What I am reading now and just now
Every once in a while I let you know what I am reading, and there are two reasons for this. One it lets you know that I read, and I read a lot. Writers read. Some writers I know say they don’t read because they don’t want to plagiarise someone elses work or base their ideas and stories on someone else’s thoughts. Well actually the thing is, and this is a little bit mean but it’s true, the people who say that usually could USE copying someone else’s work for a while. Seriously, they are deluding themselves that creativity and being a good writer comes out fully formed after years of thinking by sheer force of personal brilliance.
Good writing comes from the same source as good driving or good tennis, lots of passion, lots of practise and if you are lucky once you are good you might show a little brilliance.
Second reason is I want to suggest the things I am reading to you because I think they are pretty good. And the third thing is it’s easy to do… Wait, I only said two things, forget I said that.
First thing on my reading list at the moment is Deepak Chopra’s“Reinventing the Body, Resurrecting the Soul”. Now this sounds like a lot of stodgy philosophy and religious claptrap but I assure you it’s not. Chopra is a doctor and a scientist and although his ideas might be construed as belonging in the “mind, body and spirit” section of the book shop, I promise you it’s a really very accessible read. Chopra makes a living describing the most complicated ideas in the universe in a friendly avuncular fashion and if you don’t know his work you should give him a try. Even if you’re not a believer in anything, an atheist or agnostic you can still read this book, because even if you don’t believe in a soul doesn’t mean that is not an interesting exercise or topic of discussion. Most of the book is about the mind, the body, quantum physics, Ayurveda, and all manner of other traditionally incompatible things. It’s a big meaty chunk of a book which takes time to read because you have to keep putting it down and pondering the significance of what you just read. Either you will come away well informed and with lots of interesting questions, or it will change your life and introduce you to a whole new way of thinking about things which you formerly were unaware of.
Next is another book which you might find disturbing if you are of an anti-spiritual bent, but again I assure you it’s worth the effort if you are open to new ideas. David Lynch semi-autobiographcal “Catching The Big Fish” talks about his life, his art, and his dedication to meditation and consciousness, all wrapped up in the usual David Lynch style. The book takes the form of a sequence of sometimes only thinly related chapters; sometimes about life in general, sometimes about his life specifically. He takes the oppotunity of talking about his life to go into how he got into meditation via the Transcendental Meditation movement in the 70s, and how he hasn’t missed his two daily meditations, 20 mins in the morning and 20 minutes in the afternoon, ever since. As an advocate of meditation myself I could only nod sagely in agreement through the passages in the book about meditation and its effect on creativity and, well almost everything else. But there are lots of other wonderful parts to this book. If you’re a Lynch fan you will be in heaven, but if you are not so much of fan, and many people I know are very much NOT, then this might not be for you. (He’s a great divider, like Marmite.) If you are not fussed either way about Mr Lynch then more so than any other book in this review, it really could go either way… I myself enjoyed it immensely, and especially as I bought it as an audiobook with Lynch reading it himself. As a filmmaker I loved all the descriptions about how he got into film making as an extension of his surrealist painting. Wonderful, illuminating, inspiring but mercifully short.
Something else I think might sort the men from the boys or the sheep from the goats is the next book I’m reading. Philip K Dick’s “The Man In The High Castle”originally published in 1962 I think. The Japanese and the Germans won WWII and they divided America up between them. The plot is very hard to summarise, but it’s a political story with a thread of personal stories woven into it. Philip K Dick was a fascinating writer and a troublesome man. He was a science fiction writer, of that there was no doubt, but he was a spectacular creative genius and philosopher who just so happened to pick science fiction as the platform for his ideas. He always examines interesting questions about identity, what it is to be human, and what challenges we face in the wider world. I read and reread a lot of Phil Dick partly because he’s hugely entertaining but partly because I figure if I can understand how he does what he does then it will make me a better writer. I’m still trying to figure out how he does it. A lot of the stuff he writes is silly, filled with in-jokes and strange character names. But somehow he makes it work and I think it’s because he is always wonderfully, powerfully authentic. He was strange, even some would say insane at times, but he was always 100% authentically himself. That’s something we should all aspire to be.
Another thick meaty book is my next selection (again as an audiobook), “What The Bleep Do We Know” a book based on the film by William Arntz, who co-directed the film along with Betsy Chasse and Mark Vicente. The book of the film and the film itself contains a selection of somewhat fruity, I want to say “kooks”, but don’t let that put you off. Once again I say to you be open to ideas and ignore the fruity excesses of the kooks and cherry pick the bits you want to use. It does contain a lot of information I’ve never seen or heard of anywhere else and as such is a useful and informative piece of entertainment. Entertain and inform, that’s the aim, right? The movie and book cover the connection between consciousness, the mind, and the material world and how what you think affects the material world. In this way it’s kind of similar to “The Secret”, but the reason I give this one more house room than “The Secret” that there’s a lot of careful explanation of some basic quantum physics principles. Now here’s the thing. This movie taps into the heart of what skeptics called “quantum mysticism”, where the vague and unexplained nature of some areas of quantum physics gives rise to people applying it any way they like. Now I agree with a lot of what they say here (not withstanding the credibility of SOME of the people interviewed) as some of it is on shaky ground, BUT a lot of the people they talk to are experts in quantum physics and consciousness and you could do a LOT worse than listen to what they have to say.
“The Code of Influence” by Paul Mascetta is an audio course in influence and persuasion. Why would you read something like this as a writer? In fact why would you read any of these books as a writer, what do they have to do with writing? Well this book is a case in point. Writing is all about understanding. That’s right, understanding. You understand how your characters would feel if they were real flesh and blood people, you describe a world where people want things, have hangups, relationships, dramas, make huge mistakes and have dreams. Why would you NOT read these kind of books? In this book Paul Mascetta, a tough talking sales guy from Brooklyn talks to you about how you influence other people to do what you want them to do, buy a product, an idea or you as an employee. He covers a lot of different areas in pursuit of this goal and does it very well. He’s incorporated a lot of different disciplines here and the whole is better than the sum of the parts. I learned a lot about sales and a lot about human nature.
I read a lot of other books and audio courses this month, because I’m writing my own course, but these were the ones I liked the most and had the most information in them. Why am I not pimping links to Amazon or web sites where you can buy these things? Because I’m not doing this to sell you books and cop a percentage. I’m doing this because I’m sharing my process so you can get something out of it. If you really want the books you can look for them online really easily anyway, just google the names and you’ll find them. I recommend them all so take your pick.
Here’s the take way: cultivate a habit of learning as much about human nature, how the mind works, how relationships can be fixed and how lives can go wrong and you will never run out of material for your stories and colourful details for your characters.
The first UNIFIED FIELD Creative Genius Programme “Writing Fit” is under construction and I’m very excited about it, but as much as I’d like to tell you all about it now, I really can’t just yet. All I can say is that we’re coming up with some very cool materials at the moment and I think you’re going to love them.
Meanwhile do me a favour and swing by Amazon UK or US and look at my books on Kindle. They’re not expensive and contain a lot of really useful information about ways you can become a better writer, whatever your genre or interests.
Oh and I create a monthly newsletter on creative writing topics which I would love you to subscribe to here. It’s free and I’ll be releasing information about the “Writing Fit” course here first, so sign up and I’ll even give you some free tools right away. Yes, I’ll take your email address but send you about £15 worth of free stuff. I promise not to misuse your email address, I will only use it to contact you, and I won’t sell it on. Look, I get as much spam as you do, if not more, I know the value of keeping a relationship happy.
All the best