D. PAUL SCHAFER
- GUEST AUTHOR -
Today, I interview a man who has had an illustrious career, and is driven by his passion.
Welcome, Paul ...
1. TELL US A LITTLE ABOUT YOURSELF AND YOUR WRITING JOURNEY.
I have worked in the cultural field for more than fifty years as an educator, administrator, author, and adviser. Prior to this, I taught economics at several Canadian universities.
My journey as a writer has also been a mission. I believe it is necessary to pass out of the present economic age and into a future cultural age if environmental sustainability and human welfare and well-being are to be assured in the years and decades ahead. Most of my research and writing over the years has been concerned with this matter in one form or another.
2. WHEN AND HOW DID YOU BECOME A WRITER?
I have been writing since my career commenced in the early nineteen-sixties. However, this intensified considerably when I created the World Culture Project in 1988 to commemorate the World Decade for Culture and Development established by UNESCO and the United Nations.
The World Culture Project is committed to creating a body of literature that can demonstrate in practical and theoretical terms how a cultural age can be realized and the central role culture, cultures, and the arts are capable of playing in this.
Producing this body of literature has required a great deal of research into the development of culture as an idea and a reality. It has also required writing many articles and books, such as Culture – Beacon of the Future, Revolution or Renaissance: Making the Transition from an Economic Age to a Cultural Age, The Age of Culture, and The Secrets of Culture.
Information on this literature is available in the Publications section of the World Culture Project website: www3.sympatico.ca/dpaulschafer
3. WHAT TYPE OF PREPARATION DO YOU DO FOR A MANUSCRIPT? DO YOU PLAN EVERYTHING FIRST OR JUST SHOOT FROM THE HIP?
I plan everything in advance by creating a detailed outline of an article or book before I do any writing. However, I often add ideas to the outline that occur to me once the writing has commenced that were not in the original outline.
4. WHAT DO YOU ENJOY MOST ABOUT BEING A WRITER?
I enjoy the opportunity to express my beliefs and ideas about the need for a cultural age and the centrality of culture, cultures, and the arts and share these beliefs and ideas with others.
5. WHAT IS THE HARDEST THING ABOUT BEING A WRITER?
The hardest thing for me is to express myself as clearly and simply as possible, as well as to say exactly what I mean in order to avoid any confusion or misunderstanding. This requires going over manuscripts many times to ensure that I have expressed myself in a manner that is consistent with what I really want to say and the way I want to say it. This is extremely time-consuming but very rewarding because I have done this to the best of my ability.
6. WHAT WERE YOU IN A PAST LIFE, BEFORE YOU BECAME A WRITER?
Before I became a writer, I was involved in teaching economics for several years. However, I left economics because economics as a discipline ignored the natural environment during the entire time it was developing in the eighteenth, nineteenth, and twentieth centuries and I didn’t think it was possible to insert the natural environment into this discipline after the fact. While I recognized the enormous benefits that have resulted from placing an extremely high priority on economics and living in an economic age, I don’t feel this age is sustainable in the future due to the incredible demands it is making on the natural environment, the world’s limited resources, and the finite carrying capacity of the earth.
After leaving economics, I entered the cultural field by working at the Ontario Arts Council and after this as a founder and director of the first academic program for training arts administrators and cultural policy-makers in the world at York University in Toronto.
Following this, I worked as a self-employed person for many years, which included doing a lot of contractual work and undertaking many projects and missions for UNESCO. While I wrote many reports and documents during this time, they were primarily for international organizations, governments, and art service organizations and didn’t have a great deal to do with the case I wanted to make for the centrality of culture, cultures, and the arts in global development and human affairs as well as the necessity of a cultural age. This came later when I created the World Culture Project.
7. WHAT IS YOUR GREATEST WRITING ACHIEVEMENT?
I feel my greatest achievement has been to make the case for the centrality of culture, cultures, the arts, and a cultural age and provide detailed reasons and justifications for this. This has necessitated delving deeply into the character of culture in all its diverse aspects and manifestations, as well as evolving an all-encompassing, holistic understanding of culture and cultures that extends from the way people visualize and interpret the world, organize themselves, and conduct their affairs to the way they elevate and enrich life and position themselves in the natural, historical, and global environment.
This case is set out in two major books I have written on this matter – Culture – Beacon of the Future and Revolution or Renaissance: Making the Transition from an Economic Age to a Cultural Age. These books are available in English and Chinese.
8. WHAT ARE YOU WORKING ON AT THE MOMENT?
I am working on a book that makes the case that the world is really composed of culture and cultures at its core and in its fundamental essence. I am also working on a book of short stories that are concerned with memorable experiences I had during my youth, as well as the experiences of our two daughters during their youth.
9. WHAT INSPIRES YOU?
I am inspired by the desire to see a cultural age become a reality. I think the biggest challenge confronting humanity at present is to make it possible for all people and all countries to enjoy reasonable standards of living and a decent quality of life without straining the globe’s finite resources and limited capacity to the breaking point. I believe culture has a crucial role to play in this. I am also inspired a great deal by music. I think music is the highest art form and one of the most essential activities in life.
10. WHAT GENRE DO YOU WRITE?
All my writings are non-fictional. While most of my earlier writings were intended for an academic audience, most of my recent writings have been written for a much broader and more general audience. This has necessitated a major change in my writing style, especially in terms of sharing more of the personal and professional experiences I have had in the cultural field at every level – municipal, regional, national, and international – as well as in many different parts of the world with as many people as possible.
11. DO YOU HAVE ANY TIPS FOR NEW WRITERS?
My only suggestion would be to persevere with the quest to become a writer, regardless of whether it is on a part-time or full-time basis. There is a great deal of inspiration that comes from getting things published. This can provide the motivation that is required to continue writing when things appear bleak or hopeless.
12. DO YOU SUFFER FROM WRITER’S BLOCK?
I have never suffered from writer’s block when I am writing a book or an article. However, I have often suffered from not knowing what to write next after I have finished writing something and had it published. I am trying to overcome this by deciding well in advance what I should be writing after an existing project has been completed so that I don’t experience a painful gap in my writing plans and progress.
13. DO YOU HAVE A PREFERRED WRITING SCHEDULE?
My writing schedule is very consistent. I write every day, even if it is for only a short period of time and I am not able to accomplish very much. I usually write about more important things in the morning and less important things in the afternoon. This is accompanied by a lot of walking and exercising. Like Henry David Thoreau, Bertrand Russell, and other authors, I find walking very helpful in thinking things out, seeing where I am going from day to day and week to week, and planning things for the future.
14. DO YOU HAVE A FAVOURITE WRITING PLACE?
I used to sit in an easy chair when I was writing things out long hand and cutting and pasting before they were published. However, with the advent of the computer, I now do most of my writing at the computer, especially after I learned to use the computer to the point where I could produce material in draft form, cut and paste, and edit directly on a screen. I usually have music playing in the background when I am writing.
15. WHAT IS YOUR GREATEST JOY IN WRITING?
My greatest joy is getting articles and books published and reading them over once they are published. While I would probably continue to write even if my writings were only available in electronic form, I must say I find this far less fulfilling. There is something about holding a book or a journal in your hands and reading it in this form that is much more enjoyable than reading it on a screen or tablet of some kind.
16. WHO IS YOUR FAVOURITE AUTHOR AND WHY?
I do not have a favourite author. Since much of my life has been concerned with broadening, deepening, and intensifying knowledge and understanding of culture and cultures, this has required reading the works of numerous anthropologists, sociologists, cultural historians, philosophers, and so forth. I particularly enjoy the writings of cultural scholars such as Alfred Kroeber, Ruth Benedict, Pitirim Sorokin, Karl Weintraub, Lewis Mumford, Joseph Campbell, Matthew Arnold, Goethe, and several others in this respect.
17. WHAT’S THE GREATEST COMPLIMENT YOU EVER RECEIVED FROM A READER?
The greatest compliment has been that something I wrote was helpful to another person and inspired them in some way.
18. WHAT WAS THE WORST COMMENT FROM A READER?
The worst comment was that my beliefs and ideas were too idealistic and theoretical and would not be achieved in fact.
19. WRITERS ARE SOMETIMES INFLUENCED BY THINGS THAT HAPPEN IN THEIR OWN LIVES. ARE YOU?
I think my writing has been strongly influenced by my early upbringing. When I was young, my parents gave me piano lessons, singing lessons, put me in a choir, read stories to me, took me to many concerts and plays, and provided a wonderful cultural environment in our home. It has also been strongly influenced by my travels in North America, Europe, and other parts of the world. This has made it possible for me to experience many cultures in the world first hand.
20. OTHER THAN WRITING, WHAT ELSE DO YOU LOVE?
I love doing tai chi and qi gong for a couple of hours every morning. I also love practising the piano, brush painting, listening to music, taking long walks in the country and the forest, and especially helping people.
21. DID YOU HAVE YOUR BOOK / BOOKS PROFESSIONALLY EDITED BEFORE PUBLICATION?
All of my most important books have been edited by professional editors. While this has improved the quality of these books considerably, I am occasionally disturbed by the fact that the meaning of some passages in my books get altered in the editing process and no longer says what I intend to say. Fortunately, all the editors I have worked with are sensitive to this matter and have been willing to let me revert back to the original or change things accordingly.
22. DESCRIBE YOUR PERFECT DAY.
My perfect day consists of accomplishing some important writing, doing my exercising and walking, helping someone, and enjoying some time with my wife Nancy and our children Charlene and Susan.
23. IF YOU WERE STUCK ON A DESERT ISLAND WITH ONE PERSON, WHO WOULD IT BE? WHY?
It would definitely be with my wife Nancy. We have been together for almost fifty years now and married for more than thirty. We are best friends in addition to being husband and wife, can talk about many different things, and are totally at ease with one another.
24. WHAT WOULD YOU SAY IF YOU HAD THE CHANCE TO SPEAK TO WORLD LEADERS?
I would say that the present global system is not working and a new global system is required to deal with the difficult and dangerous problems confronting humanity. I would then explain why I think it is imperative to have a global system based on culture, especially if we are to be successful in coming to grips with climate change, global warming, the environment crisis, huge disparities in income and wealth, and escalating conflicts and tensions between the many different social and ethnic groups, races, religions, countries, and civilizations.
25. WHAT ARE YOUR PLANS FOR THE FUTURE?
I plan to continue making the case for the centrally of culture, cultures, and the arts, as well as for a cultural age, as long as I can. I also intend to spend more time writing about Canada and the potential it possesses to play a leadership role in the world as an exemplar rather than empire builder.
When I created the World Culture Project in 1988, I divided it into an international component and a Canadian component. I did this so I could use the Canadian component as a case study to demonstrate how my beliefs and convictions about the centrality of culture, cultures, and the arts could be applied to a specific country in the world. This resulted in writing and publishing several monographs and two books on Canadian culture, most notably Canadian Culture: Key to Canada’s Future Development, Canada’s International Cultural Relations: Key to Canada’s Role in the World, Culture and Politics in Canada: Towards a Culture for All Canadians, and most recently, Celebrating Canadian Creativity and Will This Be Canada’s Century?
26. WHAT ARE YOUR VIEWS ON BOOK TRAILERS? DO THEY SELL BOOKS?
I have never had any experience with book trailers and don’t know if they play a useful role in selling books.
27. DO YOU SEE YOURSELF IN ANY OF YOUR CHARACTERS?
One of the books I wrote for the International Component of the World Cultural Project was The Cultural Personality. While it was designed to make the case that a new prototype of the human personality is required for the world of the future – a prototype based on culture and holism rather than economics and specialization – there are various aspects of this prototype that mirror my own life and the type of cultural life I am trying to live that demonstrates what it would be like to live in a cultural age.
28. DOES THE PUBLISHING INDUSTRY FRUSTRATE YOU?
There are times when the publishing industry frustrates me a great deal, especially with respect to the way some publishers treat authors in general and their own authors in particular, as well as the way certain publishers deal with the marketing and selling of books.
29. DID YOU EVER THINK OF QUITTING?
No. I have never thought of quitting and never will, despite the difficulties I have experienced being an author at times. Despite these difficulties, I really enjoy my work and experiences as an author and plan to maintain this role in the future. One of the major reasons for this is that am working with a wonderful publisher – David Stover, founder of Rock’s Mills Press – who is very committed to my writings and has published a number of my books on culture and Canadian culture over the last few years.
30. WHAT WAS YOUR FAVOURITE MANUSCRIPT TO WRITE? WHY?
My favourite manuscript to write was The Secrets of Culture. This is because it is based on my journey in life and the many professional and personal experiences I have had over the years to unlock culture’s deepest and most profound secrets. This book is semi-autobiographical in the sense that I used my quest to unlock the secrets of culture as a vehicle for shedding light on the central role culture is capable of playing in the world of the future. As John Stuart Mill said many years ago, the most important thing about a journey is not arriving at the destination, but rather the process and route that is taken to get there.
31. HOW WOULD YOU DEFINE ‘SUCCESS’ AS A WRITER?
I would define success in terms of how well a writer gets things down on paper in a form that is personally fulfilling and stimulating to readers, as well as getting things published and sold.
32. WHAT SHOULD READERS WALK AWAY FROM YOUR BOOKS KNOWING? HOW SHOULD THEY FEEL?
Readers should walk away knowing that I have put a great deal of effort into communicating with them, and that my ideas and beliefs are relevant to the world situation even if they are not in vogue at present. They should also feel good about the experience they had reading my books and conclude that this will help them in their lives in the future.
33. WOULD YOU LIKE TO HAVE YOUR BOOKS MADE INTO MOVIES? EVER WRITTEN A SCREENPLAY?
I don’t think my books are conductive to being made into movies and I have never written a screenplay.
34. HOW MUCH THOUGHT GOES INTO DESIGNING A BOOK COVER?
I think a great deal of thought and effort should got into designing a book cover because a good book cover is the key to giving potential readers a real impression of the overall nature and substance of the book. Being a believer in the adage that “a picture is worth a thousand words,” I tend to use images for covers that make powerful statements about the contents and character of the book. I especially like to use architectural edifices, natural landscapes, and sunrises and sunsets for this purpose, since concern for nature, the natural environment, and the power of symbols figures prominently in my writings.
35. WHAT’S YOUR ULTIMATE DREAM?
My ultimate dream is to see some positive signs that humanity is entering a cultural age. Such signs would include focusing far more attention and placing a much higher priority on the development of culture, cultures, and the arts in the world, making the shift from wealth to well-being, seeing more creativity, diversity, inclusivity, and equality throughout the world, and enhancing relations between the diverse peoples, countries, races, and religions of the world. Like Rabindranath Tagore, I believe “we must prepare the field for the cooperation of all the cultures of the world where all will give and take from each other. This is the keynote of the coming age.”
36. WRITING IS ONE THING. WHAT ABOUT MARKETING YOU, YOUR BOOKS AND YOUR BRAND? ANY THOUGHTS?
This is without doubt the biggest problem I face at present and will probably face in the future. To date, I have not given a lot of attention to marketing myself, my books, or my brand because I have been preoccupied with researching and writing about culture, cultures, cultural development, and the need for a cultural age. However, whenever I have worked on marketing, branding, and so forth, I have found that the results are not commensurate with the effort, especially in the modern world where there is so much competition for the attention of readers.
37. ARE YOUR BOOKS SELF-PUBLISHED?
I have not had any experience with self-published books.
38. DESCRIBE YOURSELF IN FIVE WORDS.
I am very cause-oriented.
39. WHAT PISSES YOU OFF MOST?
Nothing really pisses me off at present. However, this could change in the future, but I doubt it.
40. WHAT IS THE TITLE OF THE LAST BOOK YOU READ? GOOD ONE?
I have just finished reading Brian Holihan’s superb book Thinking in a New Light: How to Boost Your Creativity and Live More Fully by Exploring World Cultures. I would strongly recommend this book to readers who are interested in culture, cultures, and the need for a cultural age. It provides many wonderful insights and concrete examples into how experiencing spirituality and a sense of paradise on earth can be achieved by broadening, deepening, and intensifying our knowledge and understanding of the many diverse cultures in the world. I share his beliefs that there is an enormous amount to be learned from our own culture and the cultures of others, and that one of the greatest challenges of the future will be to expand education of all the many different cultures in the world.
41. WHAT WOULD BE THE VERY LAST SENTENCE YOU’D WRITE?
We have barely scratched the surface of the rich potential culture possesses to lay the foundations and create the conditions for a more peaceful, harmonious, equitable, and fulfilling world.
42. WHAT WOULD MAKE YOU HAPPIER THAN YOU ARE NOW? CARE TO SHARE?
Seeing the same amount of attention and priority given to the development of culture and cultures over the next three hundred years that was given to the development of economics and economies over the last three hundred years. In order to achieve this, I believe it is necessary to interpret history from a cultural perspective and focus much more attention on the values, ideals, and potential of culture.
43. ANYTHING YOU’D LIKE TO ADD?
I think we need to begin a movement throughout the world to bring a cultural age into existence and would welcome your thoughts and suggestions on this.
In conclusion, I would like to thank Clancy Tucker for providing these questions and posting my answers to them on his blog, as well as to readers for reading my responses and reactions to the questions. This is much appreciated.
Clancy's comment: Thank you, Paul. I'm impressed by your determination and passion, and your brush painting. More people should follow in your shoes.