The book you want to write: the life you want to invent
by Jon Rappoport
November 25, 2015
(Jon has a new work of fiction at his other blog, Outside The Reality Machine. If you want to take a wild ride, read it.)
“No one will ever map out a formula for writing a book. The formulas that already exist, and there are many of them, are pale reflections of what occurs in the writing process. They ape, in a maniacal way, what a machine would do if you loaded it up with enough information. Writing taps into, and brings life. Formulas do not. There are mysteries that can only be penetrated by writing a book.” (The Magician Awakes, Jon Rappoport)
I’ve had several clients who are writers. They decided they had a book in them. I’m talking about fiction—as I am in this article.
Tapping the keys for the first few sentences of Chapter One is a momentous event. That’s when you’re pushing the boat out from the shore.
As your imagination swings into gear, you become aware of the space that sits out there, the space you’re going to “fill and shape.”
The world has existed for a long time, but the book is a unique event. It’s the world plus one.
Of course, some people will never finish the work. They’ll bog down in details and plans and structure. They’ll convince themselves there is one prescribed way to do the job, and they’ll decide they just can’t produce that pattern.
Through direct instruction or the “shared wisdom” of writing teachers, they’ve bought a straitjacket. It fits, but it doesn’t fit the writer in them. That’s the sad joke. The straitjacket is for a person who isn’t a writer.
Of course, I’m not talking about spelling, grammar, or syntax. Kids are supposed to master those basics in junior high and high school.
It’s often said the best advice for a student is, “Write about what you know.” Ah yes. The pearl. Well, that certainly works if a person, in fact, wants to write about what he knows. But many other people really want to write about what they don’t know—or more precisely, what they haven’t imagined yet.
And even if you want to write about your life and past, you’re going to find out imagination is a major part of the process (*), because words and sentences and paragraphs don’t fit reality like a glove. Good writers can make you believe their words are exact replications of events, but that’s an illusion. That’s their brand of magic.
(*) [For more on using your imagination in creative writing, see my “A Writer’s Tutorial” in my audio collection Power Outside The Matrix.]
Even the old hard-boiled curmudgeon, Hemingway, was inventing something that looked like realism. He was hammering out sentences that conspired to produce that flat laconic effect. He had his own magic wand.
The ways imagination can operate—that’s what you want to discover and experience.
And hopefully, you’ll come to understand your imagination can move in unique currents.
Then you’ll have the engine and the fuel to start and finish a book.
It’s not a walk in the park; if that’s what you want, just take a walk in a park. Writing a book is the kind of commitment that expands your understanding of what a commitment is. It changes your life.
Fortunately, I had only one writing teacher during my 16 years as a student. He was a well-known poet and translator. He was a decent teacher because he didn’t hand out advice. He just let us work. I don’t recall him ever saying, “Write what you know.”
Good lines of writing stimulate creative adrenaline in the reader. They bypass the usual filters of perception. They awaken the reader to some X quality.
At that moment, he isn’t holding a book in his hands. He’s in an unforeseen space that blots out all other spaces.
Most beginning writers want to communicate big ideas. They conceive of these ideas as generalities. Then they spend page after page piling up more generalities like gooey layers of an ungainly cake. Looking at it sitting on the dinner table, no one is happy.
The solution to this problem isn’t merely substituting details, because details can also make an unfriendly tower.
A book isn’t a mechanical proposition.
When I was 11 years old, in 1949, I read a children’s book that took me away. It said, under the surface, “Do you want to be this? Do you want to be a writer?” Six years later, I said yes. Recently, I went back and read that book. I had to laugh, because I saw how much I had “supplied” to the author, how much I’d given him. I had been writing most of his work in my own mind. But that was all right. He brought me the first wave.
Do you want to write a book?
Don’t build a machine out of a thousand facts. You’ll find ways of folding in details in the caverns of your chapters.
You don’t really have a book in you. You have the capacity to invent a book.
If the prospect of inventing one doesn’t move you, either go on to another line of work or figure out how to find your imagination. You left it somewhere.
Which is like forgetting you’re going to get married. When you walk down the aisle, hopefully you’ll wake up when you say I DO.
If a person recovers his imagination, he can write a book. He can do lots of things. He can do anything.
Through a process no one will ever be able to fathom, he can work his way up the side of a wave while standing on the top, he can lug up and down the wave suitcases of details and sprinkle them where he wants to.
And he’ll write a book.
Over the years, I’ve made several lists of recommended books. This one is for stimulating imagination, and for illustrating vastly different ways of writing brilliantly. In no particular order:
A VOYAGE TO ARCTURUS/David Lindsay
THE MAN WHO WAS THURSDAY/GK Chesterton
RETURN FROM THE STARS/Stanislaw Lem
THE COLOSSUS OF MAROUSSI/Henry Miller
COLLECTED POEMS/Dylan Thomas
TENDER BUTTONS/Gertrude Stein
MONA LISA OVERDRIVE/William Gibson
EINSTEIN’S DREAMS/Alan P Lightman
If you can read these nine books and say nothing new has entered your bloodstream, you need a serious engine overhaul.
Your book, the one you want to write—you have to find a way in. You have to find a way to speak. Your point of view has to be more than surgical, more than remote observation.
And this is where imagination comes into play.
How, for example, do you describe the wind on a lake when you were five years old? Do you try to recall every detail of its effects? Do you measure, in memory, the width of each ripple?
You think about what you were doing and feeling when you were sitting on the edge of the lake watching the ripples. You write about the “poetics” of the situation. And to make that happen, you invent.
Memory is just the beginning of the process.
Actually, even as you were living your life at five years old, you were imagining. You weren’t just seeing.
At any age, what you perceive, divorced from imagination, is almost nothing. It’s invisible.
As a writer, you need to grasp this. When you were five, perception and imagination mingled into a whole. Now, you’re conscious of something else. Your power of invention.
Then much, much later, edit.
When writers claim they have distilled a memory down to its essence, they’re selling you a bill of goods. It’s their amusing way of masking invention. There is no rock bottom.
Every culture has its creation myths. They purport to describe how the world came into existence. But they’re poems. They were launched out of the wellspring of imagination.
Making it up will catch far more reality in its net than trying to remember everything.
Yes, the past is real, but as a writer you’re not a devotee of perfect recall. You’re an explorer who has built his own ship and you’re riding it out on to seas you’re creating.
The superhighway of history tells a story of the unshackling of imagination.
By the second half the 20th century, it became clear to many people that imagination had become unhooked from ideologies, metaphysical clap-trap, the pretensions of psychology, and the juvenile materialistic philosophy coming out of science.
Finally, after centuries of work, imagination stood alone for all to see.
But few were ready to look.
Instead, they dove back into a jungle of spiritual symbology. They dove into a hodge-podge of resurrected ethnicity. They grasped at “revivals” of ancient cosmologies. They embraced futile and destructive fundamentalisms.
Nevertheless, IMAGINATION HAD EMERGED AS THE NORTH STAR.
It was apparent that many metaphysical meanderings which had occurred since the dawn of time were CREATIONS OF IMAGINATION, pure and simple.
So why not admit it?
Why not confess that imagination is there for the individual? Infinitely.
Well, people were still obsessed with wrapping the individual in various disguises: “the individual is just one atom in the super-atom of cosmic ding-dong.”
But there it was, imagination, the exposed gold centerpiece of alchemy. Finally. And people said, “Let’s go back to lead.”
But…no matter. Because the mystery is out in the open.
For those who can see it.
They will discover that every longing pointing to cosmos, illumination, enlightenment, transcendence is answered and fulfilled through imagination deployed.
This is a true spiritual tradition of planet Earth. It has been buried, repressed, sidetracked, and misidentified—but now here it is.
In a very real sense, it was always the goal. It was always the thing to be distilled out of the dross of history—and out of the rambling life of an individual.
When my publisher, Bonnie Lange, gave me the green light to write The Secret Behind Secret Societies (**), I realized I would have a chance to explore this whole area.
(**) [The Secret Behind Secret Societies is included as a bonus (.pdf file) in my audio collections Exit From The Matrix and Power Outside The Matrix.]
The first part of my work was to strip imagination of useless and distracting accoutrement. The second part of my work was to show people its scope and range and power, and what can happen when you use it intensely, without limits. (***)
(***) [Both parts are presented in full detail in my audio collection Exit From The Matrix.]
It pays homage to untold numbers of artists on this planet who have carried the torch, since the first cave man scratched the first drawing on the wall of a cave and declared: reality is not enough; I make reality.
That’s the secret. It was, then, and it is, now, for those of us willing to know it.
The author of three explosive collections, THE MATRIX REVEALED, EXIT FROM THE MATRIX, and POWER OUTSIDE THE MATRIX, Jon was a candidate for a US Congressional seat in the 29th District of California. He maintains a consulting practice for private clients, the purpose of which is the expansion of personal creative power. Nominated for a Pulitzer Prize, he has worked as an investigative reporter for 30 years, writing articles on politics, medicine, and health for CBS Healthwatch, LA Weekly, Spin Magazine, Stern, and other newspapers and magazines in the US and Europe. Jon has delivered lectures and seminars on global politics, health, logic, and creative power to audiences around the world. You can sign up for his free NoMoreFakeNews emails here or his free OutsideTheRealityMachine emails here.