What is the saddest part of The Lord of the Rings?

There are two great sadnesses for me:

1) Then end of the books themselves — the end of the story and the parting from wonderful characters I had grown to love.

2) The passing away of magic, the other races of Middle Earth, the reverence for Nature, and the consequential ascendence of Man. More than the moment of departure “into the West” of specific characters, this was the end of an age.

These are of course echoes of other personal and cultural endings. Of my own childhood, of a romantic and magic-filled view of the world, of an ability to lose myself entirely in a work of fiction, of Tolkien himself as an author, of the power of books in the lives and minds of young people, of the richness and importance of folklore in earlier cultures and times, of the common belief in elves and faeries, etc.

But the larger metanarrative here is that human beings — with their industries, machines, brutal conflicts, self-absorbed ignorance, and feet of clay worldliness — would now become the dominant power of Earth…and all of the richness, knowledge, beauty, and complexity of Tolkein’s races, cultures, languages, and myths would fade away forever. The finality of that loss still haunts me, some 40+ years after reading LOTR.

At the heart of this, I think the resonance so many readers have felt is with Tolkien’s celebration of a profound mystery and beauty grounded in Nature. The Ents. The tree-dwelling Silvan Elves. The eagle Gwaihir’s critical aid to Gandalf. The tranquility and harmony of the Shire itself. All of these and so much more evoke the real magic woven into these books: a deeply felt sense of wonder for a natural world that transcends human pettiness and anthropocentric priority, and asks us all to live within it, as the hobbits and elves did, rather than dominating or subjugating Nature. And of course there was the warning of the fate of the Dwarves, who delved to greedily and deeply into Nature’s treasures.

And that resonance is most deeply felt by those of us who have, for many decades, sounded the alarm about the careless exhaustion, destruction and toxic pollution of species, habitats, and ecosystems of Earth. For me, this is the most heartbreaking message Tolkien delivered with LOTR: that human ascension would signal the end of Nature’s primacy, thriving, and very existence. And, so far at least, Tolkien was heartbreakingly prescient.

My 2 cents.

How can I go about becoming a full-time author?

Here are some things I would offer from my writing adventures over the past few decades:

1. Appreciate Hemingway’s example: he felt being a full-time journalist likely ruined is writing. If you take on any writing gig just to “write full time,” you may end up quite unhappy. Instead, write what you know, and what you love - whether that ends up being full-time, financially lucrative, or neither.

2. Be aware that writing can become a drug. Some people get addicted to writing and their lives, relationships, health and well-being are ruined by it. I do not mean that talented artists won’t have to sacrifice for their art (because finding your own voice and perfecting your craft can be extremely demanding)…but sometimes this sentiment becomes a smokescreen for alienating loved ones, being irresponsible, elevating creativity above self-care, and other self-destructive patterns.

3. Commercial viability and creative authenticity seldom intersect in modern capitalist culture. As a result, less than 1% of artists of any kind succeed in supporting themselves financially by “following their bliss.” Of the small percentage beyond this 1% that are able to be financially successful, the vast majority sell themselves out to what the market demands. Technical writing, writing soft porn (“Romance”), copywriting for marketing and advertising, ghost-writing for others, writing to spec, etc.…all of these “writing to market” efforts can become lucrative, just as becoming a wedding photographer, musical jingle composer or a commercial illustrator can become lucrative. But is that what you really want to do…? I would recommend against it - unless you really enjoy that sort of thing - and instead focus on what you are most compelled or inspired to write.

4. Various art forms have been going out of style for some time, replaced by entirely new art forms. Fine art photography and painting seem to be going the way of music for symphony orchestra and live theatrical plays. Likewise, public interest in the full-length fiction novel has been waning for some time. What is replacing these art forms? Video games, cable TV shows, digital animation, YouTube, graphic novels, feature films streamed online, etc. And I think this trend will probably continue with brand new art forms (VR quests?). And right now, far too few of these media have decent writing; in fact, most of the writing is awful. If you want to do society a solid, then perhaps targeting one of them that interests you to provide truly excellent narratives, dialogue, characters and so forth could be extremely helpful and rewarding.

5. Work your ass off. Yes, this applies to finding your unique voice and perfecting the craft of writing - I subscribe to the 10,000-hour expectation in this regard. But it also applies to the rest of life: to your relationships, to your means of self-support, to your education and mental stimulation, and to your engagement with lifestyle choices that nurture every aspect of your being. If you are not working hard and living your life fully…well, what will you be writing about? How will you recharge your creative batteries or discover new material? How will you maintain the discipline and focus to actually write?

6. Find that difficult balance between listening to the feedback others provide, and ignoring that feedback when it compromises your vision. For me this took many years. What helped the most was attending writing groups and conferences to improve my fiction-writing skills (and learn how to check my writer’s ego at the door), while keeping my poetry and essays out of that particular feedback loop. I have also employed editors when I knew something wasn’t working and really needed a reader-0ver-my-shoulder.

7. Avoid hyperspecialization. Even if you only become exceptionally competent at one form of writing, try on as many styles, techniques and formats as you can. Try to master more than one if possible. By doing this, I quickly realized that I do not have the patience or aptitude to frame my writing within a movie script format, but that I really enjoyed writing song lyrics. In other words, I discovered some strengths and weaknesses in myself…and some forms of writing that I would never have thought I could learn or appreciate.

My 2 cents.

(From Quora question: https://www.quora.com/How-can-I-go-about-becoming-a-full-time-author/answer/T-Collins-Logan)

Why is it that avid book readers are becoming increasingly rare?

In answer to Quora question "Why is it that avid book readers are becoming increasingly rare?"

A2A. Some thoughts off the top of my head:

Avid book readers have always been rare.

Netflix, Amazon and other streaming video provides easy alternate means of accessing classic literature in movie form.

Reading attention spans are getting shorter and shorter - from texting to Twitter to emails the expectation of brevity and frequency have usurped the expectation of quality and depth in writing that previous generations enjoyed.

As real wages decrease, the amount of available media and information increases, expectations of job commitment and family engagement increase, and the level of know-how and affluence to support various popular hobbies and recreational activities also increases, time is an increasingly valuable commodity - and exponentially so.

* In the U.S. at least, there is a high expectation of pop-culture literacy (celebrity obsession, fluency in the hippest media and entertainment, etc.) intersecting with a high expectation of technology literacy (the latest portable gadgets and media formats, etc.), which combine to obliterate all but the most stubborn bibliophile's interest in reading a book.

My 2 cents.

How can a person be both rational and creative?

Quora answer to "How can a person be both rational and creative?"

Thanks for the A2A. I think this only becomes a dichotomy when we allow analytical reasoning to interfere with creative impulses and vice versa, instead of encouraging harmonious synthesis - we might call this interference "fragmentation." As an example, when I write poetry or a song, I let the words and melody flow from my creative center - the intuitive, emotionally felt, aesthetically-oriented structures in my psyche - and effectively suspend my "editor and arranger," which will only interfere with that flow. Once I've completed my first draft, however, I will take a break (from a few hours to a day) and actively engage my "editor and arranger," which definitely involves more analytical structures. In both cases, it's the same mind being used, but the focus or emphasis of processing - and the structures that are called upon for primary support - are different. Not opposite, but different. And so this is more about shifting the focus of my consciousness between rational and creative, and then into a mode of combining synthesis, which I can do very fluidly now. However, I want to be clear that* this was not always the case*. When I was younger, I had trouble moderating these two modes - I felt more fragmented, as if the underlying structures could only compete rather than synthesize. Either I would remain in my creative space to the detriment of constructive rationality, or I would become hyperrational to the detriment of my creativity. So "being both" required self-discipline and honoring of different dimensions of being and combining them harmoniously, skills which took many years to mature, and the byproduct of which might be called "consilience."

My 2 cents.

What is the purpose of writing?

From the Quora question "What is the purpose of writing? When you write a book, do you care more about what is in your own mind...?"

I think Sam Moss nailed it in his answer, but I'll offer a few additional thoughts....

If we differentiate craft from style from form from subject, we end up with different responses to your question. Without some level of craft, an author's writing would be incomprehensible gibberish, so a focus on refining craft (as separate from style, form and subject) would seem to be mainly in consideration of communication with readers. Style, on the other hand, is more about an author's personality; about finding one's own unique voice and approach to the material. In fact, I would say that conforming one's style to the expectations of others is lethal for a writer's muse. That material - the form and subject - is what I would perceive as the middle ground between accessibility and/or appeal to readers, and a writer "caring about what is in their own mind." Choosing a form (poetry, short fiction, novel, journalistic exposition, academic essay, etc.) and subject on the one hand demands conformance to reader expectations, but on the other will need to resonate with the writer as well for them to have any enthusiasm about writing it.

For me, form and subject have the greatest influence on the purpose of a given creative undertaking. When writing love poems, I hope the object of my affections will appreciate those feelings - and comprehend my poetry! When writing essays about some obscure topic, I generally am just clearing the cobwebs out of my head, with little or no consideration for a reader - sure, I still try to be clear and complete in my thinking and self-expression, but it is mainly an exercise for my own satisfaction. When answering your question here, I am trying to describe something complex in ways that make sense in a generally accessible way. When I wrote a science fiction novel, I tried very hard to conform to the conventions (i.e. expectations of the average reader) for that genre. When I journal, it's most often an exercise for me alone, working through some internal process or just reflecting my own thoughts back to myself.

My 2 cents.

Tips for Fiction Writing

In Response to Quora Question: "How do you start writing fiction novels and stories? I know this question has a very wide scope but is there any recognized plan or set of steps that can be followed to learn/improve on your writing?"

The craft or mechanics of writing can be studied and learned, but the process of writing - as separate from craft - tends to be very personal, and is more of an ongoing discovery. In my view, there is no formula regarding "how to" for process - it's more about experimentation to see what works for you. For some writers, an outline is absolutely essential. For others, writing random episodes and then stringing them together works well. Some writers never plan the arc of their story in detail, they develop their characters first, then "let the characters guide them." Others have specific ideas about every twist and turn of plot, including the ending, before they sit down to write, and fit their characters into those dynamics. Then there is choosing an environment to write in. I have a friend who can write novels anywhere on her laptop, at any time of night or day, even while surrounded by noise and distractions. I can't do that. I need more structure: a specific time of day to write, a specific place (my office), and lots of quiet. So again, finding a process that works for you is extremely personal, and will likely require experimentation.

As for craft, that's quite a bit easier. You could take a fiction writing class, for example. Writer's groups can also be helpful if they include skilled and experienced writers. Whether a class or a group, however, you will need to check your ego at the door and be prepared for having what you might think is a great story torn to shreds (at least that's how it can feel sometimes). It also helps if you can find teachers and writers who can check their ego at the door...but that's not always the case. Of all the books I've read on writing, Stephen King's "On Writing" and Strunk and White's "Elemenets of Style" have provided the most help.

Having said all this, there are some general guidelines for writing that I've found helpful, and that several writers I've known live by:

1) Write what you know. In other words write from your own experience, or in a style or genre that you really enjoy, or about a subject that resonates with your own interests.

2) Be disciplined. Write every day for about the same amount of time, whether you feel like it or not. You may not be happy with every day's work, but you are strengthening your writing muscles so that when true inspiration hits you, you will know what to do with it.

3) Do not edit while you write: just write. This takes practice, but the point is to let the words spill out of you without constraint. Editing comes later.

4) When you do return to a piece to edit it, be brutal. Cut whole paragraphs. Rewrite whole pages. Be willing to throw out bad ideas, characters that don't work, etc. And, perhaps most importantly of all, be willing to subtract without replacing.

5) Persist. Persist. Persist. Good writing takes time, practice and endurance. I'm pretty sure the 10,000 hour rule applies to the craft of writing in the same way it applies to other expertise. My first novel - and perhaps a hundred short stories - will never be published. I would be horrified to publish them, they are so awful. But I had to write them to arrive where I needed to be as a writer.

6) Seek advice - especially regarding craft - but avoid relying on other people's opinions to guide your creative ideas or process. Letting approval or criticism sway your vision in these areas is generally lethal to any artist, because it keeps us from discovering our own strengths. In this regard, it's more important for you to find your own voice than to echo the voices of others.

Perhaps the most important question to ask yourself, though, is why you want to write fiction - and why novels in particular. People write for different reasons. For one person, it's an absolute creative necessity, like a pressure building up inside them until the words burst forth. For another person, there is a sense of responsibility to recount important principles they have learned, or experiences they have had, or ideas that have captivated them. For another, the idea of "being a writer" just seems compelling...perhaps they want to be seen by others as "a writer," or want to see themselves that way. For another, they're just damn good at writing, and churning out stories for other people's entertainment is as easy as breathing. For another, the idea of writing "the great American novel" is very romantic and exciting, so they want to give it a try. For another, writing is a kind of addiction that stimulates happy chemicals in their brain. For another, writing is a way to create a legacy they can leave behind. For another, family or peers may have pressured them into choosing writing as a career. So why do you want to write? That's an important question to answer, both to understand what you really want out of writing, and so you know how to "check in" with your efforts down the road, to see if you are still on track.

Hope this helps.