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Stephen Oliver: Sharing Knowledge

Sharing Knowledge

Stephen Oliver

Image by StartupStockPhotos from Pixabay

Despite the horrors of Covid-19 and lockdowns, I hope this year brings you joy, experience, and new knowledge.

Apropos knowledge, I remember coming across a “law” of life some time ago, similar to Murphy’s Law:

Roger Lincoln’s 2 Rules for Success:

1. Never tell everything you know.

It’s a good joke, but nowadays, hoarding knowledge is greedy, arrogant, and, ultimately, insane.

It’s greedy because knowledge doesn’t belong to anybody. Oh, I know that there is proprietary information, like the exact form and contents of a company’s databases or their communications protocols. Even their contracts and internal documentation belong in this category. This is all well and good and is useful for holding your own in the competitive world of business.

However, there is a second area of knowledge that cannot be contractually limited: know-how. Knowing how to design and construct databases, how to communicate between subsystems, and so on cannot be limited to a particular company. God knows that enough employers and clients of mine have tried. I even had one client who tried this after becoming involved in his project, designing an interface between mobile phones and other equipment (this was in the early 80s when such interfaces didn’t exist). He tried to force a contract on me where I could never design any kind of communications or control program again, nor could I build any embedded projects using the same microprocessor or communications protocols. I laughed in his face and told him that no court would uphold his claim, and it would only cost him a lot of money to try. The very attempt to limit knowledge transfer and use in this way smacks of scarcity thinking.

Hoarding knowledge is also arrogant; you’re acting as if you were the only one who has any right to have and to use the knowledge. This is a symptom of weakness because you think you will be seen as feebler if you let others have access to knowledge. Allowing others to use knowledge is a sign of strength in my eyes because the more knowledge there is out there, the more knowledge will be created as people make new connections between otherwise disparate topics. This leads to the beginning of extelligence, where the relationships between different pieces of information become divorced from the need of a human mind to make said connections. Google and other search engines may very well be the beginnings of extelligence.

Finally, hoarding knowledge is insane. No matter how you try to hide knowledge, Nature is a blabbermouth. Somebody else will discover what you are hiding. Alfred Russel Wallace paralleled Darwin’s work; he deferred publication to Darwin because Darwin’s work was further developed than his own. Even works by a single person, such as Einstein’s Special and General Theories of Relativity, would eventually have been developed by someone else. However, it might not have occurred until years later. When the time has come for information and knowledge to become known, they will, no matter what anyone does to prevent it.

This relates to the Hundredth Monkey Phenomenon. On an island off Japan, scientists studied the behaviour of troupes of monkeys. They were given food regularly, but it simply lay on the ground and became dirty. One old female monkey discovered that washing the fruit in seawater not only removed the dirt from the surface, but the salt in the water added something extra to the flavour. With difficulty, she taught another monkey the same trick. They then taught other monkeys, which in turn taught others until, suddenly, after around one hundred monkeys, every monkey could do it, even without being explicitly shown how. Even more interestingly, monkeys in other troupes and on other islands suddenly learned the trick. It was as if a threshold had been penetrated, and the knowledge became common to all the monkeys.

This confutes social Darwinism and the “survival of the fittest” thinking so prevalent today. The common position is that everyone and everything is, and has to be, in conflict and competition. Phenomena like this are proof that Nature is ultimately cooperative.

Cooperation in the spreading, use, and learning of knowledge is the way to go. People keep talking about this being the Information Age; let’s work together to make this the Knowledge Age, where people work together to increase the level of knowledge in the world. This all links back to the book The Go-Giver I mentioned in a post in my other blog, in which the characters talk about adding value to whatever you give others. If enough people are prepared to add valuable knowledge to others, there will be a breakthrough, a threshold will be breached, and that knowledge will belong to everybody. This is a personal dream of mine, and I have it for the most selfish of reasons: I want to be part of that breakthrough and have access to all that knowledge.

We do need to keep the difference between information and knowledge in mind. Information is simply data with a meaning; knowledge is knowing how to use that information, as well as the information itself.

So let’s all go out and spread knowledge as far as we can, because only in that way will we be given new knowledge in return.



Of course, I have been writing from the point of view of a non-fiction author since I also published a self-help book. These days, I’ve switched to fiction, but the truths are still the same if you replace the word ‘knowledge’ with ‘story.’

I’ve heard from other writers, time and again, that they think their stories “aren’t as good as others.”

Who’s to say if it is or isn’t. Many declare that Fifty Shades of Gray is great, while others decry the many flaws they see in the book. The same is true of the Twilight series of books; I’ve read more than one review that moans about one-dimensional characters and the sizes of plot holes. Nevertheless, these stories are popular.

Why? That is a question only the readers can answer. However, publishers have made fortunes from books like these.

But, getting back to the theme of ‘knowledge,’ or in this case ‘stories,’ the more available, the better the readers’ entertainment. It may be that someone needs to read your particular stories, written in your specific manner, for them to get the most out of those tales.

So, stop comparing yourself to others. It would be best if you only were comparing yourself to your past self, i.e., striving every day to become better than you have ever been before. Believe in yourself, and you will reach your goal of being published. As I’ve mentioned before, I have recently had two short stories published in anthologies. Plus, I have had requests for information and even complete manuscripts from agents and publishers in the past few weeks. I’m still waiting to hear back from them, but I am hopeful.

“Don’t talk yourself out of an idea just because it’s been done before. Put your own spin on it. Bring in your own personal experiences. You will have your own stories to tell, which will make it unique.”
–Dr. Joe Vitale

So, what I’m really getting at is, if you’re serious about being a published author, you have to write the way you write, then put yourself, your stories, and your knowledge out there.

As I said in a Facebook post recently, “You gotta keep submitting. Otherwise, nobody out there knows that you exist.”

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…!


Admin Note: Writing may be a lonely task, but writers are not alone, as this wonderful article that Elaine Marie Carnegie has written shows. The words of these authors and those from Elaine prove that mentoring, support, and friendship are what binds us together.

Enjoy this article and please visit the links and learn more about the people and organizations that support us all.


Elaine Marie Carnegie

WOW! I have been so grateful for my friends in the Writing Communities during the moments of being housebound, separated from my family and kiddos… amid the loneliness and uncertainty there has always been someone to turn to. (For me…you know who you are, and I love you. Shout out to Jesu @Barrio Blues for publishing my first ever short story this year!) I was trying to think of a way to say thank you to the #WritingCommunity as a whole and I queried fellow authors for some ideas and the response was just overwhelming!

I am going to feature Grant Hudson, Clarendon House Publications, Spillwords Press and Writers Unite! Facebook Community. There are so many more, and though I couldn’t feature all of you, that does not make your contribution less significant. Every Author, publisher, editor and friend who takes the time to encourage and support those who bring light into the world… Thank you, we are grateful. Below the feature are tributes from Authors to those who support and encourage them, teach and publish them. Kudos to you all for that friendship. For taking the time to help and support. For caring about us and what we do and for helping us feel and experience that care. We love you! We say thank you! And… we write!

Your effort becomes the pebble in the pond that sends out ripples into time. For those you touch, touch others and that touch even more and so it goes without end and we are aware of it, cherish it and thank you for it. So…

Grant Hudson is “The man” behind the Inner Circle Writer’s Group and Inner Circle Writer’s Magazine, The Beacon Fellowship FB Page and The Beacon Fellowship Magazine, and Clarendon House Publications. (Click here for anthologies) While pondering what to write here about Grant I thought his own words say it better than mine ever could because they give you a sense of his personality from his own point of view and since we are seriously limited for space, I give you Grant Hudson in his own words from the Clarendon House website:

“Author, Poet, Artist, Mentor, Editor, Educator, Humorist, Entrepreneur. Hello, my name is Grant Hudson and what you will see on these pages is a reflection of who I am, my interests, and what I can do for you. I am a published author and poet, have over 5,000 items of merchandise available featuring my artwork, have edited and published many books, taught many people, made many more laugh (education and laughter go well together) and have delved into business on many levels. Some of you will see yourselves or part of yourselves here.” I love the last sentence because it is so true!

Next up Spillwords Press the online source for good literature! In their own words: “At Spillwords Press, we espouse the philosophy that words matter, and imagination is the seed of accomplishment. When you join Spillwords, you will gain a door to the world not only through our website but also via social media. Once you submit your original content, our team of editors will ensure your work is presented responsibly in addition to crafting a visually compelling presentation of each work. Our mission is to give both, published and independent writers, a place where their works can have the proper exposure to readers, writers, other literary communities as well as publication firms around the world. Our passion and commitment to writers and readers began in 2015 with the promise to be the true free press of the people. With each passing day we reaffirm our vision of being the voice from New York City to the world.

Writers Unite! is the very first writing group I ever joined. This group gave me the courage to apply for a job at a Newspaper that changed my life! With a whopping 77,931 total members, they are a haven to support and encourage writers at all levels of knowledge and experience. WU! encourages writers to share their writing, receive and provide constructive feedback, and answer questions posted by members related to their writing. They have a website and are intensively active in promoting and educating their members.Writers Unite! On the Web: Writers Unite! Worldwide: Twitter: They have a variety of submission avenues and daily, weekly and monthly exercises for their community. They sponsor a Book Club and Workshops as well as Contests and Anthologies. Their Guest Blog publishesMember submitted articles about writing and WU! promotes the articles across all of their platforms. They are a cornucopia of information for perfecting our craft!

Before we start on the tributes there were two others frequently mentioned as friend and mentor. I would like to recognize them now. Steven Carr, Author of so many books and stories I just linked his Amazon Page. He developed Sweetycat Press which is closing this month and has just successfully launched Short Story Town, an online Magazine.

The second is Dennis Doty, mentioned as mentor, editor and friend. I don’t know Mr. Doty as I do Steve Carr but I feel certain I will like him. His website, About Dennis Doty, has a distinctly western sort of feel and I’m, of course, from Texas. He is publisher of Saddle Bag Dispatches.


I asked them to name the 3 persons/entities most helpful in their career/publication and why?

P.C. Darkcliff Author of theDeathless Chronicles/Celts and the Mad Goddess:

First, I should mention Umair Mirxa from Dastaan World who was the first to publish a story of mine, about three years ago. Then there is Steve Carr, of course, who has helped me promote my writing. Also, there’s Douglas Brown, who has been my critique partner since I got into self-publishing and who helped me with my book descriptions and short stories.

David Bowmore, Author of the Magic of Deben Market:

First, Inner Circle Writers’ Group -a fabulous community with great leadership, which led to my first published short story and two collections, both published by Clarendon House.That’s two. For the third, I would sayZombie Pirate Publishing, a great supportive team who also encouraged me to try writing out of my comfort zone.

Patt O’Neil Author of Witness Testimony and Other Tales:

D. K. Lukman is an author of Cozy Mysteries for Children. She challenged me to “publish or perish”. She explained, if I was going through the effort to improve my writing skills, and learn about the business, I should be of the mindset to seek publication of my stories. Dennis Doty He befriended me when I first started sending submissions. When they did not get accepted, he reviewed my work and explained that even though the story was good, it needed polishing (editing) because the publisher wasn’t going to do it. This was one of the lessons no one tells you about when you start out trying to become a professional, even though looking back it seems so obvious. He later set up shop as a professional editor, I became one of his clients and have never looked back. I would also like to recognize, Grant Hudson, because even though he wasn’t the first to ever publish my work, he was the first to believe in me enough to publish many of my stories, and also tell me, “No,” meaning the submitted stories weren’t always going to be a slam dunk.

Mike Turner Author, Poet, and Songwriter. Spillwords Press:

Spillwords ran my very first published poem, and they’ve been very supportive of my writing, running an author’s interview and my ongoing musical poetry series, “Backbeat Poetry.” They do excellent work curating their submissions, pairing images to their published works, and using social media, including Facebook and Twitter, to promote their authors and works. Red Planet Magazine: A speculative fiction magazine that’s run one of my poems in all but one of their issues thus far over the past 18 months. Excellent short stories, poems, and graphic art; with a skilled editor offering just the right level of advice to hone pieces. Steven Lester Carr: A prolific short story writer in his own right, Steve has really gone the distance to help promote and advance upcoming writers while his latest venture, Short Story Town, is rapidly shaping up as a premier habitat for quality short stories and narrative poems. Academy of the Heart and Mind: Emphasis on works dealing with beauty and intellect – an opportunity for poets to spread their wings and soar the currents with uplifting work. Write Away Magazine based in England and focusing on song lyrics, Write Away places emphasis on the words, meaning, and message of its contributors’ lyrics – pieces need not be set to music, although the magazine provides links to any on-line demos or performances of the lyrics it publishes. Monthly, now entering its third year of publication, over 10,000 readers world-wide. Clarendon House Books/Grant Hudson: Publishes short story and poetry anthologies. Grant is a well-experienced and respected publisher who looks for the craft in the pieces he chooses to publish. Always ready with insightful feedback on submissions, even those he chooses not to publish. Books are available through major online retailers. The Writers Club at GreyThoughts: Another highly supportive, curated site giving writers a platform to display their works; does considerable social media promotion of its authors and works.

Deborah Ratliff Creator of Writers Unite!: My fifth-grade teacher, Mrs. Jewel Maxwell, was the initial spark that led me to write. She told tales of her childhood in Alabama with such rich detail that her life played out in my imagination and spurred me to create words for the imaginations of others. When I was sixteen, my father handed me the first book in John D. MacDonald’s Travis McGee series and told me that I would learn all I needed to know about life from this author. Not only was he right about life’s lessons, but MacDonald’s realistic character development greatly impacted my writing. However, the strongest influence in my journey to become a writer was my father, who gifted me with the joy of reading. We spent hours discussing books, and each moment was a treasure.

Dawn Debraal Short Story Author:

Wow there are so many!!! Hard to narrow them down! Black Hare Press is so prolific with opportunities to publish. Black Ink Press and Raven and Drake are fast coming up the ranks of Indie Publishers with wonderful Ideas for Anthologies.Spillwords, CafeLit, and Potato Soup Journal are wonderful literary online magazines. Terror House Magazine has been so supportive of stories, as well as Impspired. Jolly Horror Press. Though I have never had a story accepted by the Publisher, Jonathan Lambert took the time to edit the first three pages of my manuscript. He loved the story, but I was still very new at writing. That he took the time and explained why he didn’t accept the manuscript and did that work, stuck with me as well as what he taught me.

Sharon Frame Gay Author of Song of the Highway:

Three publishers who have been very helpful right off the top of my head would be Grant Hudson at Clarendon House, Dennis Doty with Saddlebag Dispatches out of Oghma Creative Media, and Tiffany Schofield from 5-Star Publishing.

Eva Marie CagleyAuthor of Dancing in Heaven:

It has been my privilege to have my work published in The Beacon Fellowship Online Magazine by Editor Grant Hudson has kick-started my submission efforts. His group The Inner Circle Writers Group has taught me so much and has a lot of good information about publishing. I would also like to mention the Writers for Life group on Facebook. The Poets Narrative group is my home group on Facebook and Alan Johnson the Admin. has produced all my YouTube narrations. I also belong to a private group, Catwoman, The Pen, and the Sword Admin: Kelly JeanneandWriters Unite! They’ve had a huge impact on motivating me to schedule writing time and receive criticism in my work.

Adam Joseph Stump Author of The Endless Summer:

First was Author Greg Krojacreally helped me learn how to design covers for free and format a book on Amazon. He’s brilliant and a wealth of knowledge! SciFi Roundtable is probably the best group out there for encouraging SciFi/Fantasy authors. Writers’ Co-Op is a great place to bat around ideas and get feedback on the message board.

Joshua D. Taylor Author of As Above So Beneath and Blogger:

Okay, well let’s start with the Writing Bad FB group. It’s a supportive community of writers and where I first found out about the indie publishing community and came across my first Call for Submissions. That brings me to Stormy Island Publishing, the first company I ever published with. They are one of the only publishers to pay for a story and send you a free physical copy. Even though they are on hiatus now, the people I met there still support and encourage me as a writer. I should give a shout-out toBlack Hare Press,I think they have published more of my stories than anyone else and my only solo publication. They’re going through a bit of a transition period right now but hopefully, everything will settle down eventually.

Melissa Sell, Author, and Owner United Faedom Publishing:

Although I belong to many writing groups Writing Bad was my stepping stone. It’s also the first group I recommend. It has many helpful people and can also thicken your skin when it comes to critiquing. Pixie Forest Publishing is a wonderful publisher and realizes the struggles of all indie authors. They are always encouraging and a pleasure to work with. United Faedom Publishing works with its authors and offers discounted editing services to struggling indie authors on a budget. Writing Bad Promotions is a great group to advertise your work, just be sure to follow the posting guidelines. Clean and Speculative Friction is a wonderful FB group. I’ve heard good things about Dragon Soul Press and know many authors who have published with them. Jensen Reed is an amazing author with the ability to give an honest critique. She is one of my trusted beta readers. She and Olivia London (Stormy Island Publishing) are as close to me as sisters, and I seriously couldn’t live without them. They helped me tremendously through my career and even in personal dark times. Help is out there, and if you are lost, find me I’ll point you in the right direction. 😉

Nancy Blakely Henderson Author ofThe Love Story of Nancy and Frank:

I was fortunate to become friends with Chuck Bartok, who noticed my work on my Memoir that I shared on Facebook. He got in touch with me through private messenger about setting up a website and publishing my Memoir. Chuck had connections with a publisher named Anthony R. Michalski of Kallisti Publishing Co. Anthony did my book covers and set up my files for paperback and ebooks, then taught me how to upload files and book covers and I self-published my books, which became a four-book Memoir. I was invited by Carmen Baca, an author and amazing friend, to join two groups on Facebook, Inner Circles Writer’s Group created by Grant Hudson and SweetyCat Press (Closing) created by Steven Lester Carr. These two groups offered opportunities to submit to Anthologies and I was fortunate to have my short stories be accepted and published into several books.

Carmen Baca Author of El Hermano:

My first response is Grant Hudson of The Inner Circle Writers Group. He published my last 3 books & is ready to publish more if I ask. He also publishes several anthologies and two magazines annually. We members get the first chance at publishing in those. Second is a tie between Writers Unite!, run by Deborah Ratliff, andThe Dark Void, run by Aditya Deshmukh, one of the best editors I’ve worked with. They also publish annual anthologies and have accepted my works for several publishing this year. My last is the publisher of Somo En Escrito Magazine and Press, Armando Rendón. He and his assistant editor, Scott Duncan, promote and publish my works. All I mentioned are professional, qualified, and talented at what they do. They make publishing and marketing rewarding.

Mark Scheel, Author of Star Chaser:

The late acclaimed author Edna Bell-Pearson. We met through the Kansas Authors Club and were close friends for years, beta-read our manuscripts, and critiqued and edited each other’s work. She was 100 years of age when she passed. I miss her and her input terribly.

The poet Ronda Miller, state president of The Kansas Authors Club. A close friend and supporter of my writing. She’s reviewed my books for me and taken photos of me to post on the internet during readings, etc., and promoted my work on Facebook and other social media outlets. A super connection to the literary scene regionally. Finally, the writer and the publisher of Anamcara Press, Maureen Carroll. We’re friends through the Kansas Authors Club. Last year she published my poetry collection Star Chaserand did a superb job with the whole project and the promotion. I owe her big time for getting my work out there after years of manuscript rejections.

Christine Tabaka Author of And Still I Had These Dreams:

I am very grateful to everyone who has helped me along the way in my literary journey.

I would be amiss if I did not start with Michael Lee Johnson an experienced poet from Illinois. He was the one who first encouraged me to start to submit my work to publications, and has been a great friend ever since. He has multiple Facebook Group Pages dedicated to helping promote writers of all genres. The next great influence that came along for me was Raja Williams. She was the creator of CTU [Creative Talents Unleased] Publishing,(Closed) and published my book “Words Spill Out, and my next two books by my hiring her privately to do the hard stuff for me.Grant Hudson (from the UK) the editor of Clarendon House Publishing, the Inner Circle Writers’ Magazineand Facebook Page published my works in several anthologies, and published my book “And Still I Had These Dreams.” He also made me the featured writer on the cover of the Inner Circle Writers’ Magazine complete with an interview. And lastly (but far from least), is Steve Cawte (from the UK), the editor of Impspired Magazine, who not only published many of my poems in his e-mag, but also contacted me to publish my most recent poetry book. I was honored to be among some of his first writers for that press. He also has a radio interview show “Word Perfect” on Siren Radio in the UK. I was honored to have my first ever recorded interview with him (where everyone could hear my raspy old lady’s voice for the first time)!

Kerri Jesmer Short Story Author and Editor:

I must give credit to a few people who have helped me in my quest to become a published writer. First and foremost, Steve Carr, I consider him to be my mentor and friend. If he had not encouraged me to send my first story in and given me the location to do so, I’m not sure I would have managed yet. I also used his book, Getting Your Short Stories Published: A Guidebook. Next would be Umair Mirxa. He was the managing editor at the magazine I sent that story to for publication. Umair accepted it and that gave me the confidence to continue to pursue writing. I will never forget that first acceptance email. Many tears of joy were shed by me. And last but not least, I would have to credit two people: Grant Hudson with his immense knowledge of the industry, writing, English, editing, and more. And Dennis W. Doty, my editor. He worked hard to teach me where my issues were in my writing, what I was missing, what to never do, and how to make things right. It was because of his experience and knowledge that I am an editor myself now. But my passion remains writing and always will.

Lynn Miclea Author of The Sticky Note Murders:

Although writing and publishing is mostly a solitary endeavor, others do help to make the journey easier, and those connections are very valuable. I have self-published twenty-five books through KDP/Amazon, and they have been very easy to use. They walk you through each step as you publish, and you retain complete control over every step. I have been very happy with them and recommend them. The two groups other than Writers Unite! that have helped me the most are Cops and Writers, and Trauma Fiction. Cops and Writers has many police and law-enforcement personnel to help answer questions related to cops, law enforcement, crime, and police procedures. Trauma Fiction has many medical personnel to help answer questions related to health, illness, hospitals, trauma, and injuries. Both groups are incredibly helpful in answering questions which helps to keep my writing realistic. The connections we make in helping each other are highly valuable, in both helping with writing and in making strong, supportive, author and friend connections. I truly believe the more we help each other, the more we all succeed.

Jim Bates Author of Resilence:

Gill James is wonderful and easy to work with and has a great team. Steve Cawte and Impspired is super. Very accessible and supportive. And of course Steve Carr with his unfailing support of emerging writers.


All Green Characters are linked so you can see more from that Author or Publisher by clicking on the Green text.

About Elaine Marie Carnegie

Elaine Marie Carnegie, a Paralegal, and PI worked as a Newspaper Journalist for many years, then a part-time history and foodie columnist for a decade before accepting a publishing partnership; then opening her own SPPublishing and Author Services. She worked with both the FBI and Texas Rangers, has written for Discovery ID, and works for the PI in a consultant capacity today. Her articles have been used in the Texas Legislature, utilized in regional Texas school systems, published in both print and online venues, magazines and anthologies as well as in charity and collaborative projects. She is a published short story author and poet. Her first novel is in the works, “The Path of Totality.” Elaine makes her home in the idyllic East Texas Piney Woods… on a private lake, doing what she loves and living her best life! 


Please visit Elaine on her blog and check out her great blog series A Writer’s Journey-Write Everyday where authors reveal their path to this creative journey called writing!


D. A. Ratliff: Confessions of an Obsessed Writer

Writers Unite!’s Featured Blog Series!

Writers Unite! is fortunate to have among its members, many bloggers, and essayists who write content about the writing process or their author’s journey or both. We will be posting their articles for your information and enjoyment. Please read and comment, visit the author’s website, blog, or Facebook page, Twitter, Instagram and share!

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Confessions of an Obsessed Writer

By D. A. Ratliff

Every so often, in a writing group that I am a member of, someone will ask this question. What is your favorite writing spot? I invariably and blithely answer: Have laptop, will travel. Then it dawned on me that my laptop does indeed travel where I do. 

I am an obsessed writer.

I began reading at an early age, and in elementary school, I discovered writing. My efforts were admittedly short stories about my Chihuahua, Henry, but I was writing. I was that rare student who loved having essays and term paper assignments, relishing in the research as well as the composing. My lust for writing had begun. 

Then I graduated college and well, had to act like an adult. I continued to read, but my writing efforts were work related and, while important, certainly not imaginative. Difficult to make a policy-and-procedures or a training manual fun, but I did love writing newsletters where I could be a bit more creative.

During these years, a gnawing urge began to develop. I wanted to write fiction. As a child, I had a vivid imagination that followed me to adulthood. However, I had doubts as to whether I could write a story good enough to attract readers. I had taken creative writing courses, but college was behind me, and I was unsure I had the skills. I needed practice, but how?

I started writing fanfiction.

I know – it’s fanfiction, but I deduced that with developed characters and show canon already in place, I could concentrate on how to construct a story and write dialog. It was fanfiction, easy, and all the fans of the show would love all the stories. Wrong. Critique in the world of fanfic can be brutal. Fortunately, most were kind to me.

But it worked, I gained confidence and discovered the weaknesses I needed to address by writing over eighty stories about a canceled science fiction show. Yes, eighty. You see, I couldn’t stop writing. The more I wrote, the more I wanted to write. And once I began to believe I could write, I left fanfic behind and started writing my first novel, a science fiction story. I haven’t stopped since.

Writers understand the call of the keyboard. I do take my laptop with me practically everywhere. No, not to the grocery store but the doctor’s office, or on a plane, any place where I have downtime with nothing else to do. Okay, maybe when I did have other things to do as well.  I only know that I need to create.

Writing every day is not a challenge for me. I hesitate to think of how many words I do write per day as an administrator for a large writing group, or on Facebook Messenger and email, and when I can, my fiction works in progress. (Yes, works. Okay, I have a few going at the same time.) I have worn out a few keyboards in the last few years. It’s when I’m not writing that the need to write manifests itself. I have a sense that I forgot something, that nagging urgency that I should be doing something. It is as if a part of me is incomplete.

If you write, you know that feeling. You have a new idea, the plot, the title, and the characters start to develop in your head. How it begins and ends. I am a pantser style writer, meaning that I don’t plan my stories before writing them. I start writing, and then the fun begins.

One of my favorite quotes about writing is from British author, Terry Pratchett:

“The first draft is just you telling yourself the story.”

If that opening line falls into place, then so does everything else. There is such a feeling of satisfaction to watch letters appear on the screen as fingers move about the keys. Hours pass like minutes as the story unfolds and, when I finally stop, there is a sense of accomplishment that today I created something. That feeling is what makes writing so obsessive for me.

Not all days are so satisfying. All writers have those days when the words won’t come, or the plot stalls or transition between scenes is elusive. When this happens, doubt begins to creep in. Is this story good enough, will anyone like it? Why am I writing? I have learned never to force the words, for those are never the right words. Taking a step back, working on another project, taking a walk, or cleaning the house (the last resort) always helps me to find my muse again, because I have to write.

I write to tell myself the story.

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D. A. (Deborah) Ratliff is a Southerner with saltwater in her veins and a love of writing. A career in science and human resources provided the opportunity to write policies/procedures and training manuals, articles, and newsletters, but her lifelong love of mystery and science fiction novels beckoned. Deborah began writing mysteries and her first novel, Crescent City Lies, will be published in late spring 2020 with a second novel, One of Those Days, to follow. Deborah regularly contributes articles on writing to the blog, Writers Unite! and serves as an administrator on the Facebook writing site, Writers Unite! which has 57,000+ members from around the globe.