Tag Archives: writers

… to ‘grok’ transmissions …

With the vast volume of creative expressions by innovators, scientists, thinkers, writers and artists of any kind in our climate of over-saturated productions – some unique works will flicker shortly and then sink to seeming oblivion, temporarily invisible on the crossroads. Does it matter?

My Sufi friend, Fazal Inayat-Khan, once said, ‘If Einstein had never published his theories, his ideas would still have irrevocably changed the world of science.’

What makes products succeed in the public domain? Is it genius, fame, skill, merit, sponsorship, contacts, money, timing, luck, or the phenomenon of strong desire and expectation? Over years of psychotherapy practice I’ve met people, who, let’s say, were the apple of the eye of a parent, a friend, a teacher, a mentor, or maybe an angel of synchronicity that inspired confidence towards success. While some people may be born with faith in their desire, others, whose confidence was knocked, need a nudge. Expectation feeds success. Expectation is uncanny; it’s like carrying a magnet.

Still, even meteoric success can be short lived. Weighed down with superlative praise, a work can sizzle out and draw ridicule. When a lauded product doesn’t impress me, I ask myself – is this because of my acquired taste, my hugging of precious time, my complex mind, my standards, my arrogance, or my jealousy? A half-truth sneaks through all these questions, embarrassing. Shouldn’t creative people support each other?

Yes and no. Triggers that stimulate us vary. I must catch the tune of an authentic wave that keeps me in the zone. My interest wakes when an unnameable quality shines through a work of art. I call it an internalised idea transformed in the heart. This kind of deep assimilation is often transmitted by poets, like Rilke, Rumi, Neruda, Warsan Shire, to randomly pick only a few artists who reveal multiple layers of meaning.

Equally, the simple words of some prayers and mantras transmit the power of their initially intended blessing. Then again, if a quality is not already dormant in me, I may sense the love tincture, but the symbolic aspect drowns in crackling noises when I can’t fine-tune the relevant radio wave. This is why, when we return at different times during our lives to creative works that intrigued us, we may find the essence of a message and grok how it relates to us with sudden intuitive comprehension.

‘Grok’ is a word coined by Robert A Heinlein in his 1961 novel ‘Stranger in a Strange Land.’ A Martian term for intuitive understanding, though it means much more. The Wikipedia entry for Grog is totally  worth reading.

just a stone

Cloned, copied and reassembled work, in short, quirky experimental materials, often has deeply assimilated qualities, if one can detect the code. In today’s flood-lit cyberspace there is stuff that blinks and chimes, stuff that rings pretentious, and stuff the heart can’t decode, yet.

As for writers who tilled a patch of their inner territory and planted seeds that thrive, it can be a lone satisfaction when no promoter propels readers to seek out the garden so lovely and inspiring to spend time in.

When a few connoisseurs find and grok the hidden place, the pleasure is shared. And that’s not even addressing the mysterious process of any creative work, the reward of which lives on in other time-zones.

To bring back the question – does it matter if creative works don’t appear in the light, are invisible on the public crossroads? The publishing world, for example, geared to profit, accumulates mountains of slush piles, like compost heaps. When you think of it – all manifestations are constantly recycled, small bits, big bits. And yet, I sincerely believe that anything processed and transmitted through the heart’s intelligence leaves a coherent mark and demands eternal resurrection. In other words, the essence of these works will shine on.

This post may be a tad confusing, not telling you anything you don’t already know. But having been immersed in editing ‘Shapers’ and composing a short story for a local competition, and, sigh, fretting over practical issues, like a defunct heating system I have nil resources to fix, nor the nerve to tap into the bureaucratic nightmare of government grants, I wanted to pause and say hello to all creative warriors out there.

In this warm and wet autumn

fresh grass grows, as soft as silk …


Talking of growth and beautiful spaces, visit this plot of a friend with a brilliant mind, who inspires by planting riches in a real earth plot in the middle of a roundabout. 






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… Others – by Mulla – Allum …

Another story of Allum, my inversion of the famous Mulla from the East – whose voice occasionally comes through the white noise surrounding our planet.

17th century miniature - Tokapi Palace

      17th cent. miniature – Tokapi Palac  

                                                      *    *    *

An aspiring novelist confesses to Allum, ‘I fear some members of our writing group withhold honest feedback. I wonder if you’re one of those who think my writing’s rubbish, and a waste of time.’

Allum ponders the question and sighs. ‘That’s complicated.’

‘I value your opinion. I really want to know.’

Allum strokes his beard. ‘Some people fantasise about what other people think of them and cause themselves no end of confusion. Some intuit correctly and dwell in purgatory. Then there are those who take other people’s opinions on the chin and apply what’s useful.’

The neighbour is not going to be side-tracked. ‘You haven’t told me if you think my writing is rubbish?’

Mulla shrugs his shoulders. ‘As I said, it’s complicated. Take your pick.’

*     *      *

oh that serious writer

He, he, that serious young writer …









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… what writers can glean from cinematographers …

Like writers, filmmakers manipulate time. They take a story apart and re-assemble it.

Robert Bresson, inquisitor and humanist, stimulated filmmakers and enriched the experience ofrobert-bresson2 viewers. With a tiny leap of the imagination his ‘Notes on the Cinematographer,’ publ. by Quartet Books in 1986, transl. from the French by Jonathan Griffin, also offer inspiration to writers of stories. Here are a few  brief notes I collated during my vocational film degree in the early 90s:

An image is transformed by contact with other images as is a colour by contact with other colours. A blue is not the same blue besides a green, a yellow, a red. No art is without transformation.

For the writer – this would apply to action and reaction, resonance or dissonance, anything that develops the dynamic interactions of a narrative.

img108 adjustedTo create is not to deform or invent persons or things. It is to tie new relationships between persons and things which are, and as they are.

This equally holds for writing. Characters discover themselves through relationships.

Something that failed can, if you change its place, be a thing that has come off.

If a writer’s darling idea distracts in one place, in another place it may earn its stay.

One dismantles and puts together till one gets intensity.

This reminds me of a Goethe quote … Dich im Unendlichen zu finden, must unterscheiden und verbinden … To find yourself in infinity you must differentiate and combine … Details works best if they have a purpose in the protagonist’s quest, especially when it comes to turning points.

An old thing becomes new if you detach it from what usually surrounds it.

This is what creativity is all about. Entrepreneurs seem to grok this.

What is for the eye must not duplicate what is for the ear (within.)

This serves as a reminder not to overwhelm a reader with sensual information.

The cause which makes him/her say this sentence or makes that movement is not in him/her, it is in you. The causes are not in the models. On the stage and in films the actor must make us believe that the cause is in him.

A one-up on the ‘show don’t tell’ writing mantra. Both telling and showing have their place, though we connect to a character more intimately through being shown the interactions with him/her self and others.

The omnipotence of rhythms – nothing is durable but what is caught up in rhythms.

We love rhythm. It measures time and gives coherence, while a counter rhythm can surprise and quicken our heartbeat. In film as in writing this might be the repetition of quirky character traits, tone of voice, tempo, mood, atmosphere, or reoccurring shifts in style and perspective, in the way we enjoy how adagio and presto in music enhance each other.

P1090890 - Copy (2)Translate the invisible wind by the water it sculpts in passing.

This ventures into the domain of poetry …  the ongoing challenge to find ways to express in words or images what rushes past us in daily life, but nevertheless affects us deeply.

The eye is (in general) superficial, the ear profound and inventive. A locomotive whistle imprints in us a whole railway station.

This is about trusting the imagination of the viewer, or reader.

Let the cause follow the effect, not accompany it or precede it.

Robert Bresson shares: The other day I was walking through the gardens by Notre-Dame and saw approaching a man whose eyes caught something behind me, which I could not see: at once they lit up. If, at the same time I saw the man, I had perceived the young woman and the child towards whom he now begun running, that happy face of his would not have struck me so; indeed I might not have noticed it.

Build your film on white, on silence and on stillness.

Profound. Allowing a unique story to emerge requires intuition, and an inner kind of listening.

*     *     *

A touching interview of R Bresson. And some video clips relating to cinema, including hand gestures R Bresson used in film.

As writers, how do we move a story from one setting to another?

In film, a sudden jump of scene is kind of lazy, unless intended to shock. In writing, too, there are more elegant ways to transit from one place, or time, to another, mainly through matching parallels or correspondences. This could be: A keyword in a dialogue repeated in the next scene, or a similar action, direction of movement, speed, light, colour, shape, sound or mood. It could also be an artificial device, featuring a narrator, or a recurring (out of time) interlude which can form the spine for the narrative.

I have time-jumps in my novels (yet to be publishend.) It remains to be seen whether they work.

Regarding spatial/temporal suspensions of linearity, I remember the beginning of the film Space Odyssey 2001. A victorious ape, having discovered a bone can be a weapon, spins his tool high into the air … time leaps … and next we see a spinning space station, shaped like the femur bone.

More recent, in the TV series The Last King – 1st episode, a time leap works well … The Saxon boy, Uhtred, captured by Danes and taken under the wings of Earl Ragnar, is pushed by him playfully into a river with the words ‘You’re as a son to me.’ In the next scene Uhtred steps out of the river as a grown man, albeit with conflicting localities.

*    *    *

On a personal note, as my life’s narrative is concerned, having made professional sacrifices ten years ago, in order to write, I wish I could shift to a scene and time that did not involve worrying about keeping my roof over my head.


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… beautifully lost – revision of a poem …

Many of my poems linger in files, unfinished. I’m never sure of anything for long. Quite often the poet and the philosopher existing in my solitude are at odds with each other, or the pair gangs up against the certainty of experts our western culture values. I favour dynamic approaches to life, where faith and doubt are equally valued in the process of becoming human. The words of Hazrat Inayat Khan would apply:

‘The ideal is the means; its breaking is the goal.’

When making something audible and visible from the inside out, a topic I touched upon in my last post, only time may tell its worth. Once we shared our art, there is the waiting … the vulnerable span after exposure. Does our wave of inspiration chime in other minds, offer fresh perspectives,  frustrate with surprise?

I hope you, my readers, can offer a reflection on the little poem I obsessed with revising over the last week, and maybe even share thoughts on your own revisions.

Sunflower 6I first wrote ‘beautifully lost’ in 2005 and put it to sleep. Other versions exist. The latest attempt turned into a Haiku sequence. I’m not at all sure it’s an improvement compared to my first attempt.

The theme is cycles of experience, when after a period of loss and unknowing; a renewal of meaning happens that keeps me young at heart, connecting me back to the middle of each moment.


Beautifully Lost – 2005 version

At times no deed rhymes,

nothing I say is heard,

each word drops to silence,

and my best yarns slip

from the loom, waltzing

in endless loops,


On solid earth swords cut,

and chalices swallow us,

but once every full moon

King and Queen align their myths,

And I– beautifully lost –

dreams undone – whirl

at the gateway to an inner sun.

 –  Ashen, 9th Nov 2005


beautifully lost –  2015 version

when deeds miss their rhyme

and words fall flat on their face

I chase your fragments

in the wayward yarns

that fall off the loom and loop

on my breath – dazed

drifting without aim

they will chance the blade that cuts

or a gulping maw

until a full moon

weds the light of King and Queen

and my best yarns yearn

beautifully lost

heart-whirling at the gateway

to an inner sun

  Ashen, Jan 2015


And here a song …



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… the gulf between writers and readers …

This post was sparked by a stimulating and taxing interview Philippa Rees conducted with the writer Vivienne Tuffnell  P1060427lower - CopyThe interview attempts to re-define the gulf between writers and readers in the way commercial algorithms define values for readers, blanking out the appearance of new green shoots.

This disrupted my sleep, in addition to lots of other stuff going on, so I tried stepping back for a wider perspective. No answers, only a few muddled reflections …

My generation, whose early years were without TV, needed to adjust to rapid periods of change, particularly the change from analogue to digital recording, – two entirely different metaphors. The true significance of this shift has not yet been absorbed by the general public.  In a dissertation during a sabbatical film degree as a mature student in the mid-nineties, I quoted Jean Baudrillard  who saw the forced silence of the masses no longer as sign of passivity or alienation, but as ironic and antagonistic. He commented on the strategy of the masses:

‘… refusal of meaning and refusal of speech; or of the hyper-conformist simulation of the very mechanism of the system, which is another form of refusal by over-acceptance. It is the actual strategy of the masses … it is the winning one today, because it is the most adapted to the present phase of the system.’ Moroc, Marrakech Riad roof, golden vision - low

I recognised this as the Zeitgeist  gradually reaching across the globe. My continuous studies, driven by curiosity and endless questions, prepared me, but I still find it difficult to accept a reality where, for many otherwise intelligent people, the beautiful term ‘soul’ has lost its impact. I place the word carefully in my work and in my writing to avoid bias. Marion Woodman  uses it powerfully … ‘Our very survival depends on spirit embracing soul.’  

The quote becomes poignant through experience, not theory.

Don Cupitt – a philosopher of religion who rejects authoritarianism, once said … ‘The soul, the self, has died. The self in an animal with cultural inscriptions on its surface.’ Sobering, and true, depending of course from which plane of experience one perceives.

In our present culture the commercial speed train whistles through every zone of life. Publishers are among many enterprises struggling to survive amidst overproduction. The ‘Road Closed Pending Repairs’ signs Philippa refers to in her interview grow like mushrooms. Small businesses, for example, vanish at an alarming rate, at least in my little town. Be it a supermarket or a bookshop, I’m bombarded with buy-one-get-one-free or two for three offers. Plenty of people I know look beyond the more-is-better and cheaper hype, but their numbers won’t topple the algorithm-driven logic of mass-cargo firms like Amazon (click for latest newsletter.) Their long term strategy is to please the consumer, which, now, increasingly, includes writers who self-publish … To make profit in an oversaturated market requires ever-new smart inventions.

Works not created from templates, but from inside out, which, sigh,  includes my novels, will struggle to find a position on consumer maps. Traditional meanings are collapsing.  New genres for books are proposed. The box marked cross-genre sounds like a stir fry of left overs. How, as a writer, does one shoulder the marketing speech for novels not fitting into boxes? Crime? No! Romance? No! Religious? No! Paranormal? No! Sci Fi? No! Fantasy? No!

The distillation of a life’s experience, a work of creative imagination? What’s that?

Authors of such ilk have the formidable and possibly worthwhile task of writing their own obituary. Are any of the thoughts a writer expresses original? I don’t think so. Thoughts happen to us. What’s original is their processing and linking based on personal experience, which may offer a new window of reference. I look at my bookshelves and ponder what I would have missed had the authors whose works snuggle up to each other had lost faith in their work. Few commercially produced genre books leave impressions that live on. They’ll drown in ISBN databanks. Our shelves at home hold unique books that surprised and inspired us over the years, and until we become cyborgs and can, with a mere thought, make book pages fall open on any surface of our choice, this will not change soon.

I admire self-published writers. Vivian published several novels herself,  as did Philippa, which speaks for their tenacity and belief in their work. And I admire Philippa’s poignant questions, and how Vivienne exposes herself to them …

the very uniqueness you want to write about? Could you define why that is so difficult? Is it simply too much surrounding noise? Or something else?

‘… is writing the way in which we confront out existential loneliness, and are readers who ‘get’ and share that now the substitutes for lovers?’ 

MercatsSuch questions and similar ones are worth their salt, and expose our vulnerability … do writers, any artists, want to be truly seen? Is one person’s interpretation of truth going to be interesting to others? Will the public feel preached to? Such questions haunt many of the most inspired artists, poets and writers who weave works from layers and layers of their psyche. To expect an instant resonance from crowds will bring deep disappointment.

And yet, the most deeply personal experiences, combined with some magic ingredient of presentation, can, over time, have universal appeal. Stan Brakhage, an experimental filmmaker, put it this way … ‘I had the concept of everything radiating out of me, and that the more personal and egocentric I would become the deeper I would reach and the more I would touch those universal concerns which would involve all men.’

If I’m positive about the future it comes from an understanding in tune with Walter Benjamin  … ‘Technology, instead of liberating us from myth, confronts us as a force of a second nature just as overpowering as the forces of a more elementary nature in archaic times.’

To me, this means learning and unlearning accelerates in condensed time. Think how we make ourselves visible by blogging. How brave and scary to step in front of a public mirror … Virtual or not, the psychological process of engaging with virtual friends and foes is totally real. Sherry Turkle expressed this … ‘I believe that our experience with virtual reality, with artificial life are serious play; our need for a practical philosophy of self-knowledge has never been greater.’ My self-understanding is now aided by the relationship with people I have not met face to face – I never shook hands with or exchanged a hug with Vivienne, but I emphasise with her loss of joy, and her frustration with the ironic and antagonistic attitudes of people who belittle deeper strands of truth for fear of looking inside, and the sense of being a square peg that doesn’t fit the neat round hole of genres and algorithms.

Many writers will recognise these obstacles, including Philippa, and myself. How do we attract and persuade people to sample the green growth in our plot? At the same time, I’m convinced we are co-creating artists of our continuous self-invention. Mourning a not-yet existing frame for our work  might hinder this process, which moves and dances naturally through each breath. And I’m heartened by how writers and poets influence us over time.

A poet and mystic from over 800 years back examplifies this phenomenon …

‘The minute I heard my first love story I started looking for you, not knowing how blind I was. Lovers don’t finally meet somewhere. They’re in each other all along.’ – Rumi


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… apples, flu, altered states, wedding plans …

This autumn is drunk with colours and fruit. Red-blushed, in their own sweet time, apples have been falling with soft thuds onto the dewy lawn for weeks. Each morning they blink at me, and shout – help, pick me up, the slugs are coming. They’re good for something, but did you know that slugs and snails are hermaphrodite, and lay up to 500 eggs a season? Re: fruit, after last year’s poor crop, this year’s harvest is a tad overwhelming. The scale by which nature balances excesses evades rational comprehension.

autumn colours

autumn colours

Too much of a good thing brings obligations. Eaters taste best when fresh, so I’m urged to act fast. Slug-nibbled and bruised fruit lands on the compost heap. The bulk of apples, several kilos a day, I wash, dry, box and put out on the road for passers-by, mainly kids on their way home from school. This time-consuming and noble deed has left me exhausted, and with numerous bumps on my head. Here’s the apple saint, drop now. For lack of a resident family to boss into cider-making, I’m left with ‘waste not’ ringing in my ears. If you remember scarcity, you’ll co-suffer the enforced hypocrisy of a  twenty-first-century system that thrives on waste.

I could blame the nagging ‘waste-not‘ guilt for frustrating the flow of my writing. I could blame three early morning trips to London on crowded trains, or  alien dust settling on my skin … whatever …  my body succumbed to the annual purge of flu. So a week ago I sneezed and coughed through fever and chills. Sweaty nights occasioned surreal dreams and visions, and there were days when I lost faith in my invulnerability, reminded that I need to clarify some matters in my Will. I survived – with tons of lemons. You’ve guessed by now that I’m shy of conventional medics, a story I won’t regale you with. The last official need for a doctor’s visit to my home was benign, and over three decades ago,  after I’d given birth to a healthy baby in deepest rural Somerset.

So last Sunday, following a week of altered states, I ventured out to put petrol in my car. I support small enterprises for their human idiosyncrasies. The cashier gazed absent-mindedly over the forecourt and across the street towards a line of taxies, while automatically debiting my Visa and, at my want, pressing another button to produce a tax receipt. Sensing a process at work, I said, ‘You’re bored.’

His head moved independently from his neck. You may remember the craze of bubble-head mascots:  http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bobblehead that’s exactly how his head moved while his eyes rolled in their sockets to take note of my witnessing. His mouth then rounded and huffed before emitting a speech he must have rehearsed all morning. Slow, precise thoughts poured out, including snippets of existential dialogues he had had with taxi drivers from across the road. Written down, it could have edged itself towards some literary prize. His exposition ended with : ‘Nothing to be done. I’m bored stiff.’ Reminiscent of Beckett. Promises, waiting … in tune with my dull-witted flu-states. Missing most words, I was captivated by the man’s brilliant and spooky slaying of meaning. Another customer entered the cubicle. On leaving, some wise-crack in me I’ve no control over, said, ‘You’re reading …’ thinking, you’re observing life  from a distance, co-creating  its absurdities and joys. It’s what writers do.

 ‘Boredom is the dream bird that hatches the egg of experience. A rustling in the leaves drives him away.’   –  Walter Benjamin. 

*    *    *

This post was meant to be short and about my son and his partner, to brag a little.

Yeshen with baby croc, photo by Natasha, Aug. 2013

Yeshen with baby croc – there’s a story

Yeshen and Natasha

Yeshen and Natasha

They were engaged this year and their August journey to Australia had been a reconnaissance for their wedding plans next July, organised by Natasha’s family, who live in Darwin and Perth.

I asked if I could share a few images from their trip. Yesh and Tash have featured on my blog before, indirectly. You’ll find them, for example, under ‘Inspiration’ or ‘Story of an Animation.’ They’re self-employed and work extremely hard, like many young people in super-expensive London, to make a living. They’re lucky being able to do creative and fulfilling work.


I’ve not been to Australia, and am now looking forward to this journey – you can see why.  

Australia's west coast

Australia’s west coast


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