People in Your Neighborhood: Meet John Thomas Wood, Point Loma author, photographer and artist
Wood, for whom the concepts of power and discovery are central to his writing and art, talks about his background, career and pursuits.
For Point Loma resident John Thomas Wood, life is all about power and discovery.
Wood, who grew up in Virginia, first came to San Diego in 1959 to attend San Diego State University, where he majored in journalism and was the managing editor of the school’s newspaper, The Daily Aztec.
“Tuition was $48 a semester — can you believe that?” Wood said, laughing.
Before graduating, he began writing for the San Diego Union (now The San Diego Union-Tribune) and one of his first assignments was to cover the Seattle World’s Fair in 1962.
Though he fell in love with Seattle, he returned to San Diego and lived here 25 more years. In 1969, the writer was introduced to the Center for Studies of the Person in La Jolla, shifting his interests from journalism to psychotherapy.
“CSP asked to do some writing for them,” he said. “I really liked what I saw in that organization.”
In addition to writing, he started leading encounter groups and hosting workshops for CSP, which began his 40-year career in the field of personal development, spiritual discovery and organizational consulting.
“It was so rich professionally,” said Wood, who spent 17 years at CSP. “I worked all over the world and worked with a lot of different people — and I sold my first book.”
Wood kicked off his career as an author with the nonfiction book “How Do You Feel: A Guide to Your Emotions,” published by Prentice Hall in 1974. (The book was later repackaged and given its current title, “The Heart of Feeling.”)
“The rest kind of flowed out,” Wood said, who now has 10 books to his name.
In the 1980s, Wood moved to Seattle, where he started an individual therapy practice, worked in consulting and continued his writing.
As a writer, Wood does not confine himself to one genre. Along with his series of personal development/self-help books, his portfolio includes novels and poetry. The philosophy of power is a focus in a majority of his works across all genres.
“The idea of power is so misunderstood and misused by people,” Wood said. “A lot of people think it’s a bad thing ... but really it’s about how people get things done and how they relate to each other. It’s really much more a part of our intimate relationships than we acknowledge.”
“[Power] permeates our lives, so I kept pursuing it [in my work],” he added.
Wood spent 25 years in the Pacific Northwest, which became the setting for some of his novels, including two of his most recent: “Keeping Seattle Up” and its sequel, “Love in the Rain,” with the latter published in 2020. The two books follow Rex Cohm, a single parent who works as a psychotherapist and lands a radio talk show about sex.
“The choice of Rex having a talk show on sex allowed me to explore many issues and have dialogues about, for instance, the fear of sex, sex in older people, attitudes of men [vs.] women and how women can be more powerful in their relationships,” Wood said.
“There are several strong female characters in each of the books, including Dorothy, Rex’s daughter,” he added. “I enjoyed giving them an assertive voice about how they felt and what they wanted.”
Despite 25 years in Seattle, his love for San Diego and the ocean never washed away. So when Wood retired 10 years ago, he moved back and settled in Point Loma, near the water and his grandchildren, who live in Clairemont.
During retirement, Wood has been able to devote more time to his writing and another creative passion: photography. Wood, who has been taking pictures all his life, now turns his photos into fine art with the help of technology.
“The digital work, [including] Photoshop, opened up a whole new realm for me,” he said.
Since moving back to San Diego, Wood has exhibited his art at places such as the Point Loma/Hervey Library; the Hillcrest cafe Bread & Cie; and Art on 30th, a North Park art school/gallery, along with a juried show at the Athenaeum Music & Arts Library in La Jolla. Last year, Wood decided to compile his favorite art prints into a book.
“Imagine” is a photo book that features 100 of Wood’s images taken around the world. Some of them were snapped in San Diego, including “The Three Priests of Shelter Island” (Point Loma), “Dance for Old Glory” (Liberty Station), “Pier Pressure” (Ocean Beach) and “Summer Leap” (Sunset Cliffs).
“Something in me wanted to honor my own work. ... I wanted a coffee table book and I wanted the best [photographs], by my own judgment, that I think I’ve produced,” Wood said. “So it was a labor of love, you could say.”
While exploring the idea of power is more central to his writing career, Wood noted that the concept plays a role in his approach to creating art.
“Honoring your own inner experience is an important first step to you being powerful,” Wood said. “So if I’m an artist and I don’t honor my own imagination or my own vision, then I’m lost, I’m stuck. If you have a vision ... and you don’t honor it — give it some respect, give it some light — then pretty soon your ideas will dry up.
“The whole [artistic] process for me is one of discovery — I’m discovering something as I’m in the process [of making it]. I’m trying not to censor or judge anything that I’m doing.”
To learn more about Wood and his books and art, visit lovingpower.com.