About Writers, blogging, Uncategorized, Writers Co-op, writing technique

Writing to Raise Consciousness—Meaning and Intent

“Writing to Raise Consciousness”–it’s my tagline, my author branding. Since I write both fiction and nonfiction, it might seem challenging to wrap both types of writing into the same package. Eyebrows raise, faces morph into puzzled expressions, and people ask the obvious: “What do you mean? What do you mean when you make a statement saying you want to write in ways that raise consciousness? Please explain…”

Ask ten people to define “consciousness” and you will likely get ten different answers. Even among scholars who study consciousness from scientific, philosophical, and metaphysical perspectives, there is little agreement about what consciousness actually is. Without agreed upon definitional characteristics, how do I attempt to raise or elevate something we are not clear about and may not even be able to measure or quantify at all? It isn’t like raising the temperature of something through a process of heating. It isn’t like inciting a riot with inflammatory rhetoric. Physics and sociology have ways of measuring those processes.

Is this a blind men problem—trying to describe an elephant, each with only a fragmented understanding? Is this some sort of dark matter/dark energy construct—useful in trying to understand something we really do not understand? Am I deluding myself in thinking I can write ‘stuff’ that is going to actually raise consciousness? To complicate matters further, while playing my own Devil’s Advocate, if one believes consciousness is infinite and beyond constructs of space and time, then you cannot raise, elevate, expand, or increase it in any way. X + infinity still = infinity. In some ways, it is a thorny thicket.

Despite these challenges, I do not back down from my intent to raise consciousness through my writing, nor do I move from my belief that I can actually do so. The method to achieve this works at different levels or dimensions. It also hopefully works on both individual and collective consciousness.

The first level is rather simple and straightforward. There is widespread agreement that a relationship exists between consciousness and awareness. Precisely what that relationship is can be difficult to say, but for purposes of this argument, let us simply posit that awareness and consciousness are related. If I write something about a particular social ill such as violence, or racism, or children sex-slaves, and my writing (fiction or nonfiction) calls attention to this social ill, makes people more aware of the problem, I have raised consciousness at this level.

There is a long history of literature calling attention to social injustice. To name a few examples:

  • The horror of war—Johnny Got Your Gun
  • Racial prejudice—To Kill a Mockingbird
  • Exploitation of immigrants—The Jungle

There is another type of ‘calling attention to an issue’ that goes beyond social ills. Authors often write about potential problems that might occur in order to raise awareness, to get readers to think about a particular issue. What if artificial intelligence got out of control as in Terminator? What would an Orwellian 1984 future of government control and propaganda be like? These topics are often explored in speculative fiction. Robert Heinlein, one of my favorite science fiction authors, often addresses social themes in his writing. In many ways, his writing helps to raise consciousness at this first level. My science fiction novel, Sentient, calls attention to certain social themes. Isolation/separation and how this contributes to competition over cooperation, how we treat people with mental illness, and acculturation to violence are just a few of the issues I touch upon. In my nonfiction book, Pathways to Health, I am asking readers to think about health in a different way, to recognize the distortions and limitations that characterize our beliefs about our own health and how we can achieve better health.

What underlies this first-level approach to raising consciousness is to call attention, to get the reader to notice or to think about something in an introspective way. The process is one of raising awareness so as to effect change. The change may be in a belief, an action or behavior of some sort. This touches upon the second-level, i.e. evolution. I’ll loosely go with a broad definition of evolution as the gradual development of something. The key piece here is “development”–something that occurs as change over time. In this sense, writing to raise consciousness represents an effort to support and promote the evolution of consciousness both on an individual and collective level.

This type of development follows a sequence, much the same as a child first learns to crawl, then walk, then run. This represents increasing motor skill and developmental maturity. On a psychological level, the ego develops along a sequence of self-centered ‘me’ to expanding awareness of others–family, nation, the world, the universe. This is a natural progression of awareness and an evolution of consciousness. This change is accompanied by new ways of thinking, believing, and behaving.

A similar developmental sequence occurs as part of spiritual growth and maturation. Some teachings explain this spiritual evolution as following a path toward enlightenment. I am particularly fond of Integral Theory and how it characterizes the different stages of growth and development along a psycho-spiritual evolution (outward) and involution (inward) path. I am also fond of David Hawkins’ Map of Human Consciousness that delineates characteristic thoughts, beliefs, and actions accompanying each developmental stage of the evolution of consciousness. When I write, sometimes I intend to raise consciousness by getting readers to think differently, to challenge beliefs, to expand and grow in their consciousness. In some ways this represents personal growth and transformation toward a higher level of consciousness. I have often had this experience myself when reading the wisdom of a variety of spiritual teachers. Some of the chapters in my book, Health Wise—Integral Lessons in Transformation, are specifically targeted towards raising consciousness at this second level.

I’ll touch upon the third level more briefly. I also write with the intention of raising consciousness in a much more indigenous way. My explanation thus far has focused on raising awareness and consciousness at the individual level and more broadly at the collective level of society. I also believe that there is a planetary aspect to consciousness that also follows a developmental or evolutionary sequence. The term, “Noosphere” was first coined by Teilhard de Chardin. Basically, you can think of this as not only our specie’s, but the entire planet’s collective consciousness. Such consciousness exists as part of an entire cosmic consciousness. Our planet’s noosphere is evolving towards an expanded capacity as part of the natural evolution of planetary consciousness. This theory/belief is expounded upon in some detail by José Argüelles in his book, Manifesto for the Noosphere.

Many have written about the great shift in consciousness occurring during these times. Rather than writing about this shift or about the noosphere, I am writing with the specific desire of facilitating the shift to occur, to making my small contribution toward the evolution of our planetary consciousness. My individual consciousness, my thoughts and behaviors, and specifically my writing are all generally intended towards promoting the expansion of the noosphere. In my book, Sentient, when I am writing about telepathy and collective consciousness, these are processes associated with the noosphere. Yet, whether or not anyone reads anything that I have written, anything that I do, write, or even think potentially influences the collective planetary consciousness at this third level.

Complicated…straightforward…perfectly muddy? I don’t expect the typical reader to really understand what I mean by, “Writing to Raise Consciousness”. In some ways, it doesn’t matter if a reader understands my intent, my goal. What matters to me is whether or not something I have written has the intended outcome. Does it work? Am I successful in achieving my goal? I don’t know for sure, but if you are at least thinking about these things, feeling a bit introspective, wondering about your own consciousness or the greater collective consciousness, then perhaps I have had some small success. I think of this effort applied in three different dimensions at which I can potentially raise consciousness. In some small way, I hope what I have written has been instrumental in raising your consciousness…

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About Writers, book promotion, inspiration, Uncategorized, Writers Co-op, writing technique

A Chance Encounter With Author Eric Michael Craig

Note: Eric Michael Craig is a successful sci-fi author and publisher. The following is about the man, as a writer.

+++“That’s the science fiction author, Eric Michael Craig,” wait-bot Sally answered me.
+++I’d asked because at 4:AM, he and I were the only two people left in the bar. Outside, the wind howled but that was why they called this planet The Howling. “Think he’d talk to me?”
+++Sally giggled, “He doesn’t mind talking. I mean, about his work.” That suited me. I had a deadline approaching and an author’s interview would keep my publisher happy for… minutes. So, I walked over to his table and unceremoniously plopped into a seat. “Why?” I asked him.
+++In the tavern lighting, Eric has a Hemingway look about him, solid, bald with a standard circle beard, a bit scruffy. He wore a workman’s shirt with the top buttons open and a braided leather necklace.
+++“Why do you write science fiction?”

+++“My Father. He wanted to be a sci fI novelist since well before I was born. In fact he completed two manuscripts but never managed to get either one accepted. He submitted the first one when I was maybe 5 years old and got a form letter rejection because he hadn’t followed the guidelines for submission. After that he kept writing but never again tried to get anything published. He wrote because he was a fan of the genre (back in the heyday of people like Heinlein and Clarke and Asimov).”
+++We both genuflected.
+++“When I was old enough to read the very first books he handed to me were Rocketship Galileo and Between Planets. I was maybe 5 years old when I started into those novels, and from then on nothing else I ever read held my interest like Sci Fi. Dad gently encouraged me to write, but his own rejection made him a bit more cautious in how he pushed me. Then when I was in 7th grade, an English teacher I had, wholeheartedly started shoving me in that direction. Together the two of them tried to keep me writing, but I was a typical teenager and I had the attention span of a flea … so of course I went off in another direction with my life.
+++I started flirting with the idea of writing seriously only after my father passed away and my mom gave me copies of the manuscripts that he’d written. I was about to retire at that point in time (I was 41), but it wasn’t until my mom was diagnosed with cancer and she and I were talking about losing our dreams (and how it had affected my dad when he gave up wanting to be a writer) that I decided to commit myself to it. For him and for me too. My mom lived long enough to read the first draft of the story that became my first two novels.
+++You could say, if you forgive how this sounds like an epic fantasy theme, that this was a destiny I inherited from my father and denied for most of my life, only to discover after the trials I faced that it was indeed my inevitable path.
But I usually tell people, it was me just being too damn dumb to know better.”

+++I smiled. Sally was right. “Marshall McLuhan once commentated that artists and outlaws are on the outside looking in. He also said they see things as they are while the rest of us are looking at the world through a rear-view mirror.
What effects do you hope your books will have on your readers?”

+++“Sleeplessness?
+++Actually I hope my story will leave the reader thinking (and if that thinking keeps them up at night, that isn’t entirely a bad thing). I want my writing to engage their mind, not just entertain them. I think it is far easier to simply tell a story than to inspire a reader to keep thinking about what they read. If I can leave them wondering, “what if it really happened?” … then I have reached my goal.”

+++“What kind of world do you like to create for your characters?”

+++“I guess I am different in how I write because I tend to think of my world and my characters as an integrated single thing. The world is not so far extrapolated from the one we live in, so I tend to leave the world building to the current headlines, and then I just broaden the perspective to paint a complete perspective of the action. I can’t say I liked building this world because I really didn’t build one… Instead I focused some light into the more hidden corners of the world we already know.
+++Stormhaven Rising and Prometheus and the Dragon are very complex stories with multiple character sets interwoven in very broad ranging story lines. I have over 150 characters in the two novels and it takes all of them to tell the story.
+++I didn’t treat the characters as individuals, although they are fully rounded in and of themselves. But it is probably easier to think of them as character groups that work and act together, and in some ways represent segments of a culture that has its own personality (and purpose).
+++I guess I kinda took the question sideways, but world building is not something I have done in my most recent books. You might say it is more of a process of analysis, than creation of a world.”

+++“You like to work deeper themes into your novels. What themes, and why?”

+++“Darker themes? Hmm I don’t know if I would call them darker themes. Sure the idea of facing the potential end of the world is dark in and of itself, and it is bound to bring out the worst in humanity, but it also brings out the best. I think that what I write is based on a fairly accurate extrapolation of the world we live in. If it feels dark, then unfortunately that might be a reflection on the current human condition.”

+++“‘Deeper,’ not darker. But I like your answer.”

+++“Oh you’re right, how Freudian of me. Of course deep down in the ocean it’s pretty dark (even if it is teeming with life). Real depth sometimes can only be found if you’re challenging the dark.
+++I know that as I wrote the first two novels of ‘Atlas and the Winds,’ I tried to keep a balance between both the heavier elements and the lighter and more uplifting side of the story. With only a few exceptions I think I balanced the tragedy with the triumph.
+++In my mind, balancing triumph with tragedy is something that has to happen in life. When that balance is lost in one direction, hope dies a hard and bitter death. When it is tipped in the other direction, the victories become easy and meaningless.
+++In some ways I believe suffering is essential to finding value in those moments when you come out on top. That’s not to say I like to suffer, but when I do finally triumph, it makes the victory infinitely more meaningful.
+++As to the whole concept of balancing highs and lows in my outlook on life, I can say … maybe. Although ultimately it is the darkness that allows us to appreciate the light (however dim it is).
+++However, in writing if you only focus on one side, the story never spins well. If my books only told about how everything pounded the characters mercilessly and relentlessly (or how the characters were all indestructible), then I don’t think there would be much point in reading them. The closer you can keep to the point where the plot could go either way, the more intensely the reader is drawn in and compelled to invest emotionally in the arc of the characters.”

+++Good stuff, I thought as dawn lit the windows. I thanked Eric and left, feeling that I had just met a man worth knowing.

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About Writers, inspiration, writing technique

Be Ready When She Comes

The other day, this article, a speech on racism and science fiction (dating back to 1998, no less), surfaced in my Facebook feed. I’d never seen it before but, being a Samuel Delany fan from way back, I dug right in.

Before I had even cleared the first third of it, I found myself hurriedly putting it aside to work on the second draft of my own current WIP. The damned thing had been fighting me hard—not because the plot or characters were in any way unclear in my mind, but there was simply no consistent voice yet. WIP’s come in all forms, and they all fight us to some extent, but this one had been particularly tough—petulant, thorny, recalcitrant—it had resisted all my efforts to get a groove going. The novel, typically, didn’t care about what I was trying to do. I hadn’t gotten her attention yet.

Somewhere between George Schuyler’s horrific and ironic description of a lynching and Delany’s own telling of his first pointedly racist rejection letter, I hit pay dirt. All at once, I had a new beginning for the first chapter, and with it, a new sense of where I was going and why I was going there. My bristly companion was suddenly purring and eager, both soothed and enlivened by the fact that I was finally doing something it liked.

What had changed? There is nothing in my book that relates directly to what Delany was talking about. It is not about racism. It certainly isn’t science fiction. It doesn’t take place during the time period he is mostly talking about. (The article, by the way, is well worth the read.) Yet somehow, despite the lack of relevance, something sparked. Some bit of current leaped a nineteen year gap and jumpstarted my always dubious creative process.

That’s an off-the-cuff metaphor, but it’s an apt one.

My admiration for Delany is nearly boundless. Indeed, I think he is one of the finest writers of the second half of the 20th Century. His voice was both clear and curious, earnest and playful. He wrote beautiful sentences. He took science fiction seriously while still regarding all labels warily.

The muse (and I use the term reluctantly) cannot be coaxed or coddled. She appears when she will, without warning or reason, in whatever motley garb the moment might supply—a blaze of light, a scrabbling at the window, the tickle of hairs rising on the back of your neck. Being divine in nature, she rarely speaks anything like sense. In fact, she often says nothing at all. But her mere presence, even fleeting and uncertain, can awaken that starburst of astonishment. You do know what you’re doing. Actually, you’re doing it already.

It has been said that the only way to court the muse is by doing the work at hand. Let her find you writing. I’m not sanguine about that. It seems to me, we often labor along without her help for long dark days or seasons. Writing when you are not inspired is the norm, not the exception, at least for me. But at the very least, if you are writing, then maybe you will be ready when she appears, if she appears. Try being in the right place at the right time. It couldn’t hurt.

Meanwhile, inspiration goes as abruptly as she comes. So when she shows, burn whatever oil you have to keep the lights on. Give her anything she wants. And write.

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About Writers, Research, Uncategorized, writing technique

Challenging Moments

We all have those challenging moments when life changes in that moment. One might think writers relish writing about their own intense moments. It is, after all, when life shows us our limits and opportunities. Many great fictional characters are forged in the fire of  intense personal experience. But writing honestly is difficult when it’s personal.
So, let’s do something difficult. Use the comments section to describe a moment when your life did or could have drastically changed. I’ll start:

 +++When World War II ended, Mom married a soldier. Like most men who spent years killing people, he had PTSD. We called it a bad temper. The soldier taught me honesty, pride in independence, the value of hard work and he occasionally beat Mom unconscious. I vividly remember standing with my own head scarcely above the man’s knee, looking down at my mother lying on the floor. I feared him until I was a teen and pointed a shotgun at him. “If you ever hit my mother again, I will kill you. I’m sixteen. They will put me in a home for juvenile delinquents. But I will get out when I’m eighteen and you will be dead.” The shotgun was loaded, the safety was off and my finger felt the trigger. If he had risen from the kitchen table, I would have shot him.

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About Writers, blogging, Uncategorized, world-building, writing technique

Tomorrow’s Challenge

Why do we continue to use digital media to mimic novels set in type? Linear stories presented word by word and scene by scene are analogs in a world that we are beginning to experience as quantum.

Changes are coming even if we ignore them. Digital e-readers are as capable of sounds as they are of words, so why bother describing the sound of a bell when you can make it? Two paragraphs appearing side by side can present two PoVs to the reader at the same time. Comic books do that now. Imagine what a creative writer of the future will be able to do.

But why wait? Are we all just old analogs stuck in a linear perspective incapable of conveying life’s simultaneity?

Just asking 🙂 What do you think?

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About Writers, book promotion, book sales, Uncategorized, writing technique

BOOK BLURBS

We writers are the pioneers in this brave new world of book marketing. It is our task to boldly go where few authors have gone before. Finding what works for us is often intuitive, so it helps to ask others what they think. What do you think of the following insight from a fellow author about book blurbs?

Book Blurb
“The blurb should draw you into the story, not tell you all about the story.”

Example: (my current blurb)
The Phoenix Diary
Legends speak of a mysterious and powerful record that might be a formula for free energy to rebuild the lost civilization or an ancient tome written by a man from the stars telling of mankind’s true beginning and ultimate destiny. Now three teens – Otero, Rhia, and Marc – set out to find the Phoenix Diary with the help of hints from their own genetic memories. But a mysterious man pursues them relentlessly through the ruins of Denver and into an ancient vault in the Rocky Mountains; he knows the Phoenix Diary is everything the legends say and more. It is humanity’s past, present, and future.

Example: (Proposed revision. Is it better?)
The Phoenix Diary
Can genetic memories guide three teens to a tome written by a man from the stars buried in an ancient Rocky Mountain vault? Does it really tell of humanity’s past, present, and future? Only the warrior pursuing them knows.

Example: (Your Best)
Let’s see your best book blurb!

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About Writers, book promotion, Stories, Uncategorized, Writers Co-op, writing technique

Writer’s Showcase

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Type: Satire, Racial Prejudice
From WiP, Bob Vs The Aliens
Scene: The Aliens have just landed and Piper, reporter for the European news site, Socialism Revisited, is in Atlanta conducting a “man-on-the-street” interview with Bob, who was selected because he struck her as an average white man.
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+++An elderly black couple turned to them. They smiled at Piper. She smiled back. “Ignore him,” the man told her. “Bob’s too white to understand what’s really happening here.”
+++“He’s a good boy,” the woman assured her. “Give him some time.”
+++“Hi Mom.”
+++Piper stared at Bob. “Mom?”
+++“I was a surprise.”
+++“Your face is Western European.” Her eyes twinkled.
+++“They love me anyway.”
+++Undaunted, Piper thumbed at the cameraman behind her, “Well, the power’s out again. But our camera still works.”
+++Bob ignored her. “I do understand, Dad,” he answered the old gentleman. “The presence of an Alien species defines all humans as one, right?”
+++Realization came over Piper’s face as if she suddenly sensed the real story here. Signaling the cameraman, she turned to the couple. “Tell me, sir, what was your first reaction when you heard the news?”
+++“White folk are gonna stop looking at me like I’m black.”

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Critique & Comments welcome 🙂
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Writers: Showcase your writing on Writers Co-op!
We want to see your writing of First Line or Paragraph, Character Introduction, World Building, Backstory, Action Scene, Satire, Humor, Horror, display an Emotion, show a Relationship, or, any Bit Of Writing you’d care to share. (Never more than one page in length, please. Be sure to state the type & book title and introduce the scene.)
Post in our drafts section if you can, or, use our Contact Page to send us your  sample or email it directly to GD (at) Deckard (dot) com.
(Many thanks to Ducky Smith & E.M. Swift-Hook of the SciFi Roundtable for their unwitting contribution of this idea.)

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