As readers of this column will know, I am currently writing my fourth book. Its working title is â€˜Glimpses of Eternityâ€™ and Iâ€™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 weeksâ€™ leeway as I can finish it either at the beginning or the end of May and still keep my promise. Iâ€™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 writerâ€™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? Iâ€™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 â€˜soggyâ€™ in the middle or the bookâ€™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 â€˜Glimpses of Eternityâ€™ but I really need to get on with it.
Itâ€™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 Iâ€™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 â€“ 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 Beatlesâ€™ talent and this monthâ€™s book, although dealing with a very different subject matter, is no less iconoclastic.
â€˜You Cannot Change the Way You Areâ€™, by Michael Greening is a short book (only 100 pages) containing an extended essay on what he calls â€˜determinismâ€™. 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 Greeningâ€™s exposition.
Insofar as I was able to understand it, Mr Greeningâ€™s â€˜determinismâ€™ is the idea that human beingsâ€™ 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 â€˜eradicates any feelings of anxiety, anger, envy, fear or guiltâ€™ and that this â€˜must be very positiveâ€™.
Indeed, one of his fellow thinkers he quotes says that since discovering determinism she has become â€˜less arrogant. Iâ€™ve also stopped blaming myselfâ€¦.I blame others less, tooâ€™. 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 â€˜Oh, I know that I did that, but itâ€™s not my faultâ€™, and Greening would agree with them. To me this is a counsel of despair.
One of the keys to Greeningâ€™s thinking is that he dismisses the â€˜fableâ€¦.that some supreme beingâ€¦created usâ€™. 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,â€™What am I doing here?â€™ and at the end, Greening says that the answer is â€˜We are here for the ride- I hope we are able to enjoy itâ€™. 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 â€“ nowhere does Greening examine the place of love in the universe or in our lives and I would replace his answer to the question, â€˜What am I doing here?,â€™ with the answer,â€™Youâ€™re here to learn about love and how it changes everythingâ€™.
‘You Cannot Change The Way You Areâ€™ is available in paperback ***
By J.A. Gordon
More articles by Shropshire based author J.A. Gordon:
J.A. Gordon â€“ 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 writerâ€™s nightmare
Shropshire author J.A. Gordon â€“ rules for a good book
Shropshire author J.A. Gordon – The Loneliness of the long distance writer
Shropshire author J.A. Gordon â€“ Where do you get your ideas?
Shropshire author J.A. Gordon â€“ Jeremyâ€™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. Judithâ€™s books are available online and from booksellers, see www.chroniclesofeternity.co.uk for more information.