let the thing invent itself

January 12, 2018

Pedro Otero - Deshumanización del hombre

I knew very early on that I wanted to be a writer. I mean, when I was a child I knew that…

…I think it is important to make a detailed plan before you write the first sentence. Some people think one should write, “George woke up and knew that something terrible had happened yesterday,” and then see what happens. I plan the whole thing in detail before I begin. I have a general scheme and lots of notes. Every chapter is planned. Every conversation is planned. This is, of course, a primary stage, and very frightening because you’ve committed yourself at this point. I mean, a novel is a long job, and if you get it wrong at the start you’re going to be very unhappy later on. The second stage is that one should sit quietly and let the thing invent itself. One piece of imagination leads to another. You think about a certain situation and then some quite extraordinary aspect of it suddenly appears. The deep things that the work is about declare themselves and connect. Somehow things fly together and generate other things, and characters invent other characters, as if they were all doing it themselves. One should be patient and extend this period as far as possible. Of course, actually writing it involves a different kind of imagination and work…

…I do enjoy it, but it has, of course – I mean, this is true of any art form – moments when you think it’s awful, you lose confidence and it’s all black. You can’t think and so on. So, it’s not all enjoyment. But I don’t actually find writing in itself difficult. The creation of the story is the agonizing part. You have the extraordinary experience when you begin a novel that you are now in a state of unlimited freedom, and this is alarming. Every choice you make will exclude another choice, so that it’s rather important what happens then, what state of mind you’re in and what you think matters. Books should have themes. I choose titles carefully and the titles in some way indicate something deep in the theme of the book. Names are important. The names sometimes don’t come at once, but the physical being and the mind of the character have to come pretty early on and you just have to wait for the gods to offer you something. You have to spend a lot of time looking out of the window and writing down scrappy notes that may or may not help. You have to wait patiently until you feel that you’re getting the thing right – who the people are, what it’s all about, how it moves. I may take a long time, say a year, just sitting and fishing around, putting the thing into some sort of shape. The I do a very detailed synopsis of every chapter, every conversation, everything that happens. That would be another operation…

Iris Murdoch
Interview with Jeffery Meyers in Paris Review summer 1990

ugly or grotesque

January 6, 2018

I believe when I am in the mood that all nature is full of people whom we cannot see, and that some of these are ugly or grotesque, and some wicked or foolish, but very many beautiful beyond any one we have ever seen, and that these are not far away when we are walking in pleasant and quiet places. Even when I was a boy I could never walk in a wood without feeling that at any moment I might find before me somebody or something I had long looked for without knowing what I looked for.

W.B. Yeats
The Celtic Twilight

Oh, something is there, waiting for me. Perhaps someday the revelation will burst in upon me and I will see the other side of this monumental grotesque joke. And then I’ll laugh. And then I’ll know what life is.

Sylvia Plath
The Unabridged Journals of Sylvia Plath

breathe slowly

January 4, 2018


What are our lungs supposed to do? If they breathe fast they suffocate themselves from inner poisons; if they breathe slowly they suffocate from unbreathable air, from outraged things. But if they try to search for their own rhythm they perish from the mere search.

Franz Kafka
Drowning of the fat man
Description of a Struggle

An Evening with Ray Bradbury

December 28, 2017

To learn the truth

December 19, 2017

For things to reveal themselves to us, we need to be ready to abandon our views about them.

Thich Nhat Hanh


Contemporary poetry has a very strange fate in England I think as compared to America and possibly on the European continent. We seem to be party-going poets. […] I think one of the reasons for the loss of nerve at the present time is that the scientists have given us a picture of nature which is competitive, alien, empty, mechanical, and a universe in which we are complete strangers, and in which – talking about continuums – there is no continuum between ourselves and nature. This is the great romantic quest, that a continuum between nature and mankind should be proved … Science still proceeds on behaviouristic principles. Scientists, for instance, have to be very careful in testing drugs, or in doing any psychological experiment, not to allow suggestion to enter into it, no suggestion of the result, no placebo effect must be allowed in. But the placebo effect is a very wonderful thing indeed. It means you can take a sugar pill believing it will do you good and it will do you good. This is worth looking into I would have thought, but it’s the very thing that science keeps out: the power here – the Romantic idea – of the mind over the body, that the material world is responsive to the energies of the mind, or to immaterial energies. We live in a situation where these things are systematically undervalued. The Enlightenment was concerned to display everything visibly, with every factor controlled – and this is when the idea of the scientific controlled experiment came in. The Romantics were in contradiction to this. They wanted to know what was invisible. They protested against ‘the tyranny of the eye’. There is so much in Romantic poetry about weather for instance. Weather influences us profoundly. It is an invisible and visible series of changes which alter our moods and alter our access to ourselves. We are inspired or depressed by the weather. It is both objective and subjective in its effects. Thirty per cent of the population are intensely weather-sensitive. There is a kind of feeling-knowledge of the world which arises from meteorological changes. There is a response, an invisible response which is not accounted for in medical science. The facts are that very many diseases, very many sicknesses and illnesses, are intensified by the processes of storm. Heart palpitations sometimes synchronize with radio static from storms. You can watch, on a computer, the meteorological pattern say over the city of New York, and superimpose the deaths from heart attacks, and you can see that these two patterns follow each other, and there is a causal connection which appears to be electrical. We know that many people suffer from weather-sensitivity to a psychiatric extent – you get this very much in Cornwall, which has a great deal of weather as they say. But what happens? How are these people treated? Well, of course, the tranquillizer and antidepressant. There is no study of medical climatology, there is no school of it in this country as far as I know. There is no school of bio-meteorology. This romantic thing, the weather, this daily demonstration of our response to the whole situation of the earth and the atmosphere, the temperature of it, the humidity of it and the electricity of it – we can’t deny this anymore – is just ignored, because of course, to adjust this, to treat weather-sickness – well, there are certainly herbal and homeopathic remedies for it, and another solution is to move, which may not be viable economically. What is viable economically and which props up our system is to prescribe another of these invented drugs, at great cost. The alternative is to seek union with the invisible but actual world, as the Romantics did.

Peter Redgrove
The Science of the Subjective
A 1987 interview with Neil Roberts

magic perfumes

November 26, 2017

There are strange and wondrous things in these lands of darkness … I must intoxicate myself on magic perfumes in order to fathom the secrets that lie hidden in the abysses of the Unconscious.

Carl Jung
Letter to Sigmund Freud, 1911 from The Dionysian Self: C.G. Jung’s Reception of Friedrich Nietzsche

Shadow qualities are met with intense criticism and judgement as they are projected onto others. The presence of this judgment is our clue to the shadow as a rejected self. If sexuality is a rejected self, then overt sexuality in others will produce a highly charged negative reaction (much like what we see in some religious sects fixated on the sexual behaviour of others). If anger is a rejected self, we will fear and criticize it in others. If we suppress our emotions, we will have little tolerance for those who are needy, crying, or strongly expressive. It makes us very uncomfortable to be around someone expressing our shadow energies. Our judgment is an attempt to negate the source of our discomfort.

Anodea Judith
Eastern Body, Western Mind

walled-off numbness

November 10, 2017

The self is a patchwork of the felt and unfelt, of presences and absences, of navigable channels around the walled-off numbness.

Rebecca Solnit
The Faraway Nearby