Ideas for things come into one’s head, or bits of ideas; you feel there’s something – there’s some meat on the bone, there’s something there that lures you on. The more you think about it the more you’re led into this new world and the more of that world you see. And part of having an idea is having some notion of how you would tell the story. It’s not just thinking it would be nice to write something about the Crimean war, it’s having some particular way in mind of writing something about the Crimean war, and the idea for the way to tell the story helps you to see what the story is. The story suggests the means, the means suggests the story; it’s mutually dependent. And you don’t have very much choice in the matter. Ideas come, characters suggest themselves, and the nature of the story and the nature of the characters dictates how it’s going to be done.

I suppose if people are not writers or painters or whatever they see the life of the artist as being one of great freedom, but it’s not really; it’s as constrained as anyone else’s by the material that’s available. The thing seems to have some kind of reality in one’s head; it seems to be something that one is discovering, rather than inventing. I see that as a kind of psychological trick on oneself, because the whole point about fiction is that it’s invention. It doesn’t really seem like it at the time – it seems as if you are slowly discovering something that already exists and seeing how the different parts of it relate to each other.

Michael Frayn
On writing: authors reveal the secrets of their craft
The Guardian, 26th March 2011

an infernal paradise

May 28, 2018

a city of the future - London

In Lovecraft’s defining stories, meaning such later works as “The Shadow out of Time” and “At the Mountains of Madness,” there is a sense of adventure. In his letters, Lovecraft often wrote of experiencing moments of what he called “adventurous expectancy,” by which he meant feeling oneself on the brink of some weird and hyper-exciting revelation that is always held in suspension and never known in its particulars. This is patently an aesthetic perception of existence. Borges described a similar feeling of the imminence of a revelation that never occurs as the definitive aesthetic experience. In Lovecraft’s work, unlike that of Borges, the origin of his feeling of adventurous expectancy derives from something terrible that is associated with the inconceivable spatial and temporal nature of the physical universe. I think that a great many people experience the same thing in their lives. I have myself. But it never occurred to me to express this feeling as a source of adventure in my stories.

My focus has fairly consistently been on what I have thought of as an “infernal paradise,” a realm where one wallows in something putrid and corrosive that lies beyond exact perception. In his stories, Lovecraft’s adventurous expectancy ultimately has its origin in something terrible, and not the child’s picture-book wonderland you find in the work of a lot of writers of fantastic fiction. But it’s still thrilling in its own way. It isn’t purely hellish, as is the case with my stories. Lovecraft was an astronomy buff as a child and so this feeling probably stemmed from that time. I was a pathological Catholic as a child, and one might make a connection between my early life and my later writings on that basis. Ultimately, the difference I’m trying to articulate between Lovecraft’s adventurous expectancy and my infernal paradise may seem superficial. I would say as much myself. But it seems to me that what captivates a reader’s interest in one writer’s work as opposed to another’s is quite often based on superficial qualities, even when there are deeper likenesses. Anyone can think of examples among both popular and literary writers. Lovecraft’s defining works portray a variety of monsters. Mine seldom do. What’s the difference? Not much on the deepest level. But monsters are a great literary hook and there is necessarily a surface adventure in dealing with them. If asked to name the definitive image in Lovecraft, one might likely say its tentacles flailing from the body of a monster. For me it would be probably be puppets, manikins, and clown-like things, even though these are more often a matter of metaphor than a literal presence of a monstrous type. Nevertheless, if Lovecraft’s tentacle monsters and my puppets and so on fought each other, I think the monsters would win.

Thomas Ligotti
Interview: Thomas Ligotti and the Realm of Nightmares
Weird Review 15th October 2015

in a strange way

May 21, 2018


Usually the idea for a novel comes to me, in a strange way, from reading rather than from living or observation. It’s often what I can only call an intellectual concern – some sort of large issue I’ve got very interested in. The operation of memory is an obvious one because several novels have been prompted by that. Or again the nature of evidence – that’s another important theme to me. Then the problem is to find the vehicle, to find the story and the characters and the backdrop, because they’re going to be the vehicle for this idea. Because then I don’t want the idea to show very much; I want the idea to be a sort of seven-eighths of the iceberg, a kind of ballast, but without which the whole novel would flounder.

Penelope Lively
On writing: authors reveal the secrets of their craft
The Guardian, 26th March 2011

I love using provocative juxtapositions in my writing because I believe that it fosters a more active role for the reader. He or she is invited to forge connections between different elements of the text, and participate in the process of creating meaning from the book. In many ways, it is the reader who actualizes the book through his or her imaginative work.

Kristina Marie Darling
An Interview with J. Scott Bugher
Split lip magazine

try to tell the truth

April 14, 2018

Even in literature and art, no man who bothers about originality will ever be original: whereas if you simply try to tell the truth (without caring twopence how often it has been told before) you will, nine times out of ten, become original without ever having noticed it.

C.S. Lewis
Mere Christianity

into kinky sex

April 8, 2018

cruel cat

Those into kinky sex know there’s something primal and exotic about it; desire elevated to expressions generally beyond the norm. It should be no surprise then that researchers have found that various BDSM roles facilitate altered states of mind. Aside from meditation and good pot brownies, what other greatness lies in the realm of altered states? Sex, that’s what.

One highlight is that such altered states of consciousness have potential to unlock an inner creativity. So, um, if you feel creatively stifled, may I suggest a dose of BDSM? If you’ve ever read anything on creativity research, you’ll be familiar with the book “Flow” by Csikszentmihalyi. What a name. Anyway, the idea is simply that,

“Flow is a nine-dimensional altered state conceptualized by Csikszentmihalyi, and is achieved during ‘optimal experiences’…The dimensions of flow include ‘challenge-skill balance, action-awareness merging, clear goals, unambiguous feedback, concentration on task, sense of control, loss of self-consciousness, time transformation,’ and feelings of intrinsic reward.”

Opposite that is Dietrich’s transient hypofrontality which “relates to daydreaming, runner’s high, meditation and even some drug highs”. As the article continues,

“The experiments revealed that the bottom role and the top role in BDSM are each associated with a distinct altered state of consciousness, both of which have previously been tied to creativity.

According to the researchers, ‘topping’ is linked to the state which aligned with Csikszentmihalyi’s flow, while ‘bottoming’ is associated with both Dietrich’s transient hypofrontality and some aspects of flow.”

So, if you felt funky about getting kinky, don’t. It’s out of this world.

Tatiana Von Tauber
Altered States of Kink
Blog entry:
6th December 2016

always judgmental

April 5, 2018

Just because a story uses material from the writer’s life, I don’t think you can say that it’s her life, or that the narrator is her. As soon as you select the material from your life, and arrange it and write it in a stylized manner, it’s no longer really identical to that life and that person. But often something will start from my real life. So there I am with the dictionary. And here is a conundrum, a puzzle, and often one question will lead to other questions that seem logical to me. What do I treat the best and why? But again, it’s stylized. I’m leaving out a great deal. It’s not a complete picture.

In general, it is true that I am always examining how I live my life. Always. It’s sort of relentless. Not just, Have I had a healthy breakfast? But everything. There is a constant judge. Maybe it’s my poor mother who lives on in my head. She was always judgmental, and her mother was – judgmental. There’s a long line of mothers passing judgment, and it’s sometimes very – oppressive. If I take a short break from work and lie down on the sofa to read and stay there half an hour instead of ten minutes, just how bad is that? Is that really bad? Suppose some nice person writes you a letter and you love getting it but you don’t answer for two months. That’s more clearly a bad thing than spending an extra five minutes reading on the sofa.

Lydia Davis
Interview with Andrea Aguilar and Johanne Fronth-Nygren
Paris Review spring 2015

Writing is a lover

April 5, 2018


I’m not good at writing consistently, or with discipline. For years, when people asked, I would say I wrote 2,000 words every day, at the same hour, drinking the same tea. It was a lie — a lie to hide the shame. I write in the dark, at odd hours, with a too-bright screen. I avoiding writing, because writing is both a joy and a job and I’m afraid — the same way I’m afraid of a rollercoaster. And the same thrill fills my bones when I’m finally engaged in the act, when words emerge with each stroke of a finger. Writing is a lover I cannot look in the face until we’re in the throes of passion. Writing comes together, or it doesn’t, a sculpture I pick at, until I swear it looks human. Writing is getting to mix all my metaphors and then using time later to edit and smooth and polish. Writing is rough. My desk reflects these small battles and remind me of the power of raw affect: Figurines from pop culture, dog treats to bribe creatures into loving me on command, empty cans of diet beverages that contain way too much aspartame. I write in my head when I’m not writing, the hamster constantly running. But I write, ultimately, because I do, because that’s what I do, because what else could I do?

Adriana e Ramírez
8th March 2018

the dramatic scene

March 22, 2018

I’m not a theorist. I’m not an authoritative or reliable commentator on the dramatic scene, the social scene, any scene. I write plays, when I can manage it, and that’s all. That’s the sum of it.

I’ve had two full-length plays produced in London. The first ran a week, and the second ran a year. Of course, there are differences between the two plays. In The Birthday Party I employed a certain amount of dashes in the text, between phrases. In The Caretaker I cut out the dashes and used dots instead. So that instead of, say, “Look, dash, who, dash, I, dash, dash, dash,” the text would read, “Look, dot, dot, dot, who, dot, dot, dot, I, dot, dot, dot, dot.” So it’s possible to deduce from this that dots are more popular than dashes, and that’s why The Caretaker had a longer run than The Birthday Party. The fact that in neither case could you hear the dots and dashes in performance is beside the point. You can’t fool the critics for long. They can tell a dot from a dash a mile off, even if they can hear neither.

Harold Pinter
Various Voices: Prose, Poetry, Politics 1948-1998

almost impossible to do

March 1, 2018

The historical novel is, for me, condemned. ‘You may multiply the little facts that can be got from pictures and documents, relics and prints, as much as you like – the real thing is almost impossible to do, and in its essence the whole effect is as nought: I mean the invention, the representation of the old consciousness, the soul, the sense, the horizon, the vision of individuals in whose minds half the things that make ours, that make the modern world, were nonexistent.

Henry James
Letter to Sarah Orne Jewett on 5th October 1901