Stephen Oliver: Conditions – A Writer’s Perspective


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CONDITIONS – A WRITER’S PERSPECTIVE

Stephen Oliver

Here are some thoughts I had during a writers’ retreat in May 2019, but it’s still as true now.

“I can’t write because…”

Name your problem: space, time, people, inspiration, whatever.

I have heard this, seen this, read this, more times than I care to remember, especially in the last year, since I became active in several Facebook writing groups.

Sorry, people, but that isn’t a reason for not writing. It’s an excuse. And a lame one at that.

Yesterday, I stood in the cottage where Samuel Taylor Coleridge lived for three years with his wife and family. It was by far the worst house in the village. The rooms were small, and the only heating came from a small fire in one room. When the family moved in, the thatched roof was leaking, mice were running riot, and he had no money. Moreover, there were often other people visiting: the Wordsworths, Poole, and so on.

And yet…

While there, he penned some of the greatest lyrical ballad poems of the age: “The Rime of the Ancient Mariner” and “Kublai Kahn” (sadly incomplete due to that idiot from Porlock, down the coast), to mention but two.

He did this despite the frankly appalling conditions in his home. Cold so bad, for instance, that his son Hartley would cry at night, forcing Coleridge to bring him downstairs to his writing room because it had a fire. The mice I have already mentioned. And how they accommodated their visitors, I shudder to think.

And yet…

“In Xanadu did Kublai Khan / A stately pleasure dome decree…”

If he could write that in these terrible conditions, then you, sitting in front of your computer in a warm, comfortable home or an air-conditioned office, have no excuse at all.

So, get off your backsides, or on them, as the case may be, and start writing. Even if you can’t create something as wonderful and ethereal as Coleridge did, it will still be far better than the nothing you are producing right now while whining at me.

Please visit Stephen’s website for more great articles: http://stephenoliver-author.com/

About Stephen Oliver

I’m a ‘Pantser’ (aka ‘Discovery Writer’), meaning that I write ‘by the seat of my pants’.

In other words, I have no idea what I’m writing until I’ve written it. Give me a picture or a writing prompt (a sentence, a phrase… heck, even a word will do) and let me loose. I can come up with something in twenty minutes, 400-500 words to create a new story. I don’t stop there, of course. Those few words can turn into four or five thousand, or more. The next day or week, the Muse will strike again, and I’ll finish it off, creating something weird, wonderful or just plain odd.

Once I’m done, then comes the hard part: turning it into something good. I’ve had to learn that what I wrote initially is only the beginning. Read, revise, edit, wash, rinse, repeat. And repeat. And repeat… There are some stories I’ve gone over dozens of times, and I’ll still find something to improve, on occasion.

So it is that I’ve self-published a self-help book, written dozens of short stories, completed a novel, and am still working on two more. My genres cover science fiction, fantasy, urban fantasy, horror, humour (very dark), noir, detective fiction, fairytales and fairy stories. Often more than one in a single tale… Oh, and there’s a second self-help book in the works, too.

I came to writing fairly late in life, but that ain’t going to stop me now. As Harlan Ellison once said, “A writer is some poor schmuck who can’t help putting words on paper.” That’s me, because I’ve already written over a million words since I began. I’ll be done when they peel my cold, dead fingers off my keyboard.

Mind you, given the kinds of stories I write, that will probably be because one of the monsters I created finally finished me off…!

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