The Naked Writer:
The Making Of
The Dragon Lords
The Naked Writer is the most unusual writing project I have undertaken to date, and, a bit like climbing the Himalayas, in hindsight a fantastic experience.
At the time, it didn't feel so fantastic ... what with the struggling, and the gasping, and the pain ... :-)
It all started around the time of my birthday, August 23rd. The CEO of my publishing company, Alex Kent, was investigating the use of Google Docs, as Google Drive was called at the time, for staff collaboration online.
He challenged me to write a novel live online using the cloud software.
“Can you do it?” he asked and I said, sure I can.
Piece of cake.
I'm a creativity specialist and the creator of Project Sanctuary.
What could be easier?
So a date was set for the start, September 12th, 2012. It was decided to ask my existing subscribers to suggest ideas for a title, and there was one that really stood out to me right from the beginning. The Dragon Lords.
Dragons are very dear to me and indeed, I use the concept of a personal dragon to represent a person's energy mind (previously known as the sub- or unconscious mind) which I consider to be the real source of human creativity.
It's a long story, but in essence, people work better when they personify complex systems and allow an organic and natural interaction; this happens when you conceptualise your energy mind as a powerful, shape shifting, multiverse travelling, beautiful dragon, rather than a nebulous weirdness that might hold all your “repressed” memories, as the old schoolers will have it.
My personal dragon, or daemon if you will, is called Lord Ashtar or LA for short and I had and have every faith that when I ask him to “take me to the perfect place in time and space ...” that's exactly what is going to happen.
This is how my creativity works.
I ask to be taken, in this case, to the place where the perfect story for this project starts. I set the parameters, that the final story should be between 75,000 and 100,000 words, to finish on November 11th, that it should be fascinating, and that I should learn something in the process of discovering this story.
That's pretty much it.
When I am in front of the keyboard, I simply give the silent command to “Let's go!” and there it is, there I am - I materialise in an autogenic reality, full six sensorama, and all I have to do then is to report as best I can on what I see, hear, scent, feel, taste, and feel inside in order to tell the story.
In this case, at 10am on Tuesday, September 12th, and with fifty people watching this, I materialised in an English country garden where a lady was about to get ready to get into her silver estate car to take her three dogs for a walk, and on the pebble drive just before a big gate, lay a naked man, curled up, in the rain.
I could tell from the expression on the woman's face that this was not a regular occurrence; so the first sentence was, “It was not every day that Mrs Delhany discovered a naked man in her driveway.”
I then remain in that reality and tell the story until the information flow ceases and I find myself back in my own body, in my house at the coast in England, in front my keyboard.
It really is as simple as that.
In this case, I was typing into a Google document online, and there was a panel down the right hand side with people posting comments, which I could note in my periphery.
This caused a split screen effect; I was there, in the story, but also aware of these other people and what they were saying, like a senate in a cloud ...
And I could feel the story reacting to their presence and shifting in response.
Very strange and extremely exhausting, I found.
Where I can normally sit and type happily for three, four hours and move through any given story quickly, at will, for this one, about an hour and a half was all I could do before I lost the connection and found myself really knackered. And I also learned that I could only do one of these sessions a day, rather than two or three as normal.
One thing that's important to understand. I don't know the story. I discover it just the same as the reader does, one word at a time.
Not only that, I have learned that this is the only way to do the “naked writing” correctly. If you so much as think in the direction of the story when you're not in front of a keyboard, it will run and you will have lost the opportunity to document it fresh, and in real time.
Then you're writing from memory and it's never the same. It never packs the same punch and is a sad disappointment instead of what might have been there.
I have learned through experience to not think towards any story I am writing down and have the discipline to not even “go there” when questions arise as to what might happen next, or how the story might end.
So pretty much right from the start I learned the only time to be writing this story in front of all these other people was first thing in the morning, straight after getting up, before breakfast. Before looking at any email, open any letter, doing anything else.
If I missed that time, I had pretty much missed the whole day. Which was another example just how much “computing power” was being used on The Dragon Lords, exponentially more than I'd ever used before.
As an aside, this process of being only able to write for such a short time and then being exhausted afterwards did start to worry me, so I had a go at writing something for myself a week or so into this project. And it worked just fine, as normal, not exhausting at all - phew. I really do put it down to having to calculate the (ever shifting!) audience members as well as the story and the words and the structure itself afresh each time which caused this.
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Ten days or so after the start of the project, the global press descended upon us. Endless interview requests, by email, by telephone, by Skype, in person. I drew the line eventually about travelling all day to a TV studio; publicity is good, of course, but not when it actually starts to interfere with the project itself.
To complete this project was my highest priority and all else came second to that.
I \made a symbol hybrid painting
about a week into the project.
It just wanted to be done and I found it soothing to firstly, work on it, and then when it was finished, to have it around the place.
As far as symbol hybrids go, it's a very complex tapestry, as Rix might say :-)
It features a representation (although not an image as such) of the famous obsidian knife which features in the book.
The Dragon Lords inspired another painting which is the "Rose In The Hand" symbol.
This was completed after Obsidian and only just ready before November 11th, 2012.
During the eight weeks the chapters and the parts unfolded, all sorts of things happened. One of them was that I got the flu. Potentially, this could have caused a big problem to the project in lost writing time; but as it happened, the delivery of the story continued and didn't seem to care that my nose was streaming and I could hardly see the keyboard. I did my chapters, then crawled back under the duvet. Did that for about ten days and I was well again.
There was an outburst of personal stuff as well, but even here, I stuck to my guns. Write the chapter first, check messages later. That might have had something to do with the outbursts and the drama, on reflection ... :-)
One night, I got up around 4am and found that there was no electricity to the house. A storm had taken out the whole neighbourhood but the story was being delivered. So I wrote that part in long hand by candle light in a note book. That was fun; I transcribed it the next day and that's the only part in the whole book that was written away from the audience. It's the one that starts with DeVille saying, “We need a miracle ...”
On a Wednesday, five days before the story was to be officially complete, I woke up to bright sunshine and with the idea to write a part in the nude. The press people were all asking, “So, naked writing ... does that mean you write without your clothes on ...?” Nudge, nudge, wink wink ... ;->
I had a walk around the house and the front room looked good. Sun streaming through the bay windows, nice and warm. I brought in a little occasional table, placed the laptop before the black leather couch. Then I proceeded to take all my clothes off, sit down (ooh, cold!) and type the next part. That was 14/7 and I have to say, it didn't make any difference apart from the fact that there was a lot of pink in the periphery ...
Now, when someone asks that question again about The Naked Writer, I can look them in the eye, smile and say, “Yeah ... sometimes ...”
The “grand finale” of this project had been timed to coincide with the International AMT conference, to type the final paragraph and THE END under the manuscript in front of a live audience of 150 energists from around the world.
I was at this conference from Thursday onwards, so the last few parts were typed in a hotel room with iffy WiFi some hours before dawn.
I have to say, when it all came together in the middle of the night on Sunday morning, I nearly fell off the chair.
A most extraordinary experience, I had not realised just how much pressure I had been under until the pressure had gone. Thank the stars, and thank you, Lord Ashtar, for guiding me through the whole thing with such infallible certainty from start to finish.
The final words were duly typed in front of the live audience, with the Google drive document on a big projecting screen and the fans online also present. I got a huge round of applause and hallelujah! The Dragon Lords were in the bag :-)
I personally view this whole experiment as a promotional exercise for writing with your daemon. Carl Jung, Socrates and Philip K Dick did it, so do I, and it's not even that difficult. It can be learned and it can be taught; I've been doing this for years.
The Dragon Lords is an example of how far you can push this though. The energy mind, an information processing system which is perfectly real but totally misunderstood, can calculate variables which leave the greatest super computer spinning helplessly. It is completely reliable, that was an important part of this demonstration. You don't need to be in a good state or isolated from mankind in order to use its services. You don't even need electricity, or clothes. And it doesn't matter how many famous authors or journalists waiting for you to trip up are watching, either.
The words you read in this book are very close to what I typed live into the Google document. There were a few spelling mistakes to be corrected; sometimes I lose a word when I type really fast, so those have been put back in, but apart from that, it's exactly as I wrote it.
No scenes have been added, no “continuity errors” needed to be corrected. The metaphors are all in place and flow throughout. Even the chapters and the parts were done at the time of writing them. This is the spirit of Naked Writing (or writing with your daemon, which I prefer, but the publicity guys said would not sell nearly as well ;-) - you write it and it stands.
No editor gets to mess around with it. Much like you don't have an editor if you write a symphony, make a sculpture or do a painting - what the artist made is what you get. If we want to consider writing as a true art form then that has to be the case, and I stand by that. It's a preposterous aberration in creative writing that another person, who is not the original artist, gets to change that artist's original work for whatever reason.
I compare it to Michelangelo dragging in his sculpture of David on a cart, and there's some guy who goes, “Well, his nose is too big and his penis way too small. Spike up that hair. And ethnic's all the rage. Paint him black. Then we might have something that'll sell ...”
Preposterous, as I said.
From the writer's standpoint, of course then you have to prepare a finished work of art, cut the safety line of the editor who “will sort out your mess,” learn to spell properly if that's important to you, and put your words exactly where you want your readers to find them.
That's the first step in getting closer to the readers, communicating directly with the readers.
The many interviewers kept asking me how the story was influenced by all those people watching and commenting as it went along.
They changed it with their very presence of course. But there were also things they did not change.
For example, Mr Andrew Jacob DeVille was greatly disliked and people wanted to see him gone, or punished in some way. But DeVille wasn't going to go anywhere and I knew that, I could feel it.
Conversely, there was much desire to see Rosie Wyatt resurrected; but that did not happen.
There was also a great deal of pressure to have more sex, especially at the beginning; in a sex survey, a massive 90% of the readers would have been happy if there had been full on, hard core sex in this novel.
We got the people drunk, put them in a room together, and what happened?
Sandra Delhany burst out into tears. She wasn't ready for sex. That's because she is a persona, like a real person, not just a “fictional character.” And a persona never acts out of character; they can't. Another one of those interesting side effects of having your daemon show you the people, the persona, you are dealing with ...
So then, there's the final frontier.
Is The Dragon Lords a good story?
Now that's an interesting question.
It doesn't have a lot of car chases in it. Or bombs going off. Or robots.
Would it make a good movie? It could I guess ...
I understand Dragon Lords as more of a pilot episode. I'm hoping that there will be one or two amongst the readers who will find their way to the elder plane and interact with some of the creatures who are still streaming through that portal, that mirror in the sky, even as we speak.
Dragons looking for their lovers ... :-)
All manner of fun might be had ... on oh! so many levels, at that :-)
Real creativity is fun. There's nothing better to be doing and there is no end of what you can do with it.
Which brings me to my last reflection.
Stephen Rosenthal, Silvia Hartmann & Alex Kent @ the book launch at Google UK London 2012
Real creativity is the source for all innovation, all evolution and invention.
It is the Haute Couture not just of writing and literature, but goes far beyond that. This is not “just fantasy.”
There are patterns in The Dragon Lords which, if you know how to read them, will give you information that you did not know before.
This is not the sort of information which can be expressed in lists, bullet points or even numbers; it's information of a higher order. It's the sort of information which can transform existing models of thought, and through that, existing systems, machines, rules and regulations.
There isn't a single field of human endeavour that can't do with a bit of evolution. Human creativity is where that comes from. The more creative, truly creative people there are in the world, the better for all of us.
What was called “fantasy” and which I call “real creativity” is something that needs to be fostered, practised, honed and treasured. Dream more, is what I say. Don't let the dour ones tell you that it is a useless activity and won't get you anywhere “in the real world.”
Creativity is the key to changing human systems for the better.
Take good care of yours, always.
With my best wishes, and THANK YOU for having been my reader,
Wednesday, November 28th, 2012