Tuesday, May 22, 2012

Author Dennis Bradford: What Do All Creative Acts Have In Common?

Please join me in welcoming ‘new-to-me’ author Dennis Bradford here today as he makes a stop promoting his latest mystery/thriller book, A DARK TIME, which by the way is scheduled for release today.

13634373Here’s a brief synopsis of A DARK TIME: A college student vanishes. Her worried grandfather asks one of her favorite professors, Max Stephansson, to solve the mystery. What Max discovers is tragic. The suspense surrounding her disappearance unfolds to yield insight, but at the cost of danger and death.

Dennis is here to discuss “What do all creative acts have in common?”

Eckhart Tolle has said more than once that the difference between, say, pulp fiction and literature is that only the latter is a manifestation of what he often calls “presence” [“Being,” “space consciousness,” “the unmanifested”]. Presence is the alert, thoughtless awareness characteristic of mastery.

We witness presence when we become enthralled by great musical or athletic performances. It’s the wellspring behind all the different kinds of creative endeavors from the physics of an Einstein to the writing of great musical compositions (including even popular songs such as “The Lion Sleeps Tonight”).

Although it’s expressed verbally, a novelist writing from presence is not producing a story that based on thoughts made from words or their meanings; rather, the fresh arrangement of words is flowing from the domain beyond words. A story written from thoughts or mind cannot be great; literature does not come from there.

When writers talk about the prompting of their muse or character possession, they are really talking about presence.
No creation comes from nothing. All creations are novel rearrangements of existing material. For example, a block of marble has a shape before it is ever touched by the tools of a sculptor; the creation comes from changing what is already there.

Except for the output of a James Joyce, all the words of a novel are already listed in the dictionary. A story teller merely uses old words in new sentences.

A story that comes from a story teller who is experiencing presence does not come from that person, who is merely a production vehicle; rather, that story comes from presence. Surprisingly, creation is not personal.

I happen to believe that each of us has the ability to access presence. If so, we all have the ability to be creative.
However, that doesn’t necessarily mean that we all have what it takes to produce masterpieces. That requires talent and masterful development of talent in addition to being able to act creatively.

Although it’s my 11th book, A DARK TIME is my first work of fiction. In addition to challenging myself just to see if I could complete it, my motivation for writing it was to experience character possession. I’m pleased to report that I did!

When character possession occurs, the characters the author creates take over the story. It seems to make no sense that, for example, characters can act in ways that surprise their creator.
No matter: it happens! The characters I’d created finished the story for me.

I am not claiming that A DARK TIME is a work of literature. Remember, in addition to presence, that requires not only talent but the sustained commitment to develop that talent.
I understood that when I began writing it. I was a tenured professor of philosophy, literature, and history at a good upstate New York college. I didn’t need another publication on my resume. I simply wanted to write a story well enough that I experienced character possession.

It’s simple, but it’s not easy. Like most people, my most productive hours are in the morning. Every day for several months when classes were not in session, I’d go into my campus office and work without any interruption until I seemed to have done my best for that day. Sometimes I’d only work for a couple of hours, but other times I’d work for five or more hours without a break. I’d leave exhausted, get something to eat, and take a nap. I repeated that pattern every day.

Initially, it was very discouraging. I could spent two hours writing a single page! Eventually, bit by bit, the writing began to flow. Eventually there were times when I could hardly type fast enough as the story unfolded.

Mastering anything requires relentless practice of the right kind. Whether or not my practice was of the right kind you can judge for yourself. What I can tell you is that there’s no mastery without persistence.

Probably another necessary condition of writing well is being a voracious reader. Although I’d read many great novels, it made no sense for me even to try to emulate great writers such as Herman Melville, Fyodor Dostoevsky, Leo Tolstoy, James Joyce, William Faulkner, the Bronte sisters, Charles Dickens, Alexandre Dumas, D. H. Lawrence, Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn, Thomas Hardy, Gustave Flaubert, and many others. My ego wasn’t large enough.

Instead, I aimed for genre fiction. Since I’d read most of the classic works by authors such as Edgar Allen Poe, Arthur Conan Doyle, Agatha Christie, Dashiell Hammett, Raymond Chandler, Mickey Spillane, Rex Stout, John D. MacDonald, Ross McDonald, and many others as well as more recent fare by writers such as Umberto Eco, Sara Paretsky, Scott Turow, Elmore Leonard, Tony Hillerman, Johathan Kellerman, Jeffry Deaver, Stephen White, Michael Connelly, Nelson DeMille, Patricia Cornwall, Sue Grafton, John Grisham, and many others, I thought I might have at least a small chance at emulating them.

Perhaps I managed to create a central character, Max Stephansson, who is interesting and appealing. The stimulating circumstances he found himself in may have resulted in a good story. A girl who’d been a student of his vanishes. Her worried grandfather asks Max to solve the mystery. What Max discovers is tragic. The suspense surrounding her disappearance unfolds to yield insight, but at the cost of danger and death.

Being uncertain whether or not I was able to provide readers with a stimulating story, I decided to add a bonus to the book: at least the first 100 purchasers will have the option of getting a personal consultation with me at no extra cost. This is a bonus worth 9 times the cost of the paperback version of the book, which is $10.95. The bonus even comes with the $2.99 Kindle version!

To ensure that you receive the bonus, purchase the book on 22 May 12. Whether or not you happen to like the story, I’m confident that you’ll enjoy the bonus and find it valuable.

At the moment, I’m working on a trilogy of short, health-related nonfiction books designed to supplement a popular website (namely, http://www.lasting-weight-loss.com ) of which I’m the co-author.

Dennis, thanks for guest blogging today and sharing your insight into what creative acts have in common. You make some interesting points.

Now for a bit of background on Dennis. He taught philosophy from 1977 until 2009 at SUNY Geneseo where counseling was part of his job for 32 years. He’s been a philosopher, a lover of wisdom, since 1964. 

Dennis said, “I’m still trying to live well, wisely, and compassionately, which entails that I’m not there yet. Living an examined life has a lot to do with constantly letting go and opening fully into whatever unfolds.”

For more on Dennis and his writing, visit http://www.peace-of-mind-training.com/, or http://www.lasting-weight-loss.com/ (where he is co-creator) and his personal blog at http://dennis-bradford.com.

What do you think creative acts have in common? Thanks so much for stopping by today. Have a great Tuesday and remember to take a few moments to read today.


  1. Dennis, thanks again for guest blogging and sharing this information with us. Wishing you continued success with your writing and congratulations on the release of A DARK TIME today.

  2. Very interesting. I think that persistence is very important when writing a book. I hope you do well with sales. I will buy a copy of your book but no need to throw in a consultation. I think people will like your book without the bonus thrown in.

  3. Interesting post. I like the marble analogy - food for thought. I'm hopping over to Dennis's other web sites to take a look.


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