Damien Black

Old Nick's Letters

Welcome to Old Nick's Letters, a series of blogs and occasional videos compiled by the writer whenever he feels the constellations are propitious.

Writing: a spiritual experience?

In my last post I said that world-building gave me the sense of playing god. Perhaps a more accurate description would be to say that writing in general gets me closer to god – no, I’m not overly religious, but I have come to believe that cultivating one’s spiritual side is a very good idea.

I dabble in meditation and prayer, but for me personally what really nails it is the experience of writing fiction. Where do the words come from? I certainly don’t consciously think about them before I bang them out on my laptop – they come from somewhere deeper than the conscious mind. Jung said human beings need myths and rituals, gods and heroes, to balance out their psyches, and this is why I believe that writing fantasy and its related genres is an especially spiritual experience.

Simply put, the fantast creates his or her own mythology, rituals and belief patterns. By going through this process, some deep part of my subconscious mind is stimulated, satisfied, made quiescent. To follow the thread spun by Jung, when I write fantasy (i.e. create my own mythology), the sundry neuroses that plague me are sent packing to Mordor. When my creative flow is interrupted, be that through writer’s block or other circumstances, said neuroses come back with a vengeance and host of marauding Uruk-Hai is let loose inside my head.

OK, so I’m a borderline insane, neurotic obsessive/creative type. Cue the tortured artist cliché. But many a truism oft found in cliché, I say. Whatever the case, I for one am extremely grateful that I have this wellspring of creativity to tap into, without which at times I would truly be lost. And what better genre for exorcising one’s demons than dark/epic fantasy, with its heroes, devils, ghosts and deities? I think Jung would have approved of our genre!

What is the experience of writing/reading fantasy like for you? Can you relate to anything you’ve read in this article? Or does the fantasy genre mean something entirely different for you? I’d love to hear your views!