Becoming a Writer

I recently received an email in connection with a post I made on the TUT Writer’s Group on Facebook. The writer asked me about how to become a writer. The following is the basis of my reply.

When it comes to writing, I would like to know where your writer’s block lies, so that I can give you more targeted advice. However, I can give you the following points, to begin with.

What sort of writing do you want to do?

Are you intending to write fiction or non-fiction? I do both, and each needs its own way of looking at things.


If you want to write fiction, do you know what sort of story you want to write? Is it romance, general fiction, fantasy (science fiction, dark fantasy or horror, sword and sorcery, urban fantasy, to name but a few), erotica? Is it a novel or a short story? Whatever type you want to write, you need to do some reading in that genre, just to get a feel for what is acceptable to the reading public. I, for instance, have read all of the above-mentioned fantasy types for years. You don’t want to copy them, of course, but you do need to know the kind of stories that are available.

Sometimes, a story you read will trigger an idea of your own. You might like the story and want to know what happened next. Why don’t you write about that? If the story took place years ago, why not rewrite it into modern times? West Side Story is Romeo and Juliet set in 20th century New York, for instance. The Lion King is a modern take on Macbeth. One of the short stories I’m about to publish is my take on Hand Christian Andersen’s Little Mermaid. And so on.

At other times, you might think to yourself “I don’t like the way that story turned out.” So why not write your own version, giving it the ending you would have liked? Or you read a story and imagine something completely different, that’s still somehow connected with the original, like my story about a modern Frankenstein.

Television and movies are other good sources of ideas. Just as I mentioned above, they can trigger thoughts and ideas that lead to a story. I’ve had ideas that have come from dreams and daydreams. You just have to be open to your thoughts. There are stories that I have started writing with nothing more than a single phrase or concept.

To throw a couple of ideas out to you:

  • What would it feel like to be immortal? You know that everyone you love will one day be gone, while you have to carry on without them forever more. How will you live? What will you do? Is there a problem with boredom, because you’ve done it all before?
  • How about someone whose job is to protect a city, like a superhero, except he can’t remember who he is until the city is about to be destroyed? How does he react until he realises that he’s the one to save the day? How do the inhabitants treat him because he’s always so late coming to the rescue?
  • Or how about a woman who can’t find her car keys, until she remembers that she never learned to drive? Why does she think that she has keys for a car she doesn’t own? Is she suffering from amnesia? Does she have a split personality? Is she channelling someone from a parallel world? Or is a ghost trying to contact her? The possibilities are endless.
  • What is the exact meaning of a company name, like Blue Dog? Does someone have an unusual name? Why do they have it?

These are a few ideas that just popped into my head while I was writing this. Be prepared to think strange things and follow them up.

If you do decide to write, I suggest you keep some sort of notebook to write your ideas down. Personally, I use a program called Evernote, which you can get for free. It runs on the PC, Mac, iPhone and iPad, any Android device, etc. What you do is download it on any device you use and then set up an account with them or Dropbox or iCloud, or some other cloud service. Once all devices and their versions of Evernote are synchronised to the same account, if you write something down on one of them, it will be available on all of them within seconds. You need never lose an idea again. Except in the shower; I still have no idea how I can do it there.

If electronic devices are not your thing, and I know people who still prefer old-fashions methods, buy yourself a small reporter’s notebook with an attached pen or pencil. Keep it with you at all times and jot down any ideas you get. Every so often, say once a week, write them up in a bigger notebook or school book. Give it a title like “My Great Ideas Book.” Cherish the ideas as they come, accept them as the gifts from whoever or whatever you think of as a higher power, and they will keep coming. They will increase, and you will soon wonder why you never had any ideas.


Although all that I’ve written about above is as true for non-fiction as it is for fiction, non-fiction has a few extra things you need to keep in mind.

First of all, how much do you know about the subject? If it’s something you work with every day, and you know all about it, then you’re set. You just need to work out how to put pen to paper, or fingers to keyboard.

If you know a bit, or even nothing at all, then you are going to have to research. There are books available on just about every subject under the sun, many of them cheap or even free, if you know where to look. Try Amazon’s free books, for example, or check out Project Gutenberg for books that are out of copyright. Google the subject and follow any leads you find. Just be aware that there is a lot of useless or even false information out there. As Theodore Sturgeon, a science fiction writer, once said: “90% of everything is crud.”

As you’re doing your research, keep making notes of ideas and concepts that you want to include in your book. As I noted earlier, a notebook or some electronic aid such as Evernote, is an excellent way of keeping everything together. It doesn’t matter whether everything is neat and tidy, or just a bunch of scribbles and phrases, as long as they make sense to you when you come back to them later.

Once you start writing, you will have to find your personal style. When I’m working on a non-fiction book, I always write as if I’m actually talking to the person. If I’m teaching someone how to use a computer program (and I have written a user manual), it’s as if we’re sitting down together in front the machine and I’m telling them what to type and where to click. This is my style, and I know that there are people who prefer other styles, such as an impersonal teacher dishing out commands.

Whatever you found during your research, don’t write it exactly as you noted it down in the first place because you may find that you are plagiarising someone else’s words. Instead, write it down in your own words, as if you are trying to explain to someone else what it is that you’ve read. Don’t worry if you think you have nothing new to say, it may be that someone else needs to hear it put the way that you can uniquely do it. Say it your own way, and it will be new to someone.

Don’t talk yourself out of an idea just because it’s been done before. Put your own spin on it. Bring in your own personal experiences. You will have your own stories to tell, which will make it unique.
Dr Joe Vitale

Now, let’s look at one or two problems more carefully.

Ideas are blocked

If you think that your problem lies with writer’s block, try this little trick. If you prefer to work by hand, get a blank piece of paper and a pen or pencil, and write the subject you want to write about at the top of the page. Underline it or draw a box around it, whatever makes you feel that it’s important.

Now let’s establish a couple of simple rules. First of all, when you start writing, don’t stop! Secondly, you are only allowed to write from left to right and top to bottom. You can’t go back and correct something at the moment; that comes later.

Now, just keep writing whatever goes through your head on the subject. If you find that nothing relevant to the subject comes out, just write whatever you are thinking about, even if it’s about the problem you’re having writing anything down. The idea is to disconnect your creative process from the critical process of editing. Once you’ve been writing for five or ten minutes, or whatever feels comfortable, take a break or stop completely.

Now is the time to go back and look at what you’ve written. Don’t change anything yet, just read it from beginning to end to see what exactly you have created. If you find something you would like to alter or even delete, make a mental note to come back to it later.

Once you’ve reread it, you can go back and make the changes you thought about earlier. When you’ve finished, use that as a basis for your writing. You can repeat this as many times as you like, until you’re satisfied.

If you’re a computer user and can type fast enough, create a new blank document and start with that. I’ve even used dictation software to get ideas down as quickly as possible.

This is a combination of two different methods that I personally use. The first is Free Writing, where you just allow words to come out of you without censoring them in any way. The second method includes the first as its first stage. The method is called the Disney Method and is named after Walt Disney. It’s the way that he and his team of creators brainstormed new ideas for films and features.

If you want to find out more about this and other methods of achieving your goals, I suggest you look at my book Unleash Your Dreams: Going Beyond Goal Setting. You can find it on Amazon as both a Kindle ebook and paperback.

Another suggestion I can make is to have multiple projects going on at the same time. For instance, right now I am doing the final cleanup on my collection of short stories, I’m working on a second collection of stories on the same theme, I have a fantasy novel I’m working on, and I’m also working on a follow-up book to the one that I just mentioned. If I run out of ideas, or find myself blocked on one of these projects, I simply switch to another one and continue working there. I do this because I’ve come to realise that it’s not really a block, as such. It really means that what I’m working on at the moment isn’t quite ready to be written down yet.

No ideas at all

You said that you have no idea where to start? Is this because you have no ideas? Or is it because you have no idea what tools to use?

If the first one is your problem, please look earlier in this email, where I’ve given you a few pointers on how to start. If the second one is where you’re stuck, any word processor, such as Microsoft Word or Apple’s Pages, will do perfectly well. I wrote my first book using Word, and it did the job fairly well.

These days, I use a product called Scrivener, which is specially designed with the writer in mind, allowing you to structure your work any which way you like, moving stuff around if it makes more sense that way. You can download a free trial at http://www.literatureandlatte.com, which will run for 30 days of use; if you use it only once a week, it will work for months. If you decide you like it, it only costs about $45 to buy the full licence. There are versions for the PC, Mac, and iPhone and iPad.

Other problems
If your problems lie more in the realm of the actual publication of your writing, we can talk about this on another occasion.

I hope this helps you in your quest to become a writer.

I hope you don’t mind, but I’m going to put this up as my next blog post, because I think other people might profit from it.

I wish you lots of luck in the future and look forward to hearing from you soon and reading your writing.

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Morality is for evil people; good people don't need any morality to be good.
Frederik Bendz


Earlier today, I was just watching a program on daytime TV called The Wright Stuff (Channel 5, UK), which airs between 9:15 and 11:10, Monday to Friday. It’s a discussion program with a host and a panel of three guests who talk about what’s in the news.

One of the topics this morning was whether toys like Lego, selling kits to make specific models, are stifling creativity. I didn’t have much Lego when I was young, but I did own several Meccano kits.

I remember that each kit contained numerous pieces which were meant to create several different models. Once you’d built each of the models at least once, what was there left to do? What I did was to combine parts from the various kits and start building my own models, from out of my own imagination, occasionally taking an idea from one of the predefined models.

I have a six-year-old great-nephew who loves Lego. He recently received a number of Lego kits for his birthday. I watched as he and another small relative of his put the kits together. They had great fun making everything fit together, but I know that the next time I see those pieces and kits, they will have been taken apart and rebuilt into something completely different.

I was a computer programmer and software engineer for over 30 years, and I believe that I was very creative in that career. There are many who would have you believe that people in the software industry are uncreative, mechanically converting something manual into something automated. I would beg to differ. I have seen the results of what happens when creativity is ignored.

A case in point is a private Swiss bank I did some freelancing for in the first decade of the 21st-century. They had created the specifications for a new system and farmed them out to a software company in India who promised to build the system for around 1 million Swiss Francs. What they got back was so useless that it then cost them another 1½ million Swiss Francs to get into a working form. I was only involved peripherally in the project because some of the things I was working on were relying on the system working correctly. I looked at some of the code and was appalled at how poorly it had been written.

“What has all this got to do with creativity?” I hear you ask.

I personally believe that you can best be creative once you have followed the rules to make something. You received a set of instructions, and you carried them out to the letter. Only when you know how things work can you become creative.

I believe it was Einstein who pointed out that you have to understand the rules thoroughly before you can break them successfully. In other words, you have to know what is accepted or good practice before you strike out in your own direction. You can’t build a mansion if you have no idea about architecture.

Many people think that Lego is a good idea, but you should not force the children to build according to a plan or design. They seem to think that the children will work out how to do it by themselves, without ever having done something to plan. I’ve seen some of those results, and they are not pretty.

In my view, this would be the equivalent of handing a child a dictionary and telling them to write a book. If they haven’t had a grounding in sentence structure, grammar, parts of speech, logical thought or even spelling, what you will get at the end is a mishmash, if you actually get anything at all. The greatest authors who went to create wonderful nonsense had a solid grounding in how to write English first. I’m thinking of such works as Finnegan’s Wake, The Hunting of the Snark, the Alice books, or even e e cummings.

I am a writer these days, and I have had to write a great deal to be able to find some sort of voice. In my time, I have written computer programs, specifications and designs for those programs, and even the instruction manuals, user guides, quick tips and FAQs for them. If I hadn’t been trained in programming and writing, and the way that programs, specifications or analyses are put together, I wouldn’t have achieved anything of any consequence.

As it is, there are companies in Switzerland that are working more efficiently and doing things that they couldn’t have done anywhere near as well without my help. A case in point is a medical insurance company for whom I wrote several projects. I will discuss only one of them.

When someone cancels a medical insurance, there are numerous checks and tests that have to be applied in order to be able to determine whether they can do so at this time. For instance, certain insurances, or parts thereof, can be cancelled quarterly, others semi-annually, and yet others only at the end of the year. Furthermore, some parts can only be cancelled if others are also being cancelled.

The upshot of all this was that the first 3 to 3½ months of the year, the department responsible had to borrow 10 to 12 members of staff from other departments to help carry the load. If you work this out, it means that they had to budget for 2½ to 3½ person-years extra per year just to cover the work.

Why was this such a problem?

Firstly, they had to be able to check the validity of the cancellations before calling up the client’s data. Once they had typed all the data into the host computer screen, they then had to shepherd the process through several more computer screens, depending on whether the cancellation dates had to be changed to valid ones. Once the changes were accepted, they then had to select one of over 40 different letter templates (depending on whether the cancellations were accepted on a particular date, and what exactly was being cancelled) in one of four different languages. They would then have to type in the details in the relevant language before printing the letter out in preparation for being sent to the client.

Depending on the complexity of the cancellation, this could take anywhere from 10 minutes to half an hour per client. If one step in the process took too long, the system would automatically timeout the transaction after 15 minutes, and they would have to start all over again.

Once my system was in place, the user only had to type in the client’s insurance number, check that the data were correct, tick a few boxes and click the ‘Okay’ button. The system would perform all the validation checks and inform them of any potential problems, allowing them to accept or override the input as necessary. It would then automatically open the correct screens on the host system and ensure that everything was done properly. Then came the best bit; it generated the correct letter in the correct language automatically in MS Word, displaying it on screen for the user to check. If everything was okay, they clicked on the ‘Print’ button, and it would be saved on the server and sent to their printer. Then they were ready for the next client.

The processing time per cancellation was reduced to between 30 seconds and 1 minute. When the department head realised how quickly he could get through the work, they had to ‘pull down him from the ceiling’ as one of his co-workers put it. They wouldn’t need to borrow anyone from other departments ever again.

Without my creative understanding of their situation, in connection with my creative solution to the problem, they would still be borrowing people.

The point I’m trying to make is that without a fundamental understanding of the concepts of design and programming, learned by following the rules and instructions of other people when I was young, I would never have been able to be so creative. There are many other clients who have been thankful for my creativity: various regional and private banks, a nuclear research facility, small business owners, and others.

For me, a vital part of the creative process is to ask such questions as “Does this make any sense?”, “How exactly does this work?”, “What exactly are they trying to achieve?”, and even “Why?” It would be impossible to be able to ask these questions and get a sensible answer if I didn’t know how to do it from my own experience. And that experience has been garnered by following others people’s instructions until I was able to determine my own way of doing things. I then went on to learn from my own experiences and mistakes.

Incidentally, I wrote another article on why on my blog some time ago (http://stephenoliverblog.com/421/).

I see the instructions for such toys as being a springboard for the imaginations of the children. Of course, there will be those who will only ever build what they are instructed to do, never creating anything new. I believe that these children would never have created anything anyway because they have no desire to do so. I also believe that they are very much in the minority. Children, in general, are so creative that they will make something new if they have even the slightest spark within them. Proof lies in the games we watch them play when they are uninhibited by adults or convention. And how many of them have imaginary friends?

Even TV programmes and cartoons can act as stimulants to the imaginations of these children. They will create their own worlds, fight battles between toys, and have the time of their lives living in their imaginations.

It’s the adults we should be sorry for, because so many of them have stifled their imaginations and creativity in their rush to become ‘adult’. And there are many adults were more than happy to aid in that stifling.

When I was about 12 years old, we were told during English class to write an imaginary story, an extended essay in several chapters, about any subject we wanted. I was very much into science fiction in those days (as I still am), and so I wrote a story about a spaceship crew doing a Grand Tour of the planets of the solar system before an accident sent them careening off to Alpha Centauri. When the teacher  handed our work back, he held up my work and derided it as nothing but stupidity, because it was science fiction and nor ‘real’ fiction. He never told us what he had expected us to write, just said that we were to be creative, and then he stamped all over my creativity.

It took me years, nay decades, to get over the hurt he created.

A couple of years ago, I published a self-help book, Unleash Your Dreams: Going Beyond Goal Setting (http://www.amazon.com/dp/B00EX4FVUI). I’ve been working since then on a follow-up to that book, as well as a fantasy novel and a collection of short stories, plus some experimental stuff written only for practice and my own entertainment. I suppose I have to be grateful to that stupid teacher because at least he was one of the people who taught me the basics of writing good English.

In conclusion, I don’t believe that toys with instructions stifle the creative impulse. On the contrary, they are very much a place to discover whether you have a talent in that direction, and can display creativity with the tools that they supply.

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If it's served to us and it's unpalatable but we smack our lips like it is the best thing we ever ate, how will the chef know to change the dish?
Kossack emsprater

Circular Time

It’s finally come around. Today is the first anniversary of the death of my Father. He passed away from pulmonary fibrosis in hospital last August, while my Mother and one of my sisters sat next to him.

So today the whole family, all four generations of us, went to lunch at his favourite Spanish restaurant and had a tapas lunch, which was one of his favourite meals. We took a picture of him with us to put on the table, and a hat of his that we placed at the head of the table. The owner of the restaurant gave us a couple of bottles of cava (the Spanish equivalent of champagne) on the house to toast him. She was quite teary when we asked her to join in.

Of course, it doesn’t mean we miss him any less, but we did remember good and funny times with him. For instance, there was the time he was dancing at a party with the owner of the restaurant (the same lady) and turned around. Unfortunately, his rubber-soled shoe didn’t, and he nearly ended up flat on the floor. Or the way he used to go with my brother-in-law and me down to the harbour at the beginning of the holidays to have beer and oysters, just to confirm that we were on holiday together.

We made sure that we ordered all his favourite dishes (especially oysters and beer!), and enjoyed them while thinking of him. We honoured his memory and his life and, apart from some teary eyes (mine included), we enjoyed ourselves.

But it all got me thinking about a form of time I haven’t discussed yet. (Oh no, I hear you groaning, he’s not talking about Time again, is he? Yes I am.) This time, I want to talk about circular time; time that recurs and comes back again and again.

Even if we don’t think about it, circular time is a major part of our lives. Spring becomes summer, which turns into autumn (fall for you Americans) and finally winter, until spring returns. Or New Year is followed by Lent, Easter, Whitsun, Mid-Summer, Christmas and back to the beginning of the next year. Our birthdays recur on a regular basis, reminding us that every turn of the circle is, at the same time, part of a linear progression into the future.

It is this last that makes me realise that circular time is perhaps a misnomer. Perhaps we should be calling it Spiral Time, or more correctly, Helical Time, since spirals are technically ever-increasing in diameter.

It’s not just seasons or birthdays that are recurring events, though. Even more are the habits and behaviours that occur time and again in our lives, causing happiness or despair. These are the most subtle kind, because we often don’t realise that they are recurring. Only once we’re in the middle of the situations do we suddenly think: this has all happened to me before.

Of course, if it’s something good, then we’re glad it’s happening again. But, given the propensity of the human race to self-destructive and negative behaviour patterns and beliefs, it’s far more likely that these are not things we enjoy re-experiencing.

Isn’t it time (in the non-recurring sense of the word) to be doing something to break those patterns and beliefs and make our lives more satisfying and enjoyable?

Of course it is. And the only time we can make those changes is now. I can’t alter what I’ve done in the past, and what I do in the future depends on what I’m doing right now. As soon as I’ve posted this, I’m going to read a few pages of Dr Joe Vitale’s book Expect Miracles, which is back-to-back with his other book Faith as part of Faith/Expect Miracles 2-In-1 Book. Then I’m going to have a siesta because the temperature is 31ºC, while thinking about what I’ve just read. After that, I’ll start implementing whatever I think is necessary to get me closer to my dreams.

If you find you’re living too much in circular time, experiencing things you don’t want or are boring, go out and start making some progress towards your dreams and goals, and experience some linear time and progress.

I miss you, Fatherli.

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Be tolerant with others and strict with yourself.
Marcus Aurelius


I don’t know if you’ve come across a book by Dr Joe Vitale titled The Midas Touch. He got together a group of authors and let each of us contribute a chapter on a subject of our choosing. Below, you can see a selfie of me holding a copy of the book with Joe’s and my pictures on the cover.

The book is available as a paperback or Kindle version on Amazon. This is an unsolicited plug as I don’t get a share of the profits; it’s all about increasing the exposure of the contributors.

The problem is, we were only allowed 1,000 words for our chapters.  While I was writing my chapter (I Am Responsible For What Happens To Me), I found I had a lot more to say, but I was forced to prune it down. So I’ve decided to add the rest here.

Basically, what I said in the book was that we’re responsible for what happens to us. After discussing some of the ramifications of this idea, I concluded that, since we’re responsible, we’re in control. If we’re in control, we create the reality we experience.

As you may have gathered from other posts I’ve made on the subjects of time and immortality, I believe in reincarnation. In my world view, we come to this world to learn and experience things that are impossible to learn and experience in eternity. In other words, we chose to be here and we selected these lessons.

Think of life as a school, or better yet, a university, where we choose the courses we want to take. Some of them are compulsory, but many are additions we can take or not, at our whim. No matter what we choose, we need to learn; it’s why we came here.

What we need to learn depends on each of us. Everyone has their own path to follow, and we each have to find it out for ourselves. This means that we have to take responsibility for our lives. We’ve chosen to live this life, thought particular thoughts and taken certain actions, so we’re accountable for what happens.

The problem is, most people don’t want to have that responsibility. They’d rather complain about how hard life is than admit to themselves that they are precisely where they belong, given the thoughts and actions of the past. If they’re not responsible for the situation, they don’t have to do anything about it.

However, since we are responsible, it’s up to us to change what we don’t want. It’s time to roll up our sleeves and get going, turning our thoughts and actions into those that will lead us to where we say we want to go. Although I don’t subscribe to the “no gain without pain” school of thought, I do believe that we need to make an effort to achieve our goals. Just sitting on the sofa and repeating positive affirmations and visualisations may get us what we want, but we’ll get there a heck of a lot faster if we get off our duffs and add action to the affirmations and visualisations.

In the long run, all responsibility is self-responsibility, just as all discipline is ultimately self-discipline. This is a hard bolus for all of us to swallow. I admit, I’ve often found it easier to complain that the Universe is at it again and it’s out to get me. But in the end, I’ve had to take action to correct the situation because no one else is going to do it.

If I’m responsible, then it means that it’s all under my control! In turn, that means that I can make things up as I go along. If I  don’t like how things are, I can alter circumstances and change the world around me. Of course, it’s not always as easy as that because everyone around me is doing the same and the result is a consensus of all our goals. But we can change far more than we believe is possible .

I’ve made believe that something is true, only to find later that it was true. The question is: did I create this new reality or was I merely acting out a reality that was going to happen anyway. Either way, it doesn’t really matter because that reality did occur. It’s just more comfortable to believe that I was the one that brought it about.

Remember, another term for making it up as we go along is creativity!

So I’m going to repeat what I said at the end of my chapter of The Midas Touch: I am responsible for everything that happens to me, so I am in control and I create my reality!”

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With great power comes great responsibility.
Stan Lee


I’ve just come back from Communion at church. There were two lessons, the first about Ananias and Saphira, and the second about the Widow’s Mite. The vicar talked during the sermon about the first lesson and the consequences of lying to God. What I found more interesting was the theme running through both stories, as I saw it.

To my mind, what they were both about was commitment.

Ananias and Saphira sold land and presented half the money to the apostles, while pretending that it was the total amount. This lie led to their deaths at the hands of God. If they had been honest and said that that was only half the amount, it would have been accepted and they would have been honoured. By pretending that it was the whole amount, they were trying to get the maximum benefit (praise from the rest of the congregation) with the minimum outlay. They refused to commit themselves totally to their religion, but pretended that they were. In other words, they were hypocrites.

In the second lesson, the widow put her last penny, everything she had, in the collection box. She committed herself completely.

I know that I haven’t made the commitment that I should to my self-development and personal growth, but at least I’m honest enough to admit that I haven’t. I’ve made plenty of excuses in the last few months: not having enough money to buy the books and courses I wanted; looking after my ageing parents; helping during my father’s final illness; looking after my mother since his death. But that’s all they are. Excuses.

If we truly want to achieve our goals and realise our dreams, we have to commit to that achievement and realisation. Half-hearted efforts will only ever get us halfway there, if we’re lucky. We can’t say to ourselves “I’ll put in just enough effort to get there, I think.” It’s got to be all or nothing, and we have to admit to ourselves that that’s the precise situation: all or nothing.

In our self-development books we often discuss commitment and persistence, but in reality they’re the same thing. If we’re fully committed to our goals, then we will automatically have the persistence necessary to achieve them.

Of course, we have to be sure that these goals and dreams are what we really want. Otherwise, we may drive ourselves nuts, and end up being committed in a different way…

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Not a shred of evidence exists in favour of the idea that life is serious.
Brendan Gill

Entanglement and Connectedness

The latest researches in Quantum Theory show that the world is not quite as simple as we like to think.

First of all, it appears that the so-called superposition of states doesn’t just apply to the microscopic and atomic levels, but also at the macroscopic levels we see and experience every day. This is the weird situation where a particle such as an electron can exist in different places, moving in different directions, and having different energies, all at precisely the same time, each with a likelihood determined by a probability equation. It continues in this condition until something happens to cause it to select one of those states, such as being measured by an experiment in the laboratory or encountering another particle. At this point, the “selected” state is the only one that has any “real” existence. However, as soon as we stop “looking” at it, it starts to split up into various probabilities again, in effect becoming fuzzy and smeared over a volume in space-time again. There is a finite but tiny probability that an electron in your fingernail may suddenly disappear from there, and reappear at the end of my fingernail. Or in the Andromeda galaxy. It’s unbelievably unlikely, but it’s possible.

One view of this superposition of states is the Many Worlds Interpretation. This assumes that each of the states actually represents a different universe. When we observe one of these states to be “real”, it means that we exist in the universe in which it is real. All of the other states are in other universes that contain other versions of ourselves, each of which observes a different state. Strange as this may sound, it may be an explanation for reality, because quantum computers can only function if there are infinite worlds in which computations take place, and we know that quantum computers work!

When taken to the logical conclusion, this means that the whole Universe is nothing more than a collection of superpositions of states, each of which may exist as a separate universe of its own. A growing body of evidence exists that this is precisely the situation in which we find ourselves.

Secondly, there is the condition of entanglement. Ironically, this was a test that Einstein proposed in an attempt to disprove quantum mechanics, as it was called at the time. In essence, the test is very simple: two photons (light particles) are emitted at the same time from the same atom, but moving in opposite directions. Because of their simultaneous creation, they are entangled with one another, i.e. they are connected. According to Einstein’s Special Theory of Relativity, because they are both travelling at the speed of light, there is no possibility of their being able to communicate with one another. This would mean that they would need to be able to exchange information at twice the speed of light, which is impossible. Nevertheless, if you do something to one of the photons, such as change the direction of polarisation, the other one will instantaneously be changed as well. At this point, the particles are said to de-cohere, so that they no longer seem to be connected.

Many more tests have been made using different properties of particles such as neutrons and even whole atoms, all of which prove entanglement is a very real phenomenon. Some even seem to show that changing any particle in the universe forces every other particle to change in some way, no matter how far away; i.e. all particles are entangled with one another, all the time.

For this to happen means that the phenomenon of non-locality is true; Einstein called this “spooky action at a distance”. In other words, causes can have instantaneous effects that are very far away. So far, in fact, that light may take long periods to travel across the separation, perhaps even years. When combined with the Many Worlds Interpretation, this non-locality must be inter-universal.

What does all this have to do with personal growth?

  1. If this universal entanglement is indeed the true state of affairs, it could provide an explanation for the Law of Attraction. Since thoughts take place in the human mind and brain, they must be quantum phenomena, by definition. If I change the quantum energies in my brain, they force a change in all the quantum fields in the universe. Since energies tend to resonate with one another, if I think of something, I am able to cause it to occur.
  2. If there are infinite universes, it should, in principle, be possible to select which one I inhabit. This is another explanation for the Law of Attraction. Instead of attracting something to me, I navigate through the universes to find the one in which I have it.
  3. Universal entanglement also means that we are connected to one another. If one person suffers, it changes their quantum fields, which in turn alter mine. This is probably one of the best reasons for universal charity there can be. If someone suffers, I must also suffer; by ameliorating some else’s pain, I am reducing my own.
  4. Since energy cannot be created or destroyed, it means that the quantum fields that represent me must, in some way, be eternal. Is this the soul?

I have talked about immortality and multiple universes in other posts. The more I think about the implications of quantum theory, the more complicated, strange and beautiful the Universe becomes.

The universe is not only queerer than we imagine, it’s queerer than we can imagine.

J.B.S. Haldane, British biologist

Perhaps we are not moving from the Information Age into the Knowledge Age, as I have postulated before, but actually into a Quantum Age. Which will be even stranger than we can imagine.

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A man with all the answers makes little search for the Truth.

“Thinging” vs. Humanising

While I was working on my second book a couple of days ago, I was reminded of a phenomenon that seems to be becoming more and more prevalent these days.

I’m talking about the habit of treating people as things rather than as human beings. You see this especially on the news, where people are lumped together under a single heading, such as “Islamists”, “middle class”, “Asians”, “Americans”, etc., as though one word fits them all. This simply acts as a means of dehumanising the people in question.

This has been going on for a long time. It first came to my attention in the mid-90s when a memo was circulated around the Swiss bank I was working for at the time. It stated that the Personnel Department would henceforth be known as Human Resources. It went on to state that all of us would no longer be designated MA (Mitarbeiter, German for employee); we would now be LE (Leistungseinheit, German for production unit).

This is dehumanising. It suggests that people are considered as fungible (i.e., replaceable by another of the same, like banknotes or coins). It ignores personality, capability and accumulated know-how; in other words, it completely ignores our humanity.

To show how quickly things have changed, consider the beginning of the 80s. When I started working at my first Swiss bank, I was told by an older gentleman that the Personnel Department was there to act as a buffer between my superiors and me. If I had any problems with anyone higher up in the chain of command, I should approach someone from Personnel to help resolve the situation.

17 years later, during my exit interview as I left the Swiss bank I was working for (the same one I mentioned three paragraphs ago), a young man in Human Resources haughtily informed me that their sole task was to hire and fire LEs. I got the feeling that he didn’t regard me as a person at all. This resonated with the fact that six months earlier a particular middle manager had been treating all of his subordinates like chess pieces.

It’s such thinking that makes it easy for big businesses, banks and governments to mistreat us as they do. If we’re not people, just production units and sources of money, then they can throw us away when we’re of no use to them any more. Witness how the elderly, handicapped, poor and unemployed are treated, and how the rich, powerful and politically connected rake it in.

I prefer to treat people as people. I learn the names of the personnel in the shops and supermarkets I frequent, for instance, and I greet them by name. As an aside, I remember asking one cashier how to pronounce her name; it was pronounced Chetin. She told me that someone had recently greeted her as Mrs Cretin.

I’ve been told by a friend that my biggest problem in the dating game is that I treat women in the same way that I treated men, i.e., I treat them as human beings, not sexual objects. It seems that a great many women, despite objections to the contrary, subconsciously don’t like being treated as equals. They either expect to be downtrodden, or they expect their gender to give them undeserved advantages. Maybe I’m wrong, and this is just my somewhat skewed perception.

No matter what the “reality” of the situation is, I would rather be a humanist than a sexist or a “thingist”. Wouldn’t you?

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Kindness in words creates confidence. Kindness in thinking creates profoundness. Kindness in giving creates love.
Lao Tzu


Today I want to talk about faith; perhaps one of the most misunderstood words in the dictionary. It seems to be an appropriate time of year for this discussion.

The actual meaning, according to the Oxford English Dictionary, is “complete trust or confidence in someone or something”. So let’s have a look at various kinds of faith.

Religious Faith

This is what most people mean when they talk about faith: “a strong belief in the doctrines of a religion, based on spiritual conviction rather than proof” (OED again). In other words, you believe in your god(s) and your religion because you feel they are right, rather than their having been proved right scientifically and/or empirically.

I have nothing against this kind of faith, as long as its believers don’t try to coerce me into believing as they do. If they’re prepared to discuss their beliefs and to listen to mine, while we both agree that the other has the right to believe as they do, everything’s fine. However, so many proselytise and preach, even go to war, in attempts to get others to believe as they do. I sometimes wonder if it’s because they themselves are, in their very hearts, not quite sure that they’re right; they need others to agree with them in order for them to feel justified. Look at history for the “religious” reasons behind so much warfare for examples.

Even worse are the religious hypocrites. The ones who preach sexual continence while they themselves are among the greatest philanderers of all. Those who preach that life is sacred and that every foetus has a right to life, while condoning war and abandoning the new-born to poverty and destitution. The ones who ask for money for charity, taking the last penny from the generous and poor, then live a life of luxury that few kings and emperors ever even dreamt of.Those who speak of peace while fostering religious, racial and social hatred. And the ones who speak out against homosexuality and other sexual variations while themselves indulging in the same. By their deeds, we know that the faith that they really believe and practice is not the faith that they speak; their actions speak louder than their words, and the discerning see them for what they truly are.

Be that as it may, religion has co-opted the concept of faith for itself, but the word means so much more.

Faith in Yourself

Having faith in yourself means believing in yourself. You believe that you can do something or be something without there being any verifiable proof. Without this faith in yourself, you’ll make no real progress in your life.

If you don’t believe that you’re good enough for promotion, you’ll likely not receive it, unless all the other candidates have even less faith in themselves (an unlikely prospect). If you can’t believe that you’re worthy of that particular girl or guy, you won’t ask them out, and they’ll overlook you. And so it goes in life.

This kind of faith is the basis of self-confidence and self-esteem. Believe you can and do, and you’ll achieve miracles.

Faith in Other People

Faith in other people has another name: trust.

I must admit that trust has often been a problem in my life.

I’ve trusted people when buying securities, which turned out to be extremely unlucky. For instance, I bought into an investment fund in February 2001, which lost nearly 50% of its value after 9/11. After spending years working its way back up to its original value, it was reduced in value by 45% again by the financial disasters of 2008 and after. When I finally cashed in during 2012, as I left Switzerland, it had sagged further in value, and I ended up with around 37% of my original investment (which the government then taxed!).

I’ve trusted women with my heart (i.e., I’ve fallen in love), only to have them misuse me and my emotions for their own amusement, or to follow their own agendas.

During the beginning of my training as a Reiki Master, I was the only man in a group of six students taking part in a particular course. Strangely enough, when we were asked what the theme of the training was for us, every one of us cited problems with trust. Either it was an odd coincidence, or we were all their because we needed to learn the same lesson. I certainly felt enough trust to let my emotions have a free run during those three days, proving that big boys certainly do cry!

Even after all my negative experiences, I would still rather trust others (what a friend of mine called being a “good-natured chump”), than be a cynic who trusts nobody and nothing.

Faith in the Universe

Faith in the Universe means believing that there is a reason for everything that happens, and that the Universe has our best interests at heart. So many times when things have gone wrong, it’s more likely that my negative beliefs and actions got in the way than that the Universe was acting malevolently. I am working on those beliefs, so that the Universe can give me what I want and need. It’s even possible that the negative experiences I had were there to teach me a lesson I couldn’t learn any other way. Who knows? Maybe I couldn’t see the carrot, so the stick became necessary.

The mechanism by which the Universe moderates what you receive is the Law of Attraction. What you think, and more importantly what you believe (have faith in), is reflected back to you from the Universe via this law. You only need to have faith that the universe is a good and abundant place. If you add in the gratitude you feel for what you already have and the gratitude for what you are about to receive, your life can become filled with wonder.

So I wish everybody a happy, faith-filled, abundant and successful New Year.

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Every man is the architect of his own fortune.
Appius Claudius

My Paperback Book is Here!

Phew! I’ve finally got the paperback version of my book finished, uploaded and active on Amazon! I tell you, there is nothing quite like the feeling of holding a copy of your own book in your hand, the child of your own mind. It’s wonderful!

It was nowhere as easy as I’d hoped, or even feared, it would be. I discovered that, if you want your book to look professional (not perfectionism, just professionalism), you’ve got to be prepared to put in a lot of hard work. If anyone tells you otherwise, reach for the saltcellar; you’re going to need a lot of grains of salt.

Sure, it’s easy to convert something to PDF if you have the right software, but ensuring the quality of the photos and images, making sure that the text fits in right inside the margins, preventing the last line of a paragraph (or even worse, section or chapter) from being left orphaned on the next page, all take time and diligence. Proofreading and checking for typos is another time-intensive activity. Plus that annoying thing call Real Life keeps getting in the way…

Anyhow, here it is. If you want to purchase a copy, please follow the links below:

Kindle Version



Kindle version




Paperback version

If you enjoy the book, why don’t you leave a comment on Amazon?

I hope the book reaches and teaches you as much as I learned while writing it.

Ah well, time to start the next book and get back to normal blogging…

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Be yourself; everyone else is already taken.
Oscar Wilde

eBook is here!

Unbelievable but true. My eBook is live!

I started the upload process in the afternoon, and it was live by late evening. Must have been a slow day at Amazon. Or their efficiency is even greater than I thought.

If you’re interested in buying copy, search for “Stephen Oliver Unleash Your Dreams” in the search line.

Now for the paperback version!

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Success is the active process of making your dreams real and inspiring others to dream.
James Anders Honeycutt