Wednesday, December 26, 2012

To use Thought Replacement Therapy (TRT) in the new year.

I'm interested in the science behind thoughts. It's fascinating the way certain areas of our brains ignite when we're experiencing different thoughts, whether they're nourishing or depleting. Their impact begins in our brains and spills over to the chemistry of the rest of our bodies. One individual's brain map can look totally different to another person's. Just as there are various types of forests on earth, such as pine or eucalyptus, the plantations in people's heads look different, depending on how they've let their thoughts cultivate the dendrites and synapses in their brains. There are forests of pain, self-pity and resentment, like horror movie settings we'd prefer to stay out of. Then, there are other fragrant forests of peace and happiness like the Garden of Eden.

Some people have assumed that I'm a fairly happy type of person, but I'm aware of a wilderness area I prefer to keep hidden. It saps my strength and enthusiasm and becomes difficult to prune. Razing this forest to the ground is my aim for 2013. I'm aware that it's a pretty thick forest, as I've been nurturing these suckers for years, but I just need good tools to demolish each tree. The word of God, which I believe is a sharp, gleaming double-edged sword of purity, will be the main tool in my box. The others are an assortment of other healthy thoughts. The plan is that whenever any of those bad thoughts pop up their dense, weedy heads, instead of pondering them, I attack them by replacing them instantly with thoughts I prefer to choose.

I guess we all have our individual toxic thoughts in our forests. I'll mention just a few of mine.

There's this one. What I've tried to do isn't really working and we have no money. I'll attack these with thoughts and memories of good things which have happened and remind myself that we've managed to cover everything we need.

Then there's, Poor Blake. We can't take him on holidays as we used to do with Logan and Emma. He'll be narrow and impoverished in his outlook and it's all because of our stupid, selfish choices. This can be attacked with reminders that his life is full of other enriching opportunities and he's had the homeschooler's privelege of growing up with his brother and sister always around.

I've battled health related negative thoughts over the years, but without going into a lot of detail, I've learned to snuff them out by topping up with one of the major themes of my latest novel, "Along for the Ride."How's that for a tantaliser? 

There's the one that goes, I don't get enough opportunities to share my writing and I wish I was famous. My daughter said recently, "I didn't know you wanted to be famous, Mum. I'd hate to be famous. I explain, "I don't mean the Justin Bieber, Lady Gaga sort of fame. I'd love the prestige of other Christian authors who can walk around shopping centres without being swamped for autographs and enjoy normal lives with their families, yet they know full well that fans all around the world are eagerly awaiting their next books and their in-boxes are full of invitations to speak at interesting venues. They don't have the hassle of being told they have to move house and look at the mountain of unsold books in their garages, apparent monuments to their failure." That horrible, jealous tree drops nuts that spring hastily into other toxic saplings. "I'm sure I write as good as (insert some name) so why can't I get the breaks?... why don't more people want to read my books and blogs?... what's the point of even going on?"

Well, I'll attack all them with a spray bottle I've heard called, "The Elijah Complex." Do you remember how he sat beneath that box thorn tree on the heels of a stunning victory? He'd have welcomed the acclaim of a hero, but found it easier to focus on the queen's threat to annihilate him as soon as she possibly could. His brain was full of a forest of trees I can relate to. "Nobody else cares about the things I do... I'm all alone in my passion... They've killed all your prophets and now they're after me too." That was shown to be a gross exaggeration, as there were several godly prophets eager to stand up and be counted, but in Elijah's mind and heart, his "Poor Me" statements were true.

I can attack this style of thought by bringing those other truths directly to mind. These are the times I can re-read reviews and warm feedback letters and think of praise about how my stories have positively impacted people. I have had some excellent breaks. People all around Australia have heard of me and read my books. That'll get those poisonous trees falling.

I guess I want to be like Eleanor H Porter's character, Pollyanna. My thought replacement therapy is similar to what she called her Glad Game. It all started in the first book when she received a Christmas relief basket containing a set of crutches instead of the doll she'd hoped for. Her impoverished pastor father told her, "Be happy because you don't need the crutches." He gave her a gift of attitude and perspective that changed the course of her life. I've heard Pollyanna given a bad wrap-up by modern 'smart' people who miss the point entirely. They assume she's a sugary-sweet optimist living in denial, but they're mistaken. Pollyanna never denied the crutches. She simply chose not to focus on them. That made all the difference and no matter what detractors say about her, she's the one whose attitude shone through many best-selling books by a string of authors after Eleanor H Porter. (Sadly, several of them are now out of print.)

So Pollyanna is my literary example and I have a scientific one too. I want to be like Pavlov's dog. He came to a point where the sound of that bell made him drool as he anticipated the arrival of some succulent meat. Perhaps if we practice TRT, we'll find ourselves at a stage where just the whiff of a negative, upsetting thought will make our spirits leap as we anticipate the cheery, positive, happy-making counter-thoughts we've trained to follow immediately on their heels. That will make a fool of any malevolent thoughts we're given to ponder. It'll chase them away for good. That's my hope for this year.

Do you think it may be worth practicing HRT too?  

Friday, December 21, 2012

That creativity can't be hurried

I am currently at the end of a writing project, "Along for the Ride" my ninth novel. It's been edited and is now with my publisher, awaiting a few more finishing touches for publication in 2013. I'm keen to get started on a new idea for number ten. Ideas are bouncing around in my mind, but haven't crystallised into a smooth plot yet. At this stage, it's easy to get a bit frustrated when they are pushing each other around and not coming together quite as quickly as I'd hoped. I'd really like to commence the writing part, when I'm knocking off chapter by chapter and growing a pile of A4 pages.

But I've learned a few lessons this week. The first was from an interview with John Cleese. He said that one of his secrets of creativity is to take all the time necessary to ponder or ruminate over an idea without rushing it. Another member of the Monty Python team who he considered more naturally gifted than him (and he didn't say who), never seemed to come up with the unique ideas that Cleese did. One day, the reason dawned on him. His friend wanted to feel as if he was a productive worker so when he was focusing on script writing, he'd leap on the first workable idea that occurred to him with a "that'll do" sort of attitude.

John Cleese, on the other hand, would take as much time as he needed to make his scripts as polished and original as possible. His advice struck a chord with me. I thought, "That's it!" Daydreaming doesn't look productive because we have a lot of ground-in attitudes erroneously programmed into our cellular make-up. First, there's the Protestant work ethic, which convinces us that we need to work hard and have something tangible and admirable to show at the end of each day. Secondly, to reinforce this, we have the 'instant' culture of the 21st century to contend with. Labour-saving devices, fast food drive-thrus, bombardments of blogs, emails and media press releases telling us how to be more productive, not waste a moment and get things done in a snap as soon as the thought occurs to us. We even get into the habit of speed reading the interesting articles that come up on our computers because our subconscious minds tell us that we must rush back to producing, impressing, working hard, having something to show for ourselves.

So I've decided to change my attitude. Even though I've got the slower-paced lifestyle of a writer/homeschooling mother, I've still fallen in the fast racing, rat-race style way of thinking. Of course, it's not entirely my fault. It's been drilled into all of us from our school days. We have a blank exam booklet placed before us and are told to come up with essays and stories which will wow a teacher's socks off within a time limit of 120 minutes. Didn't we used to get in trouble if we handed up just a paragraph or two because our ideas wouldn't come together? Didn't I personally, used to get scolded by my teachers for staring into space? We take on board what we're taught from those who are set over us as our guides and mentors.

It's great to get a grasp of the real truth. Daydreaming may not look productive, but when I'm doing it, I'm really working just as hard as I am when those chapters are flying out of my printer. Lying in the bath and thinking about story possibilities isn't time-wasting at all. Neither is going on night drives with music on, just because I know it gets my creative juices flowing. Even though it may look to the world (and myself) as if this is just wool-gathering and pointless, nothing could be further from the truth.

In the book of Nehemiah onwards, we read how our hero heard about the plight of his beloved city, Jerusalem, and decided to take his life into his hands by appealing to his master, the Persian king Ataxerxes, to let him return with a retinue of followers to rebuild the city. In my mind, the short chapters of this biblical book moved quickly enough for me to imagine that he had the idea one day, went out to approach the king the next, and had his group and supplies set up and ready to leave at the end of the first night. Not so at all. I read that scholars have figured out that Nehemiah took three to four months before he decided to approach Ataxerxes with his creative idea. During that block of time, he pretty much sat silently before God, fasting and praying the whole time. That's because a grand, creative idea takes time to germinate.

In 2013, I want to be the sort of creative gardener who understands these things. I challenge anyone reading this to do the same. It's not easy in a world where ideas are zapping around the globe, bombarding our in-boxes and Face Book walls while I type. We don't realise that when we fall into the 'success' traps of being productive, speed reading, multi-tasking and having something impressive to show critics and admirers alike at the end of each day, that we're actually pulling back from a life of creativity.

It's liberating to realise that instead of getting frustrated, I actually have it right. As I take my time and scribble notes into my scrap book, I've no doubt a tenth novel will bear fruit in its perfect time.

Friday, December 7, 2012

Not to let lack of intelligence stop me

To help research the current novel I'm working on, I was delving into a few books about quantum physics and the wonders of scientists who are discovering the most minute, tiniest particles. I've also tried to read a few biographies of great scientists through the ages. I find it very humbling because so much of it is extremely hard to understand. I persevere because what I do manage to wrap my head around is fascinating. So much of it also matches what the Bible said 2000+ years ago. I find that very exciting.

A book called, What the Bleep do we Know? outlines the old paradigm people have been taught for centuries. Here is my paraphrase. The universe is a mechanical system composed of solid material and elementary building blocks. What we call 'real' must be measurable and also needs to be perceived with our five senses and any mechanical extensions thereof. It assumes that the only valid approach to gaining knowledge is to banish all feelings and subjectivity to become entirely rational and objective. Matter is solid with tiny particles at its core which move according to laws of nature and forces which can be explained with mathematical precision. This enables us to make predictions with certainty. So this is how we've been taught to view the world we've been brought up in.

That old familiar paradigm brushes off subjects I've always been interested in, such as emotions, prayer, mental healing, extra-sensory perception, words of knowledge and prophecy. And as I said, I'm finding some of it hard to wrap my head around, but what I am grasping is amazing. I decided I have to put up with the feeling of being limited and ignorant in my brain power, because it's worth it for those moments I can say, "Wow!" at those things I do get.

Perhaps clever people don't always get it all anyway. I remember reading in the Bible how Paul, the Apostle, went to visit Athens. He tried to convince those intellectual city folk to listen to his message about Jesus, who they might have already worshiped as their 'Unknown God' (Acts 17:22-27). The place was full of Epicurean and Stoic philosophers who liked to spend most of their time doing nothing but talking about and listening to the latest ideas (verse 21). Smart, educated people. According to the record, not much happened in Athens after his address. There is no evidence that a Christian church was ever started there. There is certainly no 'Letter to the Athenians' included in the Bible. We can only assume that Paul just added fire to the philosophical and intellectual debate that was always sizzling away over there in ancient times. It seems even Paul couldn't impress the intellectual elite of ancient Athens.

I appreciated the following quote by Dr Cindy Trimm. "There are many scholars who never do anything but debate the finer points of theology and religious thought and there are simple saints who don't know a hundredth of what those people know, but they act on it and miracles happen around them regularly."

So I plug on trying to learn as much of this stuff as I can for my own interest, even though I know before I open the covers that my limited brain won't take it all in. The fact is, not only does my lack of intelligence not matter but it may even be a good thing. Ironically enough, this is one of the great surprises I'm talking about.

 I also try to weave all that I manage to understand into my stories. My theory is that as my brain power is limited, I automatically word it all into concepts that others like me can understand. I can't make it too difficult to comprehend because my brain is not that smart. People like me, after all, make up a far greater portion of the population than the occasional stunning genius who can easily grasp all that intelligent stuff. I'm quite pleased with the novel I'm working on, Along for the Ride. I think I've grappled with some interesting scientific and psychological insights, as I also attempted to do in Best Forgotten. I like to think that if someone like me managed to put it together into words, then others like me may also catch the excitement and vision that I'm getting when I read these heavy books I can't quite understand.
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