"" Rob Parnell's Writing Academy Blog: 2011

Friday, December 30, 2011

The Search for The Answer...

When I was young I thought the whole point of growing up was to become wise.
I guess I thought that's what school was about. 

After all, we spend anything from ten to twenty years at the beginning of our lives learning stuff - presumably to help us become better adults, better human beings.

One thing that struck me as odd, at the time, was that people didn't seem to get any wiser as they got older. 

Quite the opposite. 

The older people got, I noted, the more rigid, inflexible and closed they seemed to become.

To say this confused me is an understatement.

I remember promising myself I wouldn't get that way. 

I wouldn't be one of those people who was sure about everything - had a definitive opinion on all things and couldn't see that nothing could be that concrete.

You know people like this.

They have a lifetime of experiences that have led them to certain beliefs that may be true for them, yet aren't always part of others' philosophies.

Successful people are often the worst in this regard

Their experiences have apparently taught them that these facts or those events or their particular character traits are the only things that matter - and that we should listen to them, heed their advice, even honor them.

But I think one of the main reasons why young people have such difficulty relating to older folks is that while experience can be a great teacher, the lessons learned are often irrelevant to the next generation.

People have an inbuilt need to learn for themselves. 

And to prove the previous generation they were wrong or at best, living in a different time.

Without this inbuilt, perhaps genetically encoded, need to make the same mistakes over and over, we'd probably be lost as a species.

Yes, certain facts and lessons from five thousand years of civilization become self evident - but we still need a decade or more of schooling to help us all see them!

Consider this.

We don't know much about an 18th Dynasty Egyptian king called Akhenaten, except that he introduced his people to the idea of deifying only one god instead of many - perhaps the first important personage in history to publicly do so.

He said: "True wisdom is less presuming. The wise man doubts often, and changes his mind; the fool is obstinate and doubts not; he knows all things but his own ignorance."

This is a remarkably rational and I would suggest even contemporary piece of profundity echoing down through the millennia to speak to us.

Because it says it all.

That rigid thinking, that a belief that there is only one answer, or one important way of thinking, is a huge mistake, a sign of mediocrity at best

Indeed, if you think about it, obstinacy is the root cause of pretty much all our problems.

How many wars are fought over a difference of opinion? 

Uh - perhaps all of them?

Thing is, if there's no definitive answer, no ultimate truth, who's to say what's right and what's wrong?

What are we trying to do when we impose our opinion, our values on others? 

Who wins when the victor's opinion reigns until the next leader vies for domination?

It would be nice to think there was actually some ultimate truth to be had, some set of insights we could gain that would lead to wisdom, enlightenment and perfect peace.

But if such a thing were possible, where would it leave us?

In some kind of heavenly utopia?

Sounds dull.

Fact is, the answer is not in the knowing, it's in the seeking.

Motivation comes from the need to understand and learn. 

But it's not the answer that's important. 

No, it's just wanting to know it. 

The process by which we try to uncover the truth is the essential journey. 

It's not the resolution that's the most beneficial to us, it's the quest.

Which is my roundabout way of saying that you can never know all the answers - but that it's important to keep looking for them.

To remain flexible in all your work - and in your life.

Because once you decide that one thing is definitively true, you begin to undermine its veracity.

Truth, beauty, wisdom, after all, are all in the eye of the beholder.

And what is absolutely true for one can only be a guide for others.

That's the nature of being human.

Not a bad thing.

Merely a fact of life.

Artists know this instinctively. That's why they keep going - not to create perfection or truth but to aspire to it, to make a conscious effort to journey towards it.

In this sense, we are all artists of our own lives. 

We do stuff, we interact, we learn, we try to make sense of everything and create a better way.

But if this process makes us rigid, biased, judgmental and prejudiced, it's surely wrong.

The next time you find yourself expressing a damning opinion based on your 'experience', you know that you too have fallen victim to the lure of wanting to know something without doubt.

True wisdom is less presuming, as the great man said...

Curiously, Akhenaten was roundly loathed by his own people, especially the religious elders who saw his 'sun cult' as an attack on their power, which I'm sure it was intended (partly) to be.

After Akhenaten's death, the Egyptians tried to expunge his memory from their history, as though he were some kind of aberration best forgotten.

Time - the great leveler - has proved his message had merit.

The best we can do is hope that we too can leave something behind that makes a difference, that shines a light on the path.

Because the search for the answers must always, surely, continue...

Keep Writing!
Rob Parnell

The Writing Academy

Thursday, December 22, 2011


Meta-writing: the process and practice of writing about writing.

One of my esteemed students wrote me a letter - yes, an actual piece of paper with handwriting on it - recently.

She thanked me for one of my courses that she was working through at home. 

She said she liked my 'metaphysical' approach to writing because it helped her move out of a block she'd been having.

I've never really thought about my instruction being 'metaphysical' to be honest. 

It's not meant to be. 

A better term might be 'holistic', in that I see writing and the writer as equally in need of guidance and advice.

The writer is, to me, inseparable from the writing. 

You can't be a good, honest and effective writer if you don't aspire to be a good, honest and effective person. 

If that's metaphysical, then so be it!

But you don't have to be perfect.

In the same way as your writing doesn't have to be perfect. 

What's perfection anyway but an intellectual tool we use as a benchmark?

Perfection is relative.

The newbie may feel sheer joy at a piece of average writing - infused with that rush we all feel at times at our accomplishments.

But a writer with years of experience may still cringe at something she's written when others see nothing but genius.

It's all relative.

We each must aspire to our own concept of perfection - but learn to be satisfied when 'enough is enough'.

I've never known a decent writer who didn't think that something in their work couldn't be improved.

Famously, Fitzgerald once broke into his publisher's office at three in the morning and crawled inside the printing galleys, pulling out letters, rearranging the text of his novel - the day the book was going to press!

Okay, he was probably drunk. Fitzgerald often was. But most writers can relate to this kind of obsessive need to 'fix' their own writing until it shines.

Talking of obsession and the need for perfection, Steve Jobs' kind of focus is rare - more especially because it was justified. 

A lot of people - artists especially - may be precious and difficult to work with - but not all of them are so right!

But maybe they are - in their own way.

Maybe we don't give enough credit to those 'control freaks' who strive for perfection and, like Steve Jobs, made life hard for those around them.

I guess that's the great thing about being a writer. You are in control - most of the time. Your world is exactly as it should be, within the confines of your pages.

It's one of the reasons I've never really understood the need for criticism. 

It's too easy for others to find the flaws in other's work. 

It's destructive - not only creatively but personally too.

A critic can crush a writer's spirit irreparably but... to what end?

Also, I've never known a writer to improve dramatically as a result of criticism.

Quite the opposite. 

It's encouragement and even praise that helps improve a writer. 

Because when writers feels good about what they do, they seem to become more aware of the flaws themselves - and seek to better their work independently.

Criticism closes a writer down more often than not, forcing them to consider giving up the whole thing - as was probably the critic's intention.

We should always strive to 'lift up' an artist - to help them feel 'enlightened'. 

Inspiration comes from a feeling of transcendence. 

Criticism can only drag us down to earth and make us feel inferior, misguided and misunderstood.

How would God have felt - if there's any such thing as a deity - if some critic was looking over her shoulder, pointing out all her mistakes as she created the universe?

Maybe she would have scrapped the whole idea of creation - and taken up some other activity like playing atom solitaire or cosmic cloud busting.

Where would be then?

I'm not being as flippant as you might assume.

I really do think that artists, writers and musicians - even inventors, engineers and entrepreneurs - should be encouraged without question. 

Because true creators know the flaws in their designs better than anyone. They really don't need others to point them out!

But I guess it's the way of the world.

The ninety/ten rule. Ten percent of us want to change things, create new possibilities and understand the true meaning of our existence.

The other ninety percent just want to sit back and bag.

To be "realistic.

Well, if being realistic means that nothing should ever change or that none of us should aspire to perfection or dedicate ourselves to the attainment of truth or beauty or enlightenment, then I'd rather be called
anything but realistic!

So I don't really mind being thought of as metaphysical - even it marginalizes what I do.

I try to speak to everyone, not just to those who will listen.

But isn't that the point of art, of good writing, of transcendent music, film and whatever?

To create something that speaks to us all?

I hope so.

Seriously, have fun - and be good, at whatever you do.

Keep Writing!


"Blessed are the cracked, for they let the light through."
Spike Milligan

Thursday, December 15, 2011

Your Mother Should Know

Late start today - slept in!

Are you thinking about next year's resolutions yet? I find myself pondering the future at this time of year - a kind of habit.

Also a time when you naturally review the previous year - did we do all things we planned? Yes and no.

I've noticed that it's not always the big things that come to pass - but also some of the smaller goals, the ones I thought less important, also found a way into my activities.

I made only vague plans to write a play and be an actor last new year - and those activities ending up taking over a fifth of the year!

Just like good old Oscar Wilde said all those years ago, you gotta be real careful what you wish for...

In case you needed a reference point, the following is a list of the December Digital Disposal items that have appeared in the last fourteen days.

Feel free to click on the links you're interested in.

December Digital Disposal

Day Nine: Fantasy Writing

Day Ten: Bestseller Writing

Day Eleven: Copywriting Course

Day Twelve: Screenplay Writing

Day Thirteen: Children's Book Writing

Day Fourteen: Easy Cash Writing

and from the previous week:

Day One: Autobiography Writing

Day Two: Nuts and Bolts of Writing

Day Three: Short Story Writing

Day Four: The Art of Story

Day Five: Thriller Writing

Day Six: Self Editing

Day Seven: Writing Success

Day Eight: Show Don't Tell

Remember that this is the very last time these uniquely helpful resources will be available. After the 31st of December, they will all be gone from the Net!


Your Mother Should Know

Rob Parnell

Went to the Australian Society of Authors Christmas drinks the other day - met some lovely writers and their partners. It was in the back room of beautiful old colonial building in North Adelaide, replete with wood beams, deep carpets and sweet staff to help the night along.

We met a writer called Lea Weston who had the dream happen to her.

You know the one.

You spend a decade or so trying to write a book, in between work and life, finally getting it done. You send it out and then it's picked up and published to great acclaim by the first major publisher you submit to...

I mentioned to her at this point, "You know that never happens?"

"Yes," she said. "And I feel awfully guilty."

"No need," I said. "Writers need proof it can happen. Just to keep us all going!"

We met other writers at various stages in their careers. Some unpublished, some having books coming out of their ears. It takes all sorts - and curiously I realized it's next to impossible to tell how well a writer is doing just by looking at them...

Most have this de rigueur scruffiness about them. I guess because dressing up is alien to most writers and not something that needs to happen much.

A couple of the successful writers mentioned that the whole concept of going out into the world and talking about their books felt bizarre. Clearly, if you're the kind of person who wants to spend long hours alone and writing, you're not going to be ideally suited to being a great public speaker. With exceptions of course.

Many of the conversations turned to how our parents felt about us being writers. And how most of our mothers disapproved or were openly hostile to the idea of writing for a living.

Odd that - because Robyn and I thought we were unique in that regard. Apparently not. Mothers - as a breed - obviously regard writing as some kind of shameful career, not to be encouraged!

I'm sure much of it has to do with our mothers wanting the best for us - knowing instinctively that the odds of success are against us.

There again, in my experience, pretty much all writers who commit to the life eventually make it in some way.

No, it seems to go further. As though the act of writing is somehow a betrayal. As if wanting to be a writer is a kind of slap in the face to our parents. Like they've somehow failed in their parenting if they spawn so lowly a life form as a writer!

Plus, writing is about commenting on life, making sense of the world's insanity. So I guess if we spend our lives questioning and recording life's inadequacies and people's foibles, then perhaps we really are worrisome individuals who don't necessary feel content in our skins... perhaps that is a bad thing in their eyes.


Maybe I'm reading too much into it - and my mother wouldn't approve. She who got angry when I said - at fourteen - I wanted to be a journalist - and cried a few years later - at seventeen - when I said I wanted to be a musician.

I'd failed her because I didn't want to be a doctor or a lawyer. But this is the woman who thought I should be an assistant in a hardware store or a factory worker or an office drone - ANYTHING but an artist.

Even when I was turning thirty and we met for drinks in London one fine day, she was still saying, "Oh, Robert, you should settle down. Leave all the music and the writing behind and get a proper job. Haven't you got all that out of your system yet?"

As if I ever would...

Funny things, mothers.

Maybe we just remind them of all the things they gave up to look after us - like being a writer perhaps.

They only want us to be happy, apparently.

And perhaps being a writer is like saying: "I'm not happy!"

But of course, if that's the case, then writing is what makes us happy.

I shouldn't go on so. Ever since Freud mothers have had a bad rap, probably always have, even before. Nowadays they get the blame for psychopaths too. Hardly fair.

Robyn's mother apologized for not having faith in her - admittedly after her eightieth book! Mine's yet to do that.

Dad's always been a secret admirer - even when he disapproved of my rock band days, he whispered to me confidentially that he thought it was cool I got paid for drinking in the day time and sleeping till noon.

Nowadays he's just relieved I've got a house, a wife and a car. The rest is just a bonus as far as he's concerned.

Mum's harder to read.

Maybe we can never live up to our mother's expectations, if we ever knew what they were.

In the mean time, I still have a few projects left to write, Mum, now that I have settled down - as a writer.

Keep Writing!

Rob at Home
Your Success is My Concern
Rob Parnell's Easy Way to Write


"If you have the right friends, you don’t need the Internet."
Ken Atchity

Previous Newsletter includes:
Article: "The Future of the Net"
Writer's Quote by Susan Fletcher

Thursday, December 8, 2011

The Future

It's been a busy time for us this week. Lots of promotions in lieu of our imminent shutdown.

Thanks for all your emails of support and encouragement. News of what's happening to us in January will have to wait until then...

We have important stuff going on right now!

In case you needed a reference point, the following is a list of the Digital Disposal items that have appeared in the last eight or nine days. Feel free to click on the links you're interested in.

December Digital Disposal

Day One: Autobiography Writing

Day Two: Nuts and Bolts of Writing

Day Three: Short Story Writing

Day Four: The Art of Story

Day Five: Thriller Writing

Day Six: Self Editing

Day Seven: Writing Success

Day Eight: Show Don't Tell

Remember that this is the very last time these uniquely helpful resources will be available. After the 31st of December, they will all be gone from the Net!


The Future

Lots of you have said to me that you're saddened by the news about the Easy Way to Write but that as long as I keep up my weekly newsletter, in whatever form, then you'll be happy!

That's nice to know.

As I've said sometimes in the past - it's hard to know if anyone's reading your words these days. It's the modern writer's dilemma.

There's such a barrage of written material arriving on-line daily from all corners of the globe - all competing for readers in an ever more competitive environment.

At the same time as blogs and social media grows and new websites proliferate, the giant websites continue to exert their power and influence for entirely financial ends.

You know who I'm talking about.

Behind the scenes, Google, as far as I can tell, is bent on complete domination of the Net, which or may or may not be a good thing - we'll see...

Much as we love the idea the Net is a wonderful free information resource, I fear we're fast approaching the day when that reality is a fading pipe dream.

YouTube is now Google owned, I'm sure you knew. Their aim is to replace television as far as I can see. They're doing deals on a daily basis with film and TV production companies that will allow them to broadcast pay per view on line 24/7.

And also behind the scenes, Facebook is in close contact with the US government - for reasons that aren't entirely clear. What is clear is that the ready availability of FB on mobile devices has got something to do with global information gathering that goes way beyond the scope of just another website.

One doesn't like to seem paranoid but I do think there's renewed truth in the old maxim of "information is power."

And with power comes responsibility of course.

It's not that we don't trust the corporate monsters that Google, FB, Apple and Microsoft have become - but is it wise to hand over so much of our personal information - so much of our liberty - to organizations that are not accountable to anyone but themselves?

Plus, from a writer's perspective, there's the thorny issue of copyright. There's been only a few test cases so far but, without legislation, can we really be sure who 'owns' the writing we put on line?

In the fine print of almost all websites lies the as yet dormant understanding that anything you post to the Net - blogs, articles, books, screenplays, anything, actually belongs to that website.

There are cases already in Hollywood where producers believe they've bought the rights to a story only to discover later that third party websites are claiming ownership of it because the story was posted there first.

Imagine what will happen when the next Twilight comes along and a website says it owns the rights to it because the author uploaded the promotional video to the novel years before the rights were sold.

They might claim the book could never have become successful without their hosting - and, in fact, they'd have a good legal basis for that argument.


Just how careful do we need to be these days?

Well, we're kind of stuck, aren't we?

In order to promote ourselves and our writing, we need to put it up on line. If we don't, we remain in obscurity.

Or do we?

There's still a healthy majority of off-line punters who regard the Net as irrelevant to their lives - and quite a few of them are book buyers.

And even though some book chain stores are closing, the drop in books sales has only been in the order of a few percent. It's not the Internet that is closing down the independent bookstores, it's the supermarket chains that can sell our books at half price.

But there's still a healthy market for books off line. Many of my friends sell their self published books off-line and make one heck of a lot more money than they would make selling digital copies on the web.

Ebooks sell well of course - and will continue to, I'm sure, but the real profit from ebooks comes from numbers - the vast numbers that, say, Amazon deals in. Millions a day, not the one or two an author might sell per day at a profit of a few cents each.

You never see ads coaxing you to go on-line specifically. The Net has its own marketing momentum. People want it, whatever it looks like in the short term.

It could be that in the long term we grow more discerning and demand that the giant websites behave in a certain way - more accountable, less market greedy.

But that's not what's happening at the moment.

We're seeing a gold rush. The giant websites want global domination - that old aspiration we give all our James Bond type bad guys!

But, like me, you probably wondered what characters like Dr No and Goldfinger were actually going to do if they ever did get to take over the world.

Well, perhaps now is the time to wonder what will happen when someone - or some corporate entity - actually does...

Keep Writing!

Rob at Home
Your Success is My Concern
Rob Parnell's Easy Way to Write


"The tale is often wiser than the teller."
Susan Fletcher

Previous Newsletter includes:
Article: "Writing and Society"
Writer's Quote by Samuel Butler

Thursday, November 24, 2011

Writers and Society 2

Get excited!My latest novel - PSI-Kids: WILLOW
Now available on Kindle - $2.99

Dear Fellow Writer,

Are you getting ready for Christmas? The shops are - you may have noticed!

Here, we're gearing for Santa Stampede 2011 - a time when everything at the Easy Way to Write is on special offer for all of December.

Plus there's a major twist this year. News of that coming soon.

On the home front, we have a new assistant with us!

Lyndall will be helping us with correspondence, design and admin - hopefully for a long time to come. You may well come across her if you email us.

Today's article is a continuation of last week's. I discovered that the Harvard economist, Joseph Schumpeter, is of the same mind as myself on the role of the 'Catalyst' in our society - he calls them visionaries, and uses the artist as an example of people who work ostensibly outside of the system but are at the heart of profit generation for society as a whole.

As I said last week, here, without writers, artists, inventors, leaders, philosophers, geeks and all those other crucial catalysts, there's no real impetus for economic growth and change.

Playing with money, chasing the buck etc, just don't cut it!

The world needs writers first and foremost, front and central. We are the instruments and agents of change in this world.

Be proud you're a writer!

Keep Writing!

This week's article is below.


Writers and Society 2

Rob Parnell

It's always bothered me that if you're seen as a struggling artist, you have no credibility to the world around you. Friends, family and the state in particular regards you as some kind of pariah.

If you leave school and don't immediately get a job you're seen as a waster - what we call a bludger down here in the US of Oz.

Okay so there are lots of people who don't want to work these days. Plus we have a welfare system in most countries that allows us to live without working, at least for a while, just.

And while I don't condone sponging off the state, I do support those who want to create books, film and music for no initial reward in the hope of hitting the big time.

After all, not wanting to waste 40 to 60 hours a week to make a living is to me a sign of complete rationality. I'm just surprised there aren't more people out there who don't rage against a system that requires them to work in jobs they loathe and for bosses they despise...

But I'm not a Marxist. I know that the system would collapse without at least 80% of us wanting to do the right thing and work for a living.

It just amazes me that the vast majority are okay with that.

To me, creativity is the reason for existence. And all the time I worked in offices and factories - admittedly not for very long - I felt as though my very lifeblood - my creativity - was being horribly stifled, causing me no end of stress, self hate, heartache and consequent broken relationships with loved ones because I just couldn't do it!

Maybe I'm just weird.

But I can completely understand someone who would rather spend their time writing books or screenplays or composing symphonies, if that's what they want to do.

In France, you can register for unemployment as a poet. You can't do that in the US, England or Australia. Why is that?

Why is having an artistic temperament seen as an aberration - especially given that, as I argued last week, the whole economic structure of society would fall apart without artists to provide vision, new ideas and new worlds to aspire to?

I can only assume it's because artists are seen as freaks.

The irony being, of course, that when a particular waster does hit the big time, they're held aloft as inspirational - a veritable model of drive, focus, talent and vision! When their art is applauded, all their foibles are forgiven, their past accorded with new insight - and they are promptly absorbed into the system as demigods, more than worthy of our complete adulation.


I'm not the first person to notice this phenomenon. Colin Wilson wrote The Outsider in 1956 about this very issue. He lived in the woods and wrote in the British Museum (to keep warm) for a while after leaving school, shunning a society that to him seemed irrational - only to write a book about it and yes, by doing so, becoming a pillar of the establishment - as his own book predicted he might!

I guess we all have to find our way in the world.

If you want to work, if that's what makes you happy and keeps you fulfilled, do it.

But if there's something else you want, something that burns inside you to be expressed, do that instead.

Ignore the fear. The universe - and our society - seems to have a way, a need almost - to eventually incorporate your special talents into its fabric.

Capitalism works on the principle that there's a need for every type of person - and that everyone can and does specialize in their own uniquely individual way.

Those that would have you compromise and accept their reality are quite simply wrong to talk you out of following your heart.

If writing is more important to you than work, love and play, then do it. Do it now and tomorrow and for the rest of your life.

If writing to you is play, a luxury or an indulgence, then do it. Do it now and continue doing it.

If there's anything in your life you don't like, then stop doing it!

The world doesn't need another martyr, hiding away, struggling with inner demons.

The world needs you to be yourself: to dream - to ignore the 'state of the economy', and to wholeheartedly reject the pre-conditions of the previous generation.

You have a right to be happy and fulfilled. To do what you want.

That's how the universe works.

Everything and everyone has a place, a purpose and a set of intentions that need expression.

We now know that even on a quantum level, atomic particles have an innate Intention built invisibly into their structure. It's there for a reason. Because without the expression of intention, nothing comes into existence.

By extension, you can never truly be yourself unless you LISTEN to your intuition, your gut in other words, and just do what in your heart and mind you know is true and right for you.

There are no prizes available for self sacrifice - and only destruction can come from denial. Sooner or later you will come to this realization, as you're supposed to, and know that your dreams are there within you to inspire you into action.

Be what you want to be.

Do anything you want to do.


Keep Writing.

Rob at Home
Your Success is My Concern
Rob Parnell's Easy Way to Write


"I have always believed helping your fellow man is profitable in every sense, personally and bottom line." Mario Puzo

Previous Newsletter includes:
Article: "Writers & Society"
Writer's Quote by Samuel Butler

Thursday, November 17, 2011

Writers and Society

Dear Fellow Writer,

There's a silly petition going around the Net at the moment trying to stop a bill going through Congress about copyright on the Internet.

Avaaz - I think that's what they're called - are trying to imply the bill is a bad thing - when clearly it's not.

The bill is merely trying to stop websites displaying copyright material like books, film and music that they don't own or have not been given the rights to feature.

This is a good thing - progress.

Because, from a writer's point of view, there needs to be something - like the law - to stop unscrupulous people stealing your ideas, books, creations etc. and selling them without your permission.

Similarly, film and music videos - even photographs - need to be protected so that only their owners decide when and where they are featured.

Copyright theft is already rampant and endemic in this world. I welcome any attempt by government to publicly punish websites with no respect for an artist's, writer's, director's, producer's or musician's material.

And so should you. Copyright is a MORAL right!

Don't get sucked in to the argument that the Internet should be free of censorship - that's not what the bill is about. It's about rightly maintaining our own copyright - and the livelihoods of anyone who would choose Art - in all its forms - as a career.

Keep Writing!


Writers and the Structure of Society

Rob Parnell

I may have mentioned to you that I've been reading a book on economic theory this week - and it's got me thinking.

Now, apparently the subject of economics is well known in the publishing industry as the kiss of death - the equivalent of a huge yawn of indifference in the mind of the public.

But with the demonstrations on Wall Street recently, it's clear that people are trying very hard to understand the impact of economic theory on our lives.

And for our purposes, I'd like to spend this week's article looking at the artist and writer in relation to the world economy.

Economics is about seeing order amid the chaos of every day life - and from that order, being able to make predictions - albeit generalized ones that often don't seem to pan out...

The trouble with economic generalizations is that they're not every flattering to people. Current economic theory requires that the vast majority of the population are single minded drones who work for a living. Also, that there are some 'special' people called business owners and property owners and then a whole bunch of interfering governments who don't really know what they're doing.

And if you think this oversimplification sounds like a recipe for disaster, you'd be wrong - because it's what has held modern society together for over three hundred years - basically since the start of the industrial revolution.

One of the major problems with this system is that it allows - indeed encourages - speculators to play with the fortunes the system creates - with dire consequences like global financial meltdowns when they get it wrong - hence the Wall Street demos.

Far be in from me to suggest that Wall Street and all the other stock exchanges around the world should be replaced by computers - or monkeys, whichever is your preference - both of which have been proved to work better and more reliably than the traders...

But social change and improvement is not high on the priority list of those who make money - unless, of course, there's money in it!

It's interesting to me that the Green movement has only taken hold since it was re-shaped - by economists - as a profitable enterprise.

But anyway, I digress. I'm not going to write a book about this - only give you my views today on how the artist can and does assume a crucial role within our economic system.

For centuries artists have been relegated to the outside of the market system.

But in my view, they are at its heart - the very catalyst that creates and maintains society - and the only real agent of profound change we might have as a forward looking civilization.


Here's what I think is going on.

Yes, it's simplistic view - but then, so, apparently, are all the best economic models.

I see society split into three basic groups: The Active, The Inert and The Catalysts.

The Active are all those who work for a living, help to produce goods and services and generally pay their way through life as consumers and active participants in the betterment of themselves and mankind.

The Inert, whether by choice or not, are those that exist without any direct form of production - those on welfare, students, the retired, etc. Don't get the wrong end of the stick and assume I'm denigrating what I term as the Inert. I'm not.

Just like the atom, an active proton is bonded to the inert neutron to create a stable particle. If you like, the atom is the perfect analogy for how our society in structured. But as any scientist will tell you, in order to re-structure an atom you need a catalyst to induce change.

I define The Catalyst as any member or group in society that is motivated by change - or the need to create something out of nothing.

Writers, artists, business, charitable and political leaders, philosophers, engineers, inventors, even entrepreneurs are all important catalysts.

And without catalysts, I would suggest that society falls apart - for without constant change and improvement especially, there's nothing to keep the system from stagnating - and perhaps collapsing.

So you might be seemingly inert, in that you've worked all your life and now have enough to retire. But in reality, if you're a writer or some kind of artist, for instance, you're still a catalyst - an agent of change at the heart of the system.

It happens this way all the time. Steve Jobs - a young rebel who goes on to create a multi-billion dollar industry. JK Rowling, an unemployed single mother goes on to create the same.

Both examples are catalysts without whom the world would be a dry and unimaginative place.

Now, I'm not so naive as to suggest that catalysts are not motivated by money. Most of them are. Money, after all, is the grease that oils the great machine of society.

Money is not the problem - it's merely those that want to create it for its own sake that are the problem, usually by riding on the coat-tails of our more creative individuals.

True catalysts want to see the change first - whether that's a book or a movie, a more compassionate society or a new wi fi tablet - and then be rewarded for their labor and vision by proving that the world needed that change.

So - don't let anyone tell you that being any kind of artist or writer is a waste of your time.

It's not.

As a Catalyst, you are the very engine of progress, enlightenment and the positive enrichment of our species.

Keep Writing!

Rob at Home
Your Success is My Concern
Rob Parnell's Easy Way to Write


"A definition is the enclosing of a wilderness of idea within a wall of words." Samuel Butler

Previous Newsletter includes:
Article: "Research and Writing"
Writer's Quote by Gertrude Stein

Thursday, November 10, 2011

Research & Writing

Dear Fellow Writer,

Slight change in the website this week - the newsletter, as it's the most frequently changed page on the site, will now become the main index page.

So now - when you load the Easy Way to Write site, there will always be something new to look at! Cool or what?

I'm thinking of doing a whole makeover on the site soon - y'know, downloading Dreamweaver, making the text tiny, filling the page with vids - you've seen the kind of thing I mean: ultra modern, lots of info, specials etc.

Now all I need is three weeks spare time to do it.

Keep Writing!

This week's article is below.


Research and Writing

Rob Parnell

Research is good - even for fiction. These days it's often important to put your story in the real world, where real things happen in real locations.

Readers can be fussy. They'll go along with your story about a werewolf who falls in love with an advertising executive and whisks her off to a fairy castle in Patagonia - but if you screw up the bus timetable or mention plants that don't grow where you say they do, your dear readers will be all over you like a rash.

Or like white on rice, as an old producer friend used to say!

There's a fine line between veracity and invention.

The thing is that if you get your real world facts right, you make your fiction more believable - this is something that modern thriller writers like James Patterson, Kathy Reichs and Lee Child know all too well.

And not just facts about cities and roads - but also institutions and organizational structures like the CIA, FBI and police jurisdictions can become important and crucial to your plotting.

This is why you'll often need to research these things prior to building your novel template. The last thing you want is for a smart reader to question your logic or your version of reality.

Even when school breaks happen can be significant to teenage novels where much of the action may take place between study periods and during semesters.

Plus, things like the weather can help you. In the book version of Twilight, the fact that the town of Forks is almost permanently overcast is fundamental to the credibility of vampires being around in the daytime.

Conrad, Dickins and Austen used the weather often to set the mood of their set pieces - which is why they wrote about places they knew or had visited.

Research is important, yes, but it can also be a delaying tactic if you don't know when to stop.

Long time ago I wrote a supernatural fantasy set in modern day London that had references to the Great Plague of 1665 and to the famous character of Thomas More.

You guessed it. I spent literally months of valuable writing time boning up on the plague and the life of Thomas More. I had stacks of notes and became really well informed about a subject that was probably only relevant to about one percent of my plot.

Though the information was useful, it stopped the writing of the book in its tracks. Not good. Especially when a year passed and I'd lost the thread of the novel and basically had to start again.


Also, interestingly, I discovered during my research that Thomas More used to torture people in the basement of his house on rare occasions. Apparently this was some kind of sport the rich and powerful indulged in during those dark (Tudor) times, even when they claimed to be pious and God-fearing.

Of course I included this fact in my novel - and have since been accused of making it up!

The moral being: too much research can be dangerous.

Research is about balancing facts with veracity.

Fiction must be believable first, accurate second.

No amount of accuracy will help a dull story. But believability can propel a story into a something more, even if not all the facts are true - just ask Dan Brown, whose Da Vinci Code has been savagely attacked over the years for its bending of the truth!

Far be it from us mere writers to have to remind people it was always meant to be fiction...

Anyway, the trick is to allot time to research - give yourself a time limit, beyond which you will not continue.

If that doesn't work for you then do what I do.

Write first, then do the research after.

But in order for this to work well you need to keep abreast of your general knowledge - and stay interested in the topics you write around.

Use your spare time to research would be my advice - and don't let it encroach on your writing time.

That's way too precious to waste!

Keep Writing.

Rob at Home
Your Success is My Concern
Rob Parnell's Easy Way to Write


"It takes a lot of time to be a genius. You have to sit around so much doing nothing." Gertrude Stein

Previous Newsletter includes:
Article: "What to Do With Inspiration"
Writer's Quote by Isaac Singer

The Writing Academy

Welcome to the official blog of Rob Parnell's Writing Academy, updated weekly - sometimes more often!