Wednesday, 26 September 2018

The Answer to Writing, the Universe and Everything

Scientists studying nature are getting increasingly good at working out how things work. From the Big Bang Theory to DNA. From the evolution of species to how chocolate can make us happy.

We now have a pretty good idea how life works from the smallest chemical action to the largest atomic reaction. It seems as though one day we will know how everything in our Universe works... but there is one crucial element missing.

The why.

We know that sunlight makes plants photosynthesize carbon dioxide into oxygen. We know that when an electrical spark is applied to gasoline it explodes. We know that when water boils it turns to steam. We know these things and a host of others because we can prove them - every time. But do we know why they happen?

Scientists say that these reactions are 'coded' into the makeup of the elements. That these reactions are inevitable, given the right circumstances. We know that during the Big Bang, for instance, certain elements came together, making it happen, but we still don't know why they came together in the first place.

It's too easy to say God does these things, smile, and act as though that's the end of the argument.

But I think there may be another factor - a fifth dimension - at work here - one that I have recently labelled 'Intentionality'.

What is Intentionality?

Basically, I think there may be a set of independent universal forces that direct matter and biological organisms, including humans - co-existing within our Universe.

There is already some evidence that in Nature growth and change develop in pre-assigned paths of 30 or 60 degrees, though the reasons for this are unclear. It's curious that the ancient Chinese divination system called the I Ching makes similar assumptions about the mechanics of change. Could it be that Nature, including ourselves, respond to an external force called Intention?

It might be like a kind of 'mist' that pervades all matter - and if so there may also be a set of mathematical principles that direct the Intentionality Dimension.

What Does This Fifth Dimension Look Like?

It's difficult to picture what another dimension might look like but I will make an attempt here:

Imagine a line drawn on a piece of paper going from north to south- that's one dimension, seen from above. Then another line drawn across it east to west - that's the second dimension. Now envisage a circle drawn around the two lines and imagine this in three dimensions - as a sphere dangling in space. Now think of the sphere as travelling in a straight line that represents time, the fourth dimension. The fifth dimension (intentionality) is the space through which the sphere is travelling through time.

This fifth dimension is a kind of 'ether' in which there are an infinity of impulses for and against, good and bad, order and chaos, right and wrong. At some point, I'm suggesting, we may be able to identify and record these 'impulses' into a coherent system, or at least a systematic group of 'influences' over the other four dimensions.

At that point we may realize that the real reason why the Universe exists at all is because the 'overriding impulse' of all of the five dimensions combined is towards order, right and goodness.

What Has This Got to Do With Writing?

Quite a lot actually - so bear with me!

There's an ancient Hermetic maxim that says "As above, so below." It was the ancients' way of positing that what happens in the heavens is reflected on Earth. It's a pretty cool idea that they probably didn't really understand when they said it - they might just have meant that the stars dictate our destiny.

(Okay this is a vast simplification of everything I've ever learnt about ancient lore, religion and magic - I guess I'm just trying to keep it simple!)

As Above, So Below

Curiously, as we enter the 21st century, we are discovering this maxim is largely true - in the sense that the smallest chemical and subatomic reactions actually mirror what happens in the largest of any and all of the actions and reactions in the Universe.

And, given this reality, I believe our minds may work in exactly the same way as the Universe. We are in effect, each of us, a microcosm of the Universe, capable of achieving anything we choose to set our minds to - because we, as human beings, have unlimited access to the dimension of Intentionality.

Our thoughts and our perceptions may make up the bulk of our version of the real world. But our intentions are what guide us. Man is the only living creature which can consciously change his mind. An animal will react and change its actions instinctively. But only we, as rational human beings, can do what is right or wrong or neither based on considered thought. We are the only living organisms that control our intentions. We can react and change and grow when we tap into our own Intentionality dimension. And, I believe, because we are intrinsically connected with the five dimensions of the Universe -we can influence the Universe with our thoughts.

Are You In Control?

Think of a river - as time. You drop in a stone and the effects -the ripples - extend outwards. Now imagine that where the stone hits the water is your sense of now. The stone is your intention.

You can either watch the results of your intention or you can analyse its effects. Your goals and dreams are not just idle whims. No, because of their interaction with the fifth dimension, they can actually change the Universe. They radiate outwards and alter the present and the future -and the perhaps the past for that matter.

One of the problems in us believing we're just normal human beings is that we're not aware of just how much we are influencing the Universe. And too many of us stop pursuing our dreams because we think we're not getting anywhere. But we stop because we haven't yet received any feedback from the Universe. Many of us might find that if we'd just hung in there a little longer, the feedback may appear.

I've tentatively called this the Acquired Response Marker or ARM. If we accept that this ARM is reaching out to us from the Universe to help us recognise that we are getting somewhere, we might not give up so soon!

Am I Crazy?

Now it could be I'm just being woolly headed or have lost the plot in some way. Maybe I've spent so long at home studying and thinking, I'm going gaga. But I don't think so. There's just something about the idea that there may be an Intentionality Dimension that appeals to me. It seems like a key - a concept that seems to fit.

It would explain so much.

What about psychic ability? Now I'm a sceptic but I do wonder how psychics are sometimes capable of knowing the future and being able to tap into events in the past or in a part of the world they have no obvious contact with.

What's to say they're not tapping into Intentionality - which would have completely different rules about what's accessible and what isn't. The dead - ghosts or the future - may be able to communicate with people receptive to another dimension filled with 'intention' rather than what we normally think of as physical reality.

I could go on (I've been thinking about this a lot) but I'll stop here before I start to sound Jacko.

As Far As Writing Goes

You already know I believe that writing success has a lot to do with setting goals and visualization - but imagine that there was a verifiable physical reality - a new dimension - that was real and measureable. And that when you work towards your dreams there was an actual physical response happening in the Universe - wouldn't that direct, concrete feedback make you more determined to change your life? I think it would.

And I'm tending towards the idea that if all of us thought that 'thinking could make it so', and that if we all believed it, then it might change us as a species, and help us create a far better world, perhaps overnight!

Just a thought.

Rob Parnell's Writing Academy

Saturday, 1 September 2018

Should You Write for Free?

If you're just breaking into the writing business, you may be wondering if you should start by offering your work to nonpaying markets. Do new writers need to serve some sort of "apprenticeship" in such markets before moving on to those that pay? Are nonpaying markets the only way for a new writer to break in?

Sadly, some writers don't ask this question at all, assuming (for various reasons) that the answer must be "yes." Too many talented writers end up wasting considerable time writing for free, unable (or refusing) to believe that they could be paid for their material.

At the heart of this issue are two misperceptions. The first is the assumption that one must somehow pay one's dues, "crawl before one can walk," in the writing business -- and that this involves working for no money. The second is the phrasing of the question itself. Instead of asking "Should I write for nonpaying markets?" many writers should be asking "When should I write for nonpaying markets?"

The Apprenticeship Myth

Many writers believe that one's career must begin with nonpaying markets. Many articles extol the value of such markets for building clips, enabling one (theoretically) to move on to paying publications. Writers often assume that without a history of publication, no paying market will consider their work -- and thus, that they have no real choice.

It isn't true. My own experience offers a good example: In the beginning of my career, I wrote exactly three "unpaid" articles. The first (my first-ever publication) was for a monthly community paper. The second and third were for a weekly newspaper -- and these were based on the editor's promise that he would pay me once he had a freelance budget. By my fourth article, he did, and I was earning a whopping $15 per feature!

Did those unpaid articles help me break into better markets? No. My first magazine sale was to Omni -- and was due to a chance meeting between my boyfriend (now hubby) and the editor at a conference. My second was to Quilt, and was due to a query that described my enthusiasm for, and knowledge of, crazy quilts. (My career has been a bit of a patchwork ever since...)

Omni, alas, is dead, but specialty magazines like Quilt abound, and are more than ready to welcome new, unpublished writers. All you need are a good idea, the ability to turn that idea into a well-written article, and the confidence to send that article to an editor. If you can do all of the above, many editors truly do not care whether you've been published before or not.

In short, if you have a choice between offering your material to a paying or a nonpaying market, there is no logical reason to choose the latter. The nonpaying market will always be there if you fail to sell the piece -- but it need not be your first choice, or even your second or third. If your goal is to become a paid professional, it's far better to exhaust all possibilities of payment before turning to markets that don't pay (rather than the other way around). After all, you only have to "break in" once to be considered a paid author!

When Should You Write for Free?

Does this mean you should never write for free? Not at all! There are many excellent reasons to do so; it's just that "being new" isn't necessarily one of them. Here are some better reasons:

For fun. Sometimes you may want to write something for the sheer enjoyment of it -- whether it's likely to find a paying market or not. (After all, someone must be writing all those variations on "how to bathe your cat" that circulate on the Internet!) One of my earliest "sales" was an "outsider's" view of dog shows, which was published in a breed-club newsletter; later, I actually managed to sell it to a major dog magazine. (I doubt, however, that I'll ever find a paying home for "I Was a Teenage Were-Elkhound"...)

To support a cause. Instead of contributing money to organizations or issues you believe in, you may choose to donate your writing skills instead. Your "payment" is often simply the knowledge that you are increasing awareness of an important issue. If you already have a "name," lending it to your chosen cause can be an important contribution in itself.

To help a favorite organization. You may enjoy contributing an occasional piece to your company, community, or church newsletter. Be careful, however: Once such organizations realize that you can write, you may be flooded with requests for more freebies. Before you say "yes" the first time, be sure you will feel comfortable saying "no" later.

To enhance your career. Many unpaid markets can be career-builders -- including your own website. Writing FAQs for your own site (or others), contributing articles to professional newsletters, or writing for professional journals can be good ways to build your reputation. They may also help you develop contacts that can lead to more lucrative work later.

To help and inform others. At a certain point in their careers, many writers (and others) feel an urge to "give back" some of what they have learned over time. You may decide to write about "what you know" as a way to mentor others in your field, or perhaps as a way to repay the mentoring you yourself received at one time. Sharing information may not make you rich, but it can be exhilarating.

When You Shouldn't...

Just as there are good reasons to write for free, there are also bad ones. Here are some that commonly plague new writers:
"I'll do anything to see my name in print." Seeing your byline is a thrilling experience -- but don't assume that the only way to get it is to give your work away. If you have a well-written story or article, why not send it to a paying market first? If it's accepted, you'll experience a double thrill: That of seeing your name in print, and of seeing it on a paycheck.

"I want to find out if I'm good enough to be published." Nonpaying markets are not a good place to test your abilities. Many such markets are stuck with whatever they can get (i.e., whatever unpaid writers will give them), which means that they often don't have the luxury of "rejecting" mediocre writing. Getting published in such a market, therefore, is no true test of your marketability. A better test is to submit to paying markets; if your work is accepted, you have your answer, and if it is rejected, you can explore ways to improve your material. (Keep in mind that a single rejection is no indication of quality; some articles never sell, no matter how good they are. Test the market with more than one article, and test more than one market with the same article, if you're rejected by the first.)

"I want to polish my skills before submitting to 'real' markets." To be blunt, if you don't think your material is worth publishing, why submit it to anyone? Nonpaying markets don't appreciate being dumping grounds for mediocre material. If you want to polish your work, do so through a class or critique group. Otherwise, send out your work -- and use the feedback you receive to identify areas where you may need improvement. "Polishing" is a lifelong task; since it's never finished, you might as well start selling at the same time!

"So-and-so gave me a start, and I don't want to let him/her down." Loyalty is a wonderful thing, and it can be difficult to abandon an editor or publication who accepted your work when no one else would. It's also hard to say no to someone who has learned to count on you. However, recipients of such loyalty can sometimes misuse it: Editors of nonpaying publications would often prefer to hold on to a writer "in the hand" (you) than seek out new sources. Don't let such a relationship interfere with your ability to move on to new markets.

"I'll write for nonpaying markets until I'm good enough for 'real' markets." The trick word in this sentence is "I." The issue here is often not whether your writing is good enough, but whether you feel that you are good enough. I've known too many writers who produced excellent material -- but felt that they weren't "ready" to send that material to paying markets. This often involves issues of self-esteem, fear of rejection, fear of failure, or even fear of success. Most often, writers who make this excuse doubt themselves or even their "right" to call themselves "writers." But that's another column...

Writing for free is simply an option, never a necessity. The bottom line is that if your writing isn't good (and you know it), your energies are best spent seeking ways to improve it. If your writing is good, and you believe in it, don't sell yourself short by failing to sell yourself at all!

Find Out More...

Ways to Profit from Writing for Free - Audrey Faye Henderson

© 2001 Moira Allen

Moira Allen is the editor of, and has written nearly 400 articles, serving as a columnist and regular contributor for such publications as The Writer, Entrepreneur, Writer's Digest, and Byline. An award-winning writer, Allen is the author of eight books, including Starting Your Career as a Freelance Writer, The Writer's Guide to Queries, Pitches and Proposals, and Writing to Win: The Colossal Guide to Writing Contests. In addition to, Allen hosts, a growing archive of articles from Victorian periodicals, and The Pet Loss Support Page, a resource for grieving pet owners. She lives in Maryland with her husband and the obligatory writer's cat. She can be contacted at editors "at"