Saturday, November 20, 2010

What Makes Me Tick

Here I go with a blog in English. I've had one in Swedish for a couple of years, with just about a thousand posts so far. But in my writing, I focus more and more on English books, so I thought it's time to do the same in blogging.

Changing language for my blogging, I might as well try to change its themes. To my surprise, I have found myself writing quite a lot about politics in the Swedish blog. Also a number of critical observations about journalism and the Swedish press.

Beforehand, I thought that I would mainly be writing about culture and art, which are at the core of my own activities. Certainly, there's been a number of such blogs, too, but not nearly to the extent that I had guessed in advance.

What caught me was the temptation to be current. That sort of automatically leads to politics and the news media. That's all fine, and sometimes quite exciting, but here I wish to return to my initial aspirations – even if it will be at the cost of becoming less current.
It doesn't worry me much. All the truly essential stuff is timeless.

This is my very first English blog, so later on we will see how I manage. If I'm again attracted to politics and current affairs, like the moth to the light bulb, then alas, that has got to be my destiny. In any case, I'll make an effort to emphasize the timeless, even when talking about things with a lifetime expectancy barely exceeding that of the moth mentioned above.

What brings color to life
So, I'll start off with blogs about the things nearest to my own activities and interests. That's a bundle.

First and foremost: I write books. That's the red thread going through my life since I was about ten years old, or something like that, when I hacked on my mothers travel typewriter (a big mechanical thing made in the 1950's). In my early twenties I started for real, having my first novel published in 1979, when I was 25. It even won a prize, but made me neither rich nor famous. That still hasn't happened to any mind blowing extent, although several books have followed.

Success is not the decisive factor when it comes to writing. There is an inner urge of dreaming, thinking, and telling about it, which drags the author through the pages. By time there's also a skill of turning ideas and subjects into books, fiction as well as non-fiction. In my case, also the non-fiction is rather fictional at times. I need room to speculate, so I choose subjects that allow for it.

Also since childhood, I've been occupied by art. If I didn't manage reasonably writing books, that's probably what I would do professionally, even though it's even more difficult to earn a living that way. I love oil painting. I made my first “serious” one at the age of 13 – a still life having just about nothing to do with my life at the time.

Painting takes time. I need at least a couple of days just getting into it, so there's not been much of it since I started writing in a concentrated manner. But I keep longing to the day when I can grab the brushes again. Instead I've done some drawings and some more photography. Instant imaging. It's a breeze with the digital camera.

My books and some of my art can be found on my website.

Writers often venture into journalism, in order to get a steady income. So have I, but just in Swedish, which is why I won't dwell much on it here. I started as a literary critic for the Swedish tabloid Aftonbladet in the early 1980's, then I was a rock critic at the Stockholm newspaper Dagens Nyheter, where I also wrote theater reviews. When I moved to Malmö, in the south of Sweden, I became the secret restaurant critic for Sydsvenskan, the major newspaper in that region.

So, in my journalistic work I've mainly been a critic. That's no surprise, since I got my first jobs there because I was an author, and not from an ambition to muckrake and expose cheaters in high office. Many critics are novelists or poets, because that means they are equipped with integrity, an opinion of their own, and a rich language by which to express it.

My academic career is a never ending story, within the history of ideas at Lund University, where I study the thought patterns to be found in creation myths. There should be a dissertation sometime, but don't hold your breath. There will surely be a book about it, one of these days, though not necessarily in the form of a dissertation. Anyway, the history of ideas has enriched me both by what I've learned about it and what it teaches about knowledge per se.

Finally, I've practiced the peaceful Japanese martial art aikido since I was a teenager. Except for writing, nothing else has stayed with me that long. I am easily bored, but not by aikido. It combines mental and physical training into one, bringing insights that could not be achieved otherwise. Also, I should be thankful for this pursuit making me move my body from the keyboard occasionally.

Since a number of years I teach aikido, and that brings another dimension to it. Learning and teaching are intertwined. The one can't travel that far without the company of the other. Again, this is particularly true because aikido combines mind and body.
Philosophy should be like that.

Well, in a verbal nutshell, the above is what my life is all about. So, that's the source from which my blog will be nourished. And then some.

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