginative literature. There’s a grass routes revolution in publishing, and the power of imagination is at its heart.

Can you name Arthur C. Clarke’s top 5 astounding predictions?

An excellent guest post today from Jared Hill, a blogger living in Chicago who reads science fiction avidly, and who is also keen on sports and film. Arthur C Clarke was a visionary ahead of his time, but do you agree with Jared’s picks for the great sci-fi writer’s top 5 astounding predictions? Follow Jared on Twitter @JaredHill341

“Arthur C Clarke accurately predicted the rise of the internet, and even further, online banking almost to the year.”

When famed science fiction author Arthur C. Clarke passed away in 2008, he left behind an immense and multi-faceted legacy. Clarke, alongside contemporaries such as Isaac Asimov, demonstrated that science-fiction literature can enrich public discourse about the role of technology in society. Clarke was the son of a radio operator and his early exposure to the rapidly developing field of electronics led to a preternatural ability to imagine applications for future technology. His reputation as a visionary author was so powerful that when film auteur Stanley Kubrick was looking for a screenwriter for a science fiction film in 1964, he reached out to Clarke, who was living in seclusion in Sri Lanka at the time. The script he wrote would end up becoming 2001: A Space Odyssey and it would contain some of his boldest, and most precise, predictions.

In honor of Sir Arthur C. Clarke, his most noteworthy predictions have been compiled below:

Communications Satellites

In a 1964 BBC Special entitled Horizon, Clarke enumerated his personal predictions for the world of 2000 in honor of the 1964 New York World’s Fair. In the special he stated that satellites would “make possible a world where we can be in instant contact with each other, wherever we may be” and for those of us living in the present, Clarke had no idea how correct he really was. Strangely enough, Clarke’s predictions for a global telecommunications network were spawned in 1945 by a 28-year old Clarke in an article that he wrote for Wireless World entitled “Extra-Terrestrial Relays: Can Rocket Stations Give World-Wide Radio Coverage?”, regarding the potential uses of geostationary satellites. Clarke theorized that :rocket which achieved a sufficiently great speed in flight outside the earth’s atmosphere would never return.” Once the rocket reached orbital velocity, it would become “an artificial satellite, circling the world forever with no expenditure of power — a second moon, in fact.” Bear in mind that Clarke’s paper was written well over a decade before the former U.S.S.R. sent Sputnik into orbit. Today, telecommunications satellites in geostationary orbits have made the wireless information age possible and it was theorized and predicted in its entirety by Clarke decades in advance.

The Internet

As mentioned previously, Clarke’s mother was a radio operator and in this light it becomes clear why Clarke was so intuitive regarding wireless communications, but his theories extended beyond just communications, but also to the internet as a whole. Clarke’s article on geosynchronous satellite networks helped spur interest in the subject, and NASA actually began collaborating with Howard Hughes on the Telstar project in the early sixties (which ultimately set the path for everything from satellite television broadcasts to HughesNet internet plans as we know them today). As the technology was being developed, Clarke became a mainstay on televisions shows, and when speaking to an Australian news program in 1974 he told the host that by the turn of the century, people would be able to access “all the information needed for everyday life: bank statements, theater reservations, all the information you need over the course of living in a complex modern society.” For comparison, online banking services weren’t popularized until the late 1990’s and by 2000 80% of banks offered online banking, showing that Clarke accurately predicted the rise of the internet, and even further, online banking almost to the year.

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2001 A Space Odyssey by Arthur C Clarke

Personal Computers

Clarke understood how quickly computers were advancing in the 1960’s and 70’s and when he made his predictions about the internet and future society, he also described much smaller computer consoles that would allow users to access infinite information. But the most salient issue he pointed out, at least in this author’s opinion, was that Clarke added that people would “take it as much for granted as we take the telephone.” Clarke envisioned a world where people would use a console at home to communicate with a computer hub, of one kind or another, that would relay pertinent information back to them. Clarke had correctly anticipated that ultimately, home computers would enable humanity to do everything from checking their bank accounts to retrieving theater reservations. Clarke had also made allusions to this concept of a connected web that the whole of civilization was tapped into in his book Profiles of the Future: An Inquiry into the Limits of the Possible, when he talks about generations far into the future as “our remote descendants as living in isolated cells, scarcely ever leaving them, but being able to establish instant TV contact with anyone, anywhere else on Earth.”

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The iPad

Following Samsung’s entrance into the touchscreen and tablet arena, Apple furiously pursued their alleged copyright infringements as Steve Jobs had submitted dozens of patents involving the iPhone’s technology. In a desperate move, Samsung cited the movie 2001: A Space Odyssey’s “Newspads” as proof that the design was not originally Apple’s. Clarke’s “Newspads” are practically identical to the popular Apple devices and smartphones and tablets have become fixations in practically the exact same way they were depicted in the film. There was a passage from the 2001 novel that may even cause you to look at iPads in a more whimsical way: “Here he was, far out in space, speeding away from Earth at thousands of miles an hour, yet in a few milliseconds he could see the headlines of any newspaper he pleased. (That very word “newspaper,” of course, was an anachronistic hangover into the age of electronics).”

“men will no longer commute, they will communicate”

Telecommuting

Clarke made several outlandish and inaccurate predictions including bio-engineered ape servants and the dissolution of cities, but the mechanism that Clarke believed would hasten the fall of urban areas did come true: telecommuting. In his 1964 World’s Fair television special, he predicted that by 2000, “men will no longer commute, they will communicate” and that a person could “conduct his business from Tahiti or Bali just as well as he could from London”. Clarke said that telecommuting would ultimately prove to be a “wonderful thing,” if only in that it meant that people “won’t have to be stuck in cities,” and they’d be able to live “out in the country” or wherever they want. Anyone in international business will attest that telecommuting and videoconferencing has saved countless hours of travel and agony as well as millions of dollars and that it is almost exactly as Clarke described.

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I interview B&N about their new Sync-Up initiative

DAMO: So tell me about Sync-Up!*

B&N: Well, if a B&N customer buys a paperback book from us, they can now buy the ebook as well for $4.99!

DAMO: But…isn’t that about what ebooks cost anyway?

B&N: Actually the average ebook price is £3.99.

DAMO: Er…so why not just buy the ebook the usual way?

B&N: Because then you won’t be “Syncing-Up”! *sincere marketing face*

DAMO: Really, wow, the book and ebook sync up?

B&N: *nods and smiles sagely* No. Obviously there’s no way to sync a print book.

DAMO: Amazon Whispersync syncs ebooks with audiobooks…

B&N: I’m sorry we don’t recognise that word.

DAMO: What word? You mean Amaz-

B&N: DON’T YOU SAY IT DAMO DON’T YOU DAMN WELL SAY IT

DAMO: Woah there, are you OK?

B&N: No. Yes. We’re fine. We’re absolutely fine. Just fine. Why don’t you ask us about Sync-Up’s AMAZING gifting features.

DAMO: OK, but couldn’t I just give any book I’ve bought to anyone I like, I mean-

B&N: You’re not helping.

DAMO: Sorry?

B&N: YOU’RE NOT HELPING DAMO WE’RE IN A FIGHT AGAINST A CORPORATE BEHEMOTH HERE FOR THE FUTURE OF BOOKSELLING AND YOU’RE NOT HELPING AND LITERALLY THOUSANDS OF POORLY PAID BOOKSELLERS ARE GOING TO LOSE THEIR CRAPPY JOBS IN SOULLESS CHAINSTORE BOOK RETAIL UNITS AND YOU AREN’T HELPING.

DAMO: Oh. Kay. I think we’ll leave it there.

B&N: FOR THE LOVE OF GOD WON’T YOU THINK OF THE MARKETING EXECUTIVES.

DAMO: I assure you I am.

*please note, this is a satire, not a real interview

Branding for writers – just don’t

Nicola Griffith has an excellent and in depth post up about the balancing act between developing depth of craft as a writer, and branding the art that comes of craft.

Branded. It’s a brutal word for a brutal practice: a label burnt into the hide without permission. On a cow a brand marks an animal that belongs to a herd. Yet to create art the artist must be as free as possible from the herd mentality: neither belong to any group nor follow any but our own particular, often peculiar path.

The short answer on branding for writers is – don’t. Here’s why.

Branding is about imbuing low value ingredients with qualities that give it a high value. To steal a line from Ricky Gervais, Coca-Cola is just fizzy brown water with sugar in. It costs pennies to produce dozens of gallons of coke. So those clever folks at the Coca-Cola corporation spend literally billions of dollars every year making advertisements that market Coke to you. They don’t do this to inform you that Coke exists. They do it so that when you see Coke, you associate it with certain brand values – America, vitality, sex, sun. To name a few. Now the fizzy brown water with sugar in has gone from low to high value, because when you drink Coke, you feel like those values apply to you, an experience worth paying for.

Now consider the strawberry. The strawberry requires no advertisements, no marketing strategy, and no brand values. Strawberries have been hunted by man and woman for all of human history, simply because they are fucking tasty. Do you know what isn’t tasty? Sugar, hydrogenated vegetable oil and modified starch. These being the main ingredients in Angel Delight (a kind of synthesised dessert mouse, for those fortunates never made to eat it). The modern food industry doesn’t start out with the desire to make a lovely dessert. it starts out with a cheap, abundant “ingredient” that often exists as a byproduct of another industrial process. In this case, modified starch, and asks “what can we make with this that we can sell for the highest mark-up? And hence the deluge of processed foods, that will do as much to ruin your health as smoking, and cause chronic obesity. Why does anyone eat them? Or worse, feed them to their kids? The answer? Branding of course. And a little artificial strawberry flavouring.

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If you’re a working parent, who can’t afford real strawberries for your kids the this ad for Angel Delight, which is only “food” by the very loosest of definitions, hits all the right buttons. Of course! Angel Delight is like strawberries and cream! All whizzed together! Perfect for pud! And there, the branding has you. And it’s the same story for all major brand products – low value ingredients, made in to a high value product with the clever application of brand values.

What, as a writer, are you? Are you a producer of a low value product? Do you need to persuade readers that your writing has brand values that actually it doesn’t? Do you actually believe your writing has real value? If you’ve been through the complex process of learning to write that Nicola Griffith explores in her essay, you’ll be tremendously wary of branding. Because you know your writing is a strawberry. It doesn’t need to be marketed. As soon as people get a whiff if its sweet stench, they’ll come hunting for the fruit.

When writers do enthusiastically brand themselves, it’s always a sign that they’re trying to sell you Angel Delight. A book full of wonky sentences, half cooked plot ideas, and cheap characters. So they use the brand values of genre to try and make you think this botched epic fantasy will be like Tolkien’s Middle Earth, or that this cliched cyberpunk novel will be a shiny chromium prize like William Gibson’s Neuromancer. But it never is. In fact, once you know the signs, branding is one of the most counter-productive things a writer can do. because if you’re channelling a lot of effort in to branding your work, it tells me that deep down you believe it’s of low value.

Whatever happened to cyberpunk?

The girl in the black vinyl minidress, shit-kicker boots and neon hair braids told me she was a cyberpunk. “Wow,” I answered, shouting over the club’s thumping techno-trance beat, “I love William Gibson.” I may as well have namechecked Samuel Taylor Coleridge at a Metallica gig. She stared at me for a while, then shouted back “I’m not into the Bee Gees.”

Pop culture rarely recognises its influences, especially when they are literary. But it’s a testament to just how closely attuned William’s Gibson’s work was to the zeitgeist, that in 1992 cyberpunk was manifesting in the cultural interface where 80s goth met 90s techno.

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Why I support #ReaderGate

They want you to believe that #ReaderGate is evil. The Literery Elite want to tell you, that we, the silent majority of readers, yes readers who are the only reason the Literery Elite even get to be elite at al, who have been silent too long, are wrong. But I’m here to tell you not to believe that elite who you made.

No. #ReaderGate began when vigilant readers became suspicious about the highfalutin so called opinions of so called “book reviewers”. It began as whispers by those too sacred to speak out. Scared by a Literery Elite who too long have towered like ivory towers over common readers. But we would be towered over no longer! And hence #ReaderGate was born.

#ReaderGate is a consumer revolution. A book is a bit of content, and it should not matter what that content is, just so long as we like consuming it. The demands of #ReaderGate are simple, and all #ReaderGators agree, except the ones who don’t who aren’t real #ReaderGators. Some say, they being the aforementioned Literey Eliters, that #ReaderGate is just abuse. Or excuse for abuse. Or both. This is a lie. #ReaderGators reject all abuse. Except the ones who don’t, who aren’t real #ReaderGators either. And also they started it.

#ReaderGate Conclusive Proof
#ReaderGate Conclusive Proof

Without readers, writers would only be men holding their pens. It has been proven, by vigilant readers of #ReaderGate, that writers are disgracing the noble profession of writing by making it corrupt. How? Let me tell you how. A key demand of #ReaderGate is that novelists stop making stuff up about people. That’s how.

Actually #ReaderGate is about ethics in book journalism. For generations book critics have discriminated against writers on the basis of quality. #ReaderGate demands equality for all writers regardless of quality. A book is just entertainment. It shouldn’t matter whether the book is quality or not for it to entertain some people. Don’t make the books political. Books are about people. They should never be political.

This is why I support #ReaderGate.

Julia Cameron on why creativity can’t be learned, but must be recovered

The bad old days when people were taught that creativity was only for a special, talented few are over. Most of us know we have the potential to be creative. But unleashing that potential can still be a tremendous struggle. Great artists of all kinds – writers, painters, musicians, dancers or any person accomplished in creative discipline – can often seem almost superhuman, able to achieve heights of creativity that are hard to imagine when we are stuck in the routines of daily life. So it’s natural, and all too easy, to confuse the technical skills those artists hold, with the basic human potential for creativity that we all possess.

“No matter what your age or your life path, whether making art is your career or your hobby or your dream, it is not too late or too egotistical or too selfish or too silly to work on your creativity.” Julia Cameron, The Artist’s Way: A Spiritual Path to Higher Creativity

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The Artist’s Way : A Spiritual Path to Higher Creativity by Julia Cameron

In her seminal book on higher creativity, writer and filmmaker Julia Cameron shares her rich experience of helping artists reach their full creative potential, developed over hundreds of taught workshops with thousands of struggling creators.

The central idea of The Artist’s Way is that creativity is a fundamental quality of being human. We are all, every one of us, innately creative. But we lose our creative potential in the contest with daily life, and all of the stresses, pains and fears that are part of our lives. And because we are already creative, we can’t learn creativity, instead we must recover it.

The Artist’s Way is structured as a 12 week programme of creative recovery, modelled on the 12 step programme used by many alcoholics and others recovering from addiction. Cameron employs this radical approach because the causes of our lost creativity are very much like the causes of addiction. Her recovery programme employs many techniques and imparts many useful ideas, but at it’s heart The Artist’s Way is about learning to love ourselves, trust in our innate creativity, have faith in our potential, and recover the creative strength and courage that exists in all of us.

Cameron’s lessons use two words that many readers might struggle with – spiritual and God. But the relationship between humans as creators, and the creative potential of our universe, is fascinating to consider.

“Those who speak in spiritual terms routinely refer to God as creator but seldom see “creator” as the literal term for “artist”. I am suggesting you take the term “creator” quite literally. You are seeking to forge a creative alliance, artist-to-artist with the Great Creator. Accepting this concept can greatly expand your creative possibilities.” ~ Julia Cameron, The Artist’s Way: A Spiritual Path to Higher Creativity

I have a long history with Julia Cameron’s wonderful book. I saw it in a bookshop when I was 12, and not being able to afford to buy it, I sat and read The Artist’s Way for two hours until the bookshop closed. Many years later I found the book again after it was recommended by a friend. Then finally in early 2014 I made the time to follow the entire 12 step course. It helped me realise how I had been knocked off my own creative path many times by fear and a lack of faith. It’s a book I can’t recommend highly enough, and an investment of time that will pay back many times over as your own creative recovery unfolds.