Shropshire author J.A. Gordon talks about every writer’s nightmare

As readers of this column will know, I am currently writing my fourth book. Its working title is ‘Glimpses of Eternity’ and I’ve promised my faithful followers that it will be finished by May. Those whose minds are alert will realise that this gives me at least four weeks’ leeway as I can finish it either at the beginning or the end of May and still keep my promise. I’ve written 62,000 words so far which have been achieved in bursts of inspiration and activity some more prolonged and productive than others. It has gone reasonably well but my problem now is: will there be sufficient such bursts between now and May to enable me to write the 40-50 thousand more words that are needed in order to take the story to the point where I feel it is finished?

This is every writer’s nightmare. Do I sit at the laptop and just wait for the Muse to visit? Do I force myself to write even though I know the Muse is on holiday or visiting some other lucky writer that day? Have you ever read a book where you felt that the author ran out of interest somewhere, or that a book had a leisurely pace in the mid-section but a hurried ending? I’ve read books by renowned authors which suffered from both these defects. I have even read books by famous writers where I would swear that a low-key section of the book (which merely links one part of the plot to another, say) was written by someone else entirely. These are all things which happen when writers are under pressure to finish something and a great deal of the time the quality of their writing suffers.

As an avid reader, I know just how disappointing it is when something which was so well written and enthralling in its early chapters goes ‘soggy’ in the middle or the book’s main protagonist does something stupidly out of character just to bring the story to an end but now, as a writer, I know why and how that happens. The reason for writers turning out less than their best work is fear. We fear missing a deadline, we fear the tyranny of the blank page and, even more, the tyranny of the blank mind. This is even worse, I think, when you are writing a book which, so far, you quite like and think your readers will like but are not sure about the next chapters. I am at this stage now with ‘Glimpses of Eternity’ but I really need to get on with it.

It’s spring, the daffodils are coming out, there is much to be done in the house and garden. I could spend every day from now until Easter doing some urgent domestic task but this will not get my book written so I’m taking myself and the dog off to the Long Mynd Hotel and nailing my feet to the floor so that I can write those much needed chapters. I hope that the Muse knows where to find me. Wish me luck.

Book Review – You Cannot Change The Way You Are by Michael Greening

I sometimes think that Shropshire is a hot bed of dissident creatives. My last reviewed book written by a Salopian turned conventional wisdom on its head in terms of our perception of the Beatles’ talent and this month’s book, although dealing with a very different subject matter, is no less iconoclastic.

‘You Cannot Change the Way You Are’, by Michael Greening is a short book (only 100 pages) containing an extended essay on what he calls ‘determinism’. It is his second book on this subject and my understanding of his hypothesis is probably impaired by not having read the first one but although he mostly rejects scientific words and seeks to put his points simply, I found it difficult to follow Mr Greening’s exposition.

You Can Not Change The Way you Are Book

Insofar as I was able to understand it, Mr Greening’s ‘determinism’ is the idea that human beings’ thoughts and actions are the consequence of all that has happened before and, because in any situation there are multiple causes at work, the outcome is subject to chance. From this he extrapolates that human beings have no free will, no independent thoughts and no control over our lives. Towards the end of the book he explains the advantages of this philosophy; he says that determinism ‘eradicates any feelings of anxiety, anger, envy, fear or guilt’ and that this ‘must be very positive’.

Indeed, one of his fellow thinkers he quotes says that since discovering determinism she has become ‘less arrogant. I’ve also stopped blaming myself….I blame others less, too’. If determinism leads to more tolerance then bring it on but it seems to be a very dangerous doctrine to me in that, if it were to become mainstream thinking, it would provide the perfect excuse for selfish, violent or dishonest people to say ‘Oh, I know that I did that, but it’s not my fault’, and Greening would agree with them. To me this is a counsel of despair.

One of the keys to Greening’s thinking is that he dismisses the ‘fable….that some supreme being…created us’. Not surprisingly, he is a fan of both Richard Dawkins and the late Christopher Hitchens and so is in good company in making the mistake of throwing the baby out with the bathwater when, in rejecting religion, he rejects God also.

The stated purpose of this book is to enable the reader to answer the question,’What am I doing here?’ and at the end, Greening says that the answer is ‘We are here for the ride- I hope we are able to enjoy it’. There is much in this book with which I disagree but it certainly powered up the grey matter. I feel, though, that there is one great omission – nowhere does Greening examine the place of love in the universe or in our lives and I would replace his answer to the question, ‘What am I doing here?,’ with the answer,’You’re here to learn about love and how it changes everything’.

‘You Cannot Change The Way You Are’ is available in paperback ***

By J.A. Gordon

More articles by Shropshire based author J.A. Gordon:
J.A. Gordon – Shropshire Writer in Residence
Discovering e-publishing and Tamara Drewe book review
The bane of Christmas Books and Living Life Without Loving the Beatles Review
Shropshire author J.A. Gordon talks about every writer’s nightmare
Shropshire author J.A. Gordon – rules for a good book
Shropshire author J.A. Gordon – The Loneliness of the long distance writer
Shropshire author J.A. Gordon – Where do you get your ideas?
Shropshire author J.A. Gordon – Jeremy’s tweet and the launch party

All about J.A. Gordon

Judith Gordon is a barrister and was an in-house lawyer and long distance commuter for twenty years before redundancy made her see that there is life after the corporate rat race.

She moved to Shropshire in 2007 with her husband and adores the fabulous food and spectacular scenery although recent winters have been a bit of a trial. In addition to her writing, Judith is Strategy Director of face2face solicitors a national franchise. Judith’s books are available online and from booksellers, see for more information.