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Posted in Writing process | 1 Comment

Jung on Creativity


I’m always fascinated with musings on the creative spirit. Jung wrote quite a bit about creativity. Here’s a short quote.

“The artist is not a person endowed with free will who seeks his own ends, but one who allows art to realize its supreme purpose through him.”
– Carl Jung

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Where I’m From…


It all starts from home…

 

Before I launch on travels to “foreign” parts of the world, I want to think about what I am leaving behind—Toronto, Canada—and how it, my hometown has affected me as an individual and a writer.

I’m one of those people who, for the most part, has lived in one city, Toronto, all my life. Definitely, Toronto, of today, is not the city of my early days in the 1950’s where most of the population was descended from immigrants from the British Isles.

In the intervening years, Toronto has benefitted hugely from the influx of immigrants from every country on earth so that now it is full of life enhancing, vibrant contrasts. And still, it remains a pretty peaceful place. In my lifetime, the city has changed dramatically.

Back then, the city was called “Toronto the Good.” And that was not so good. Just as an example, on Sundays, a major department store, Eatons, pulled the curtains on its store windows. Why? Sunday was the Lord’s Day and was reserved for worship. Even after Sunday services, the good citizens were not allowed even to look at commercial goods!

Thanks to the blue laws public morality was staunchly upheld by the city fathers by severely restricting the sale and consumption of alcohol and the conduct of commerce. In fact, in the mid-fifties, the mother of a friend of mine was a member of the Ontario Censor Board—and yes, she was the most feared mother in the neighbourhood.

The Board’s prerogative was to review all films for distribution in the Province and decide whether they met the so-called standards of public morality. Scenes of an immoral nature, seduction, infidelity, or the depiction of a crime or a prizefight were just cause to withhold permission for screening a film.  There was also a ban on American flag-waving! This Board has morphed into the Ontario Film Review Board which simply classifies films rather than banning them.

I, like so many others, hail from a time and place of pretty heavy restriction. As I have said, Toronto has changed greatly in the intervening years, but my point is that I still carry that sense and sensibility of the city within me.  And you can bet that consciously and unconsciously, I use that sense in writing.

For example, when I wrote Conduct in Question, the first novel in The Osgoode Trilogy, I drew upon Toronto of the past. My protagonist, Harry Jenkins— a lawyer, had lived in the city all his life. Throughout all three novels, Harry is beset by murder, fraud and deceit arising in his practice and it takes these sorts of events to open him up so that he can step through that shadowy doorway and into the light of a new life.

Starting Out At Home

Before I launch on travels to “foreign” parts of the world, I want to think about what I am leaving behind—Toronto, Canada—and how it, my hometown has affected me as an individual and a writer.

I’m one of those people who, for the most part, has lived in one city, Toronto, all my life. Definitely, Toronto, of today, is not the city of my early days in the 1950’s where most of the population was descended from immigrants from the British Isles.

In the intervening years, Toronto has benefitted hugely from the influx of immigrants from every country on earth so that now it is full of life enhancing, vibrant contrasts. And still, it remains a pretty peaceful place. In my lifetime, the city has changed dramatically.

Back then, the city was called “Toronto the Good.” And that was not so good. Just as an example, on Sundays, a major department store, Eatons, pulled the curtains on its store windows. Why? Sunday was the Lord’s Day and was reserved for worship. Even after Sunday services, the good citizens were not allowed even to look at commercial goods!

Thanks to the blue laws public morality was staunchly upheld by the city fathers by severely restricting the sale and consumption of alcohol and the conduct of commerce. In fact, in the mid-fifties, the mother of a friend of mine was a member of the Ontario Censor Board—and yes, she was the most feared mother in the neighbourhood.

The Board’s prerogative was to review all films for distribution in the Province and decide whether they met the so-called standards of public morality. Scenes of an immoral nature, seduction, infidelity, or the depiction of a crime or a prizefight were just cause to withhold permission for screening a film.  There was also a ban on American flag-waving! This Board has morphed into the Ontario Film Review Board which simply classifies films rather than banning them.

I, like so many others, hail from a time and place of pretty heavy restriction. As I have said, Toronto has changed greatly in the intervening years, but my point is that I still carry that sense and sensibility of the city within me.  And you can bet that consciously and unconsciously, I use that sense in writing.

For example, when I wrote Conduct in Question, the first novel in The Osgoode Trilogy, I drew upon Toronto of the past. My protagonist, Harry Jenkins— a lawyer, had lived in the city all his life. Throughout all three novels, Harry is beset by murder, fraud and deceit arising in his practice and it takes these sorts of events to open him up so that he can step through that shadowy doorway and into the light of a new life.

 

Harry was so close to his city that he automatically turned to it in order to express his feelings.  When his wife, Laura leaves him abruptly for another man, he is bereft. He goes to a remote spot on the city outskirts to contemplate—the Scarborough Bluffs which look back onto the city.

 

Up ahead, a dog ran in circles around a pile of rock and driftwood. Gulls dipped over the water and called out in eerily human-sounding voices. Harry stared out onto the rolling waves of the huge lake. Bereft, he wished he did not know the truth.

The cliffs ahead rose sharply straight up from the water. The afternoon sun shimmered on the smooth and sheer rock face. On the horizon, his city lay reduced to a tiny black smudge, as if it had floated away from him forever. With Laura gone, the city he once loved existed only in a jumble of memory.

Unless we have had to move constantly as children, most of us have a very strong sense of place in our lives. It doesn’t matter where or what that place is like [good or bad] but I think it becomes a fundamental part of our psyches. And that is wonderful because it gives the writer a huge cache of thoughts, impressions, emotions and descriptive material.

The question for the writer is how to access that treasure trove of memory and make use of it. There are plenty books of photographs of my city and often, I will leaf through them for ideas. Sometimes, if I am thinking about using a place in the city as a setting, I will spend time just walking around it, perhaps taking photographs and making notes, just to renew the feel of it.

But really all the impressions you may ever need are stored up in your memory—not just the sense perceptions but your thoughts and your emotional reactions to the place. I think that if a writer can gain access to that treasure trove, then he or she is well on the way to creating not just credible and accurate settings, but one which is vibrant and filled with emotional resonance for the character and the reader.

Harry was so close to his city that he automatically turned to it in order to express his feelings.  When his wife, Laura leaves him abruptly for another man, he is bereft. He goes to a remote spot on the city outskirts to contemplate—the Scarborough Bluffs which look back onto the city.

 

Up ahead, a dog ran in circles around a pile of rock and driftwood. Gulls dipped over the water and called out in eerily human-sounding voices. Harry stared out onto the rolling waves of the huge lake. Bereft, he wished he did not know the truth.

The cliffs ahead rose sharply straight up from the water. The afternoon sun shimmered on the smooth and sheer rock face. On the horizon, his city lay reduced to a tiny black smudge, as if it had floated away from him forever. With Laura gone, the city he once loved existed only in a jumble of memory.

Unless we have had to move constantly as children, most of us have a very strong sense of place in our lives. It doesn’t matter where or what that place is like [good or bad] but I think it becomes a fundamental part of our psyches. And that is wonderful because it gives the writer a huge cache of thoughts, impressions, emotions and descriptive material.

The question for the writer is how to access that treasure trove of memory and make use of it. There are plenty books of photographs of my city and often, I will leaf through them for ideas. Sometimes, if I am thinking about using a place in the city as a setting, I will spend time just walking around it, perhaps taking photographs and making notes, just to renew the feel of it.

But really all the impressions you may ever need are stored up in your memory—not just the sense perceptions but your thoughts and your emotional reactions to the place. I think that if a writer can gain access to that treasure trove, then he or she is well on the way to creating not just credible and accurate settings, but one which is vibrant and filled with emotional resonance for the character and the reader.”]

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I’ve been puzzling over this one?


I’ve read that Daniel Defoe, author of Robinson Crusoe and Moll Flanders once said:

“…how frequently in the course of our lives the evil which in itself we seek most to shun, and which, when we are fallen into it, is oftentimes the very same means or door of our deliverance, by which alone, we can be raised again.”

What does this mean?

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Amazon/Penguin Contest, Literary agents


At 12:01 am, January 24th, the Amazon, Penguin Breakthrough Novel Contest opened. At 12:01.5, I began to enter all my documents for The Drawing Lesson,–the Description, the Pitch, the first 5000 words and then the manuscript itself. I pictured the whole site crashing with all other eager writers submitting but it didn’t. I was done in under half an hour.  The first 5000 entries in general fiction and juvenile fiction will be considered.

This contest is important because it shows a change in attitude within the industry. If you have self-published a novel, you may submit it. The reward is a publishing contract with Penguin.  Another example is Publishers Weekly opening up to self published work.

Until fairly recently, I believe there have been few instances in which the indie and the traditional worlds of publishing have really co-operated in a joint venture. I think we can look forward to more of this collaboration. The two worlds should not be at “logger-heads” because each has important aspects to contribute to the new publishing industry as it evolves.

I have had considerable experience in the indie world and have become convinced that, at least for me, it’s necessary to have the help of a literary agent. I believe that you can get quite some distance within the self-publishing model and that is important for so many writers. But, the time definitely comes where a writer may well need to branch out and help create the new publishing model where both worlds collaborate. As for me, I’m sending out my query letters for the first two books of the Trilogy of Remembrance , “The Drawing Lesson” and “The Fate of Pryde”.



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The Red Book by Carl Jung


Last night, I was at a lecture given by, Laurie Savlov, a senior Jungian analyst in Toronto, who has undertaken a monumental task—reading, understanding and lecturing about Carl Jung’s Red Book. Lots of people review books, you may say. What’s so hard about this one?

First of all, physically it is an imposing, awkward “coffee-table” sized book, measuring approximately 12”x 16” with about 370 pages and great number of images. But it’s not so much its size, but its vast, sprawling content that both fascinates and intimidates.

The Red Book was created by Carl Jung during the years 1913 through to 1930. This Swiss psychiatrist had a family life, a busy clinical practice, and was a lecturer, a student of philosophy, religion, mythology etc., and he devoted most evenings to exploring his own sub-conscious during those years. No one had ever conceived of or embarked upon such a project. Few people were aware that they had a subconscious. Fewer still, even today, pay much attention to it.

What is in this Red Book? It is an amazing collection of Jung’s fantasies—not dreams, but visions. How did he come by these visions? He developed a technique which he then used in his practice with his patients, which he called “active imagination.” He found that if he could permit mental images to rise up to him and into his conscious mindthey would change and develop right before his mind’s eye. It was important to not only let these images take on their own lives, but for the visualizer to try to step into the visions and engage whatever of whomever was appearing. From those visions, you would learn a great deal about the unconscious.

And so, the Red Book consists of a recording of the fantasies and/or visions which his subconscious and collective unconscious produced. In addition, he also wrote extensively in the book about his interpretation or contemplation of these visions. Later on, he created beautiful paintings to accompany some of these visions, which look very much like medieval, illuminated manuscripts. I think it is the sprawling nature of such immense material which makes it hard to know how to approach the Red Book. But after all, it welled up from the unconscious almost as if it came from a fount of nature. Which, I believe it did. It’s like trying to grasp a living thing in order to understand it.

Jung came to regard the book as the foundation of all his subsequent writings and his approach to analytic practice. Laurie Savlov’s opinion is that the work is really precognitive—that is, Jung was looking into the future of human affairs, thought and emotion.

The book was only published in 2009. Where had it been since his death in 1961. Apparently, it remained in Jung’s home for many years and then, his family stored it away in a Swiss vault. No one but his family saw it for many years. The work is so revealing of Jung, his methods and how he came to them that it is now thought that it is a real mother-lode for fresh interpretation of his many well know written works.

I must admit that when I bought my copy of the book, I was certainly daunted. I was almost overcome with a sense of frustration in not knowing how to get a hold of this monumental work. But I am not alone, apparently. Many people have felt this way and so their copy simply sits on a coffee table safe and secure as if it were still in that bank vault. But last night, Laurie Savlov gave us hope and inspiration to go back and try again!

This Red Book is most helpful to me as I am working on the third draft of a novel, provisionally entitled The Fate of Pryde, in which the subject is the visionary experience for my favourite artist Alexander Wainwright, protagonist of the Trilogy of Remembrance.

If you’d like to see The Red Book and the process of publishing it, go to You Tube http://ow.ly/3It9f . Apparently, the publisher only did an initial run of 5,000. In one year, it has sold 65,000 copies!

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Don’t Judge a Book by its Cover


Who would agree with that statement today? With all the emphasis on design and the importance of visual imagery, it seems very unlikely that, as purchasers of books, we aren’t going to be attracted or repelled, impressed or unimpressed with the cover design. All sorts of research has gone into what catches the eye and what makes a book “jump off the shelf.”

But hold on! Will that change with the advent of the ebook or the purchase of print copies of books on the internet? Somehow, those postage stamp pictures of the book just don’t make the same impression however well designed they might be. But usually new opportunities arise rapidly with each new technology. I can imagine downloading an ebook onto my reading device and instead of just a still image for the cover, there might be a five or ten second video. But that is for someone other than me to decide if that’s workable within any reasonable cost to be built into the price of the book.

I’d like to tell you about my experience in the cover design of The Drawing Lesson, the first in the Trilogy of Remembrance. When surfing the web to see if there were other fictional books with that name, I came across a painting by the artist Jan Steen entitled The Drawing Lesson. Great idea, I thought! That would make an intriguing cover for my novel.

PHOTO

Steen was a Dutch painter and a contemporary of Rembrandt.  He lived in Leiden and  Haarlem and went to school in Utrecht all in the mid sixteen hundreds. As you can see, there is a huge amount of stuff in this painting as there is in pretty well all of his work. In fact, in the Netherlands, if you said that a person had a Jan Steen household, it was not a compliment as in—it meant—very messy.

In any event, I decided to use it for the cover of my book. But then I learned that, while the painting was itself, public domain, I still had to pay the J. Paul Getty Museum a license fee, which was in fact very reasonable. I also had to ensure that the proper accreditation was given on the book to the museum. Other requirements? Yes—I could not have any lettering on top of the image of the painting and if I were to use just a portion of it, I would have to say so in the accreditation. All of this, I found completely reasonable and do-able. Within a matter of four or five days I was all set to give the image to the printer.

In getting the approval of the museum to the cover design, I asked if they would like to carry it in their bookstore and—so they did.

Another thing about the novel and its cover! It didn’t hit me until much later, but the figures in the painting—the artist, the female student and the young child—actually are some of the most important characters in my novel which is about the young love between an artist [Alexander Wainwright] and his young student. Funny, but I did not consciously see that at the time. But there you go—long live the subconscious.

Give it a try! The 99 Cent Kindle download offer is still on.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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