So, I finished a book the other week. Not so unusual, except that it was one that I wrote myself, in response to a very clever fellow askling me to tell a story. I’ve pimped it enough for now – indeed it’s not actually finished, because it’s sat with the publisher ready to be edited. Now, you might be thinking, why don’t I shut up until it’s ready? The answer to that is that, in fact, this has nothing to do with the publishing process, and everything to do with the writing process.
Now, I don’t know if the book is actually any good, and I know that it’s full of typographical errors, and the odd missing word; the speed at which you think is often rarely matched by your fingers, and even the fastest typist will often get carried away. So, given that, what’s the initial maneuvering for?
Let me put it another way:
The final manuscript comes in at just over 100,000 words, and I have no idea what it is. Honestly, it’s like the thing came to life on its own, and as I wrote the last page – which incidentally, returns you to the first page, because I’m clever like that – I realised that it was an impenetrable thing.
A bloody slab of something that requires participation and in return exerts an odd influence on you. I say this because in the latter stages I spent 18 days, 8 hrs a day hammering out words. One after the other, again and again, and do you know what that does when you do it day after day?
It. Rewires. Your. Brain.
Even uncle Aristotle knew that, despite being a bugger for the bottle:
(I was considering including the full Bruce sketch but I thought Gordon might kick me.)
We are what we repeatedly do. Excellence, then, is not an act, but a habit. – Aristotle
I could point you to all kinds of evidence on neuroplasticity, or pretty MRI pictures, and I could equally spout some bollocks about expert-hood taking 10,000 hours to achieve. Yes, I could do that, and I’m not going to, because if you are really interested, then you’ll look it up yourself – and if you’re not, I’m wasting my time typing them all out. It’s a bit like summoning witnesses to prove a case, and honestly I’m not interested in that, and nor, I think, are you.
Instead, I’d ask you to picture this:
A chap with long tangled hair and a prodigious beard glares at the monitor, swigging coffee and gulping it down so fast that it might be bruising his gullet. Hunched over the keyboard, he hammers away, hearing the voice in his head conjure up emotions and experience; crazed juxtapositions and frenzied metaphors serve as door into recalling and recombining of sensation and experience.
You see, you can’t expect to have an effect, unless you are affected. It’s not simply about stringing words together, and indeed anyone who tells you that is lying. Think of the last time you spoke to someone more than in passing, of how the conversation takes you through a range of thoughts, and how the other other person’s responses shape what you’re saying and the emotions you’re feeling.
Imagine summoning them up, before you put them on the page – imagine going first – never expecting anyone to feel something you’re not capable of feeling yourself, because that’s what you’re trying to do – you’re trying to share with the other person, with your audience, with your co-conspirator.
Of course, you can never be sure how they’re going to react, can you? They might have had a bad night’s sleep, be annoyed at their partner, or perhaps have something so awesome on their minds that they’re only listening for long enough so that they can get a word in edgewise.
Such things are pretty much beyond your knowledge; the complex interactions and circumstances are just that – complex. So all you can do is fire them up and cast them into the void. Which, in a way is a bit like sigils – you fire ’em and then you forget. Except a lot of people have a problem with the forgetting, and understandably so.
After all, if you’re going to use magic, it’s probably either to get you that extra edge, or because you’re hitting a wall and want to bring out the big guns, right?
So you’re invested, quite obviously, and sometimes that investment can get in the way – your striving for a particular outcome can screw things up, narrow your perception and mean you miss precisely the opportunities you need to achieve your goals. One of the ways around this is the practice that Gordon refers to as shoaling where you break down your goals to maximise their potential probability. It’s a bit like throwing spaghetti at the wall to see if its done – eventually something will stick.
It’s a useful technique, and one that I’ve used before, especially when applied with the other kind of work – the laser-focused statement of intent.
One thing writing this book has taught me is that, on a long term project like this your emotional relationship to it shifts. You can love it one moment, and hate it the next, and it doesn’t matter because if you’re doing it right, you can’t not work on it. It literally becomes an habituated obsession.
You bcome literally obsessed, fudamentally occupied and beseiged by the idea, by the project, and here’s where this sort of thing gets deeply interesting.
Because you’re suddenly not doing it for any goal except itself. I was asked to tell a story, but soon enough that was not the goal – I wasn’t telling it for my audience. I wasn’t even telling it because I liked it – indeed I often hated it. It was, at points, the vilest most disgusting piece of excrement ever to be produced by a human mind.
Understand, this is not a metaphor. There were days when I felt literally sick as I sat down to work on this monstrosity, but I did it anyway, because I couldn’t avoid it. I’d been doing it so long that thinking thoughts which were not connected to it became impossible. It was in me like an invader.
Like a disease.
It became the ground of my existence, this story, until it was telling me what to write, and there were loops and whorls and repetitions and oddnesses galore; until at last I began to realise that this stream of conciousness was revealing the oblique, the hidden thing behind and beneath it – as if the words were but doors to something incomprehensible, like 100,000 fingers pointing at the moon in the zen koan.
I mention this because the project becomes a thing in-and-of-itself. It doesn’t matter if it’s succesful or not, doesn’t mater if it gets you fame and fortune or leaves you penniless in a ditch. It’s simply is – an event in space and time. It doesn’t matter if those goals are even possible, because the goal is irrelevant. You’re not doing it for a goal.
You are doing it because your doing-of-it is an inevitability.
It is habit squared; you do not have anything other than it. Or as Spare puts it:
Does not matter – need not be
The result does not matter, and need not be in any particular form. Think of how many times your emotions shift, and how they influence your actions – think how easily your thoughts are capable of carried like tumbleweed from one thing to another. Many schools of esotericsm require the development of so-called ‘thought-control’ to create a disciplined focus, yet I’d argue it’s a misleading misnomer.
If the idea is to silence the mental chatter, then people are often taught to squelch it – yet in writing a book that originates in that stream of chatter, I’ve found that it’s far better to let the chatter proceed unresisted, because eventually its underlying structure is revealed. Or to put it another way, our inner storyteller spouts a load of shite but if you do not react to it, it eventually starts producing gold.
Without external stimuli, things smooth out – the emotions and worries, the loves and the hate of it rise and fall, and all that matters is the writing itself. Is it any wonder perhaps, that Spare’s major written work is The Book Of Pleasure (Self-Love)?
There is no-one involved but the Self – it pays no attention to external stimuli, is heedless of possibility, or probability.
Bringing this out of the realm of high concept, consider the idea that probability manipulation is by its very nature, referential to an external source – that of reality. Circumstances may change, and due to the sheer complexity of the universe, what’s possible may change from moment to moment.
The only thing that is inevitable is the impossible. Black Swan events are events with near-impossible qualities which are rationalised in hindsight as probable. The mob-spectacle of perception known as reality tries to rationalise them afterwards – to provide causal links, to render them stable, rather than feral events.
Think back to that image of the frenzied writer, posessed and obsessed by a story. It does not give a monkeys for ‘reality’ – the book, once produced, does not change in reference to stimuli. It is, in the McLuhan sense, a colder medium.
Just like a sigil, it is itself – and the whole point of scrambling the statement of intent in modern chaos magic is to obliterate meaning, to render the sigil into an occult glyph, an unintelligible thing. The sigil doesn’t give (another anamalistic metaphor)’s for your goals. It does its job, as best it can given the environment.
There’s a problem, I think, in casting magical work into the realm of probability – but that’s not to say one shouldn’t take advantage of it when it benefits you. No, instead, perhaps you should instead acknowledge that what you are seeking to do is impossible, and that you’re deliberately attempting to induce events which reality will almost instantaneously attempt to co-opt with its ration-al-isation.
Do what you do, and be cold about it. Be obsessed by it, not for what it can do for you, but what it is. Get into the habit of being impossible