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Archive for August, 2006

A writer may self-edit their own work but in my experience I have found another person editing your work has a distinct advantage. As co-authors, Debby and I helped each other perfect our work, which allowed us to combine our strengths in our writing. Still, I found that because of our close collaboration, we sometimes missed subtle details in our writing. During edits of our manuscript, we read those details into the writing when they weren’t actually on “paper”…..Well on our hard drives.

As a writer you bring detailed knowledge of the work with you. Therefore, it’s very easy to omit essential details like transitions, which help a reader to follow the story.

A fresh mind can smooth out your writing. With my editing, I had enormous help from both my sisters. Arshdeep came up with important details that helped move the plot. She suggested how many people when they are depressed will often fantasize about their own death. So that became the basis for the final passage in Chapter One where Logan imagines his funeral, which brings that chapter to climactic close.

My youngest sister, Amardeep, who is participating with Canada World Youth in a program in North Bay until she leaves for Tanzania in a few months, offered helpful criticism. She read middle chapters where I was getting stuck and offered an original way to look at the plot. She dissected those chapters and gave valuable feedback. At first, I resisted the changes she suggested but I found a way to work them into the plot and my writing style. Her suggestions helped me to get past the dreaded writer’s block because I gained a new perspective.

I believe getting family or friends who can have some objective distance from your writing can be insightful because they can offer you a new way to look at your writing. They can also pinpoint any areas that aren’t clear to them. Since they’re close to you, they will understand your work isn’t a final draft and offer suggestions tempered with encouragement.

The final edit by our publisher, Michael B. Davie, put the finishing touches on our novel. He helped to smooth out some rough areas. So take editing help when its offered to you because it will often help your writing. Of course, try to have the final say because any change needs to be consistent with your voice.

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A book cover is the appearance of a book to the world. The saying goes not to judge a book by its cover. Still this is often one of the first aspects of a book that a reader first notices. The concept of our book cover started through discussion between Debby, her daughter, Leah Morrison, and I.

Leah is the proud mother of Logan and Logan is also the main character in “NEXUS.” I thought of certain concepts like arrangement of items on a side table inspired by a CD cover of Howard Tate album “Rediscovered,” where you have a simple black table surface with a cup (pictured below):

Howard Tate, Rediscovered (2003)

I wanted a similar table concept. We decided to elaborate and to include other items connected to our story. Our spread became more complex as you can see below:

Book Photo by Leah Morrison

Leah took a number of these photos so that we could find the best one in terms of light and shade. An interesting effect occurred when we dimmed the lights and had the yellow shade of the candle as the primary light source:

Book Photo in Candle Light

We liked the warm glow of the candle but with either picture we felt the composition was too busy. We understood how the articles in the photo connected to our book but most readers would be overwhelmed.

Leah and I discussed other ideas and then we settled on cupped hands with petals falling down from them. The design would have wonderful symbolism, particularly since the cupped hands looked a lot like a human heart, which worked with one of the primary themes in NEXUS, Compassion. So here is that idea expressed in a photo:

Cupped Hands with Petals Falling

We had photographed both Debby’s hands and my hands. In the end, we selected the image above, though we had a debate about whose hands went into the final cover art. Soon we realized this photo was the basis of the cover art and it was definitely of my hands, as evident by the masculine body hair.

So now we have selected a photo and in my next post, I will explore how this photo became the final cover art and how we selected from different versions of it.

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We all know that how we think can have profound influence on our moods. It can also change our perception of reality because in a way the world is a reflection of our thinking. Our mental lens can colour how we see the world. When events in life don’t go your way, we can become self-critical with negative inner chatter to the point of creating negative beliefs about ourselves. Here are some examples of this internal chatter:

“I’m a failure”: This statement assumes a permanent state of failure-hood through attaching a permanent label of failure to self. One that is constant and cannot change. It also discounts any success in life, so that the person can’t take pride in any achievement. It also projects failure into the future. Fear of failure can keep a person from trying new things. Rather than focusing on failure or success, a better focus might be to enjoy activities for their own pleasure. A reexamination of perfectionist standards may also prove valuable. Carefully consider the labels you put on yourself.

From to Be Cool with Successful Thinking

“I can never do things right”: Never means at an given point past and future. This statement sounds like fortune-telling, which is appropriate for psychic hotlines but isn’t best for life. Try not to generalize and avoid trying to predict the future based on some negative experiences.

“Nothing works out for me”: A few setbacks isn’t enough evidence to make this kind of broad statement. Don’t let those challenges keep you from trying. Life has its ups and downs.

If these thoughts aren’t checked, they can lead to depression. Recognizing the inherent defects in these thoughts, in part then allows us to overcome depression. Cognitive therapy tries to stop the flow of these negative thoughts by recognizing the distortion in thinking that goes with these statements. In that way, we will also recognize that these statements aren’t true. They are merely the result of certain patterns of thinking. Once we change the thoughts, then we can in time overcome our depression. Here are the common Cognitive Distortions connected with Overgeneralization:

1. Over-generalization: You take a negative event as a pattern of your life. We naturally relate new experiences to our old ones. So we commonly generalize based on our past experience. Over-generalizations also make up many of our stereotypes of other people. It’s like taking something that happened before and thinking that it will always happen again i.e. “I always screw up.” You need to recognize that the past does not create the future. If you examine more closely your over-generalization, you will recognize that it’s based on a simplification when reality is far too complex for over-generalizations. Some words to be cautious of in this category would be “always,” “every” or “never.” In the example above, you need to recognize isolated mistakes or failures do not indicate that you will always fail. Here are some subcategories of over-generalization:

a. All-or-nothing thinking: Everything is black and white. If your performance isn’t “perfect” in any area of your life or according to your standards, then you see yourself as a failure. This type of thinking is based on unrealistic expectations and it lacks flexibility. To overcome it, you need to recognize the continuum between the two extremes. Life doesn’t have to be all-or-nothing. An example would be that you didn’t get the highest marks in your class, and therefore you consider yourself a total failure:

“What the point! I can never succeed because I’m only third in this class. I’m not first. So I’m a complete failure.”

b. Mental filter: Focusing on the negative or upsetting side of something and ignoring the positive. It displays as a obsessiveness with something seen as imperfect. An example would be to have interacted with 90 percent pleasant customers but you remember the 10 percent who were rude. After you obsess over the unpleasant interactions and exclude the pleasant ones from your thinking, you conclude: “My customers are awful. They don’t appreciate me.”

Mental Filter Creates Black Background

c. Magnification or Minimization: This involves exaggerating the negatives and understating the positives. It like making “a mountain out of a molehill.” So instead of looking at your positive accomplishments, which you minimize, you magnify your perceived failures. An example would be if someone offers you a compliment, you vehemently deny the positive and focus on the negative.

d. Disqualifying the Positive: Here you only look at the negative even if someone tells you differently, you continue to deny it. Here’s a possible conversation between two people showing this distortion:

John: “I’m no good at sports.”

Sam: “What about the time you scored the winning touchdown?”

John: “Oh that was just luck”

Sam: “But even the coach said you displayed skill.”

John: “He was just being nice”

So be careful of the labels you attach to yourself or to others, since people are always growing. You can’t put a permanent label on yourself as a “failure,” “unlucky” or whatever because you aren’t a static object but a dynamic person with great potential and possibilities. Recognize that you and other people are complex and over-generalization misses that complexity.

If you are experiencing symptoms of depression, professional help can allow you to treat your depression with both counselling and appropriate drug therapy for you. Self-help in terms of taking ownership and gaining understanding is important, still at times when things are overwhelming seeking help is the right step to regain your mental health.

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Feeling sad is normal part of life but when it’s intense and persistent then you or someone who you know needs help. Here are common symptoms of depression:

  • Ongoing sadness, anxiety, or feeling numb or empty
  • Things seem off and not right
  • You’re crying for no apparent reason
  • You feel hopeless and pessimistic
  • Your mind or body is slowed down
  • You have trouble falling asleep or you sleep too long
  • Getting up in the morning is difficult
  • Loss of passion for activities that you normally enjoy
  • You feel unable to escape
  • You’re brooding over any failure in your life
  • You feel disconnected from the world or from those around you
  • Aches or pain in the body
  • Difficulty with concentration
  • Tiredness & low energy
  • Feelings of guilt, shame or worthlessness
  • Thoughts of death or suicide
  • Plans to commit suicide or actual suicide attempts

The list of symptoms is broad and only certain symptoms may apply to you. We will look at cognitive distortions that are associated with depression in the next post. Remember: you can help yourself through depression. You need to understand the problem first and only then can you start your road back to feeling good.

If you are experiencing these symptoms, you need to find professional help of psychotherapist/counsellor and psychiatrist. Many supports are available in your local community that can help you on your road back to mental health.

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Two symbols that have a striking similarity are the Star of David and Sri Yantra, pictured below:

Star of DavidSri Yantra

Star of David & Sri Yantra

 

 

The Star of David is a hexagram, or six-sided star, which according to Jewish tradition appeared on shields of King David, hence its other name Shield of David (Hebrew Magen David, or ). It also has the name Seal of Solomon due to its association with King Solomon.

In fact, the Seal of Solomon was a magical ring possessed by King Solomon (in Islamic Sulayman), the son of David, which allowed him to command demons (jinn, ) and communicate with animals. The legend of Solomon and his seal ring was elaborated by Arabic writers. In those legends, the ring came down from heaven with the sacred name of God engraved on it. It was a combination brass and iron.

The brass part commanded good jinn and the iron part evil jinn. The word jinn resembles the English word genie but they are not related. Genie is actually derived from French g鮩e, referring to any sort of guardian spirit. French translations of The Arabian Nights translated Arabic jinn to French g鮩e, which in turn entered into English translations.

Seal of Solomon Amulet

 

 

 

 

 

Solomon’s Seal Amulet: Amulets were worn for good luck but they often showed a pentacle, not the hexagram.

 

 

 

 

 

An interesting point is that King Solomon’s ring in these legends came from heaven and it brought the power of heaven to earth. The symbol contains two triangles. One points down to earth and the other points up to heaven. The triangles are conjoined signifying the marriage of heaven and earth.

The symbol was also drawn to represent creation of the world in six days with its six points. Centre and balance is inferred from the area inside where the two triangles meet. So the hexagram represents the connection of heaven and earth and it also represents creation of the world.

The menorah (Hebrew ) is one of the oldest symbols of the Jewish people. It symbolizes the burning bush seen by Moses on Mount Sinai (exodus 25) and the miracle of Hanukkah. The Star of David becomes a more visible sign of Judaism. It became a clear symbol of Jewish identity from the 18th century onwards. Its acceptance as the primary symbol of Jewish identity has been further cemented by its adoption by Zionists and its inclusion in the Israeli national flag.

The themes of creation and balance of heaven and earth are also found in the Sri Yantra.

A Solomon's Seal Stone

Solomon’s Seal on 3rd Century Synagogue in Galilee

The Sri Yantra is a more elaborate symbol than the Star of David but at its core you have two interconnected triangles. A yantra is a graphical representation of energies similar to mandalas. Mandalas are used by Buddhist tantric schools of Vajrayana (“Thunderbolt Vehicle”), while yantras are used by Hindu tantrics. Tantra aims to use the human body to achieve spiritual enlightenment through understanding of active, female (Shakti) and passive, male (Shiva) energy. That energy is symbolically represented in the Sri Yantra. The legendary account of Solomon also explores the ability to control different energies in the form of good and evil demons.

At the very centre of the Sri Yantra is a dot (bindu), which is the unmanifest source of creation. The hexagonal star (shatkona) represents the union of Shiva-Shaki, male-female energy. Through that energy the unmanifest potential of creation contained in the bindu powerfully manifests outwards.

The diagram encourages the viewer to see the manifestation of energy through evolution but also encourages the involution of energies to the focal point in the centre, the bindu. The triangles pointing up represents the the male principle and the triangles pointing down represents the female energy. The union of male-female energies is something also explored in some Kabbalistic writings. All yantras are considered to be contained in the Sri Yantra. So it has extensive themes that can be explored outside this post.

Sri Yantra and the Star of David explore similar themes of creation and connection or union of heaven and earth, or male and female. What is implicit in the Seal of Solomon is made explicit in the Sri Yantra.

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A poem from Deborah Morrison’s upcoming collection of poems.

LOVE’S MYSTERIES

Love’s mysteries drift

In crystal waters of emerald green

Beneath the surface of a turbulent sea

In the silent wishes of dreamers

Moments together appear

Like grains of sand

In depths of the sea

Yet waves of time cast

These grains adrift

We seek to wander

Beneath cloudless skies

Let truth reveal itself

In heavens of clear blue

With each grain of sand

That ebbs and flows

In our sea of dreams

Deep emotions stir our hearts

So many stars in the quiet sky

Their light reveals hidden truth, like pearls

Once floating beneath the surface,

Now shimmering in the darkness

Along starlit shores

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Poem: Reflection

This is a poem from Deborah Morrison’s forthcoming collection of poems:

REFLECTION

Time moves more slowly here

My soul is at home

In this wondrous place

A botanical, creative space

Hidden, mysterious, free

I am enticed to slow down

In this garden enclosed

By a solid stone wall

With a strong iron gate

I breathe in beauty

Of liminal space, charm adorns

This beautiful place

Delicately balanced between

Nature and culture

Where artistic, creative arrangements

Flower as more important

Than striving for profit

My innermost heart is reflected

Restored

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