A Young Writer’s Mind

‘Every writer I know has trouble writing’ – Joseph Heller

Writing is never easy for me; it is never easy for anyone. You may ask as a result, ‘Why bother with it at all?’ After spending nearly twenty minutes contemplating whether to put a colon or a semi-colon in the opening sentence of this paragraph, I have already asked myself that very question several times today. However, each time I stop writing, frustrated by my mind’s apparent inability to form a coherent sentence, I always start again, forcing myself to squeeze some words of my imagination. To be a good writer, which is what I aspire to be, it is often said one needs to be insensitive. ‘Learn to brush off negativity from others – you need a thick skin’, says Vicky Breakwell, Head of News at Orion Media. However, in my opinion a good writer needs to be equally sensitive. How else can one relate to the people affected by the issues they write? If I had no compassion, if I did not care about other people, I would have no interest in political writing, and I would not secretly dream of a better, brighter future for my generation. However, I do not see myself as some saint-like figure – far from it. I am just someone who cares, someone who, quite frankly, is scared by what they see in their surrounding environment: binge drinking, drug taking and a dearth of self-respect. Every young generation is faced with something new, something different – my parents had colour television, for instance – and how one generation uses or deals with such things often helps to define the next. My generation is faced with social media, an energy crisis, cheap booze, computer tablets, unpaid debts, smartphones and the worst economic depression in modern history. Advances in technology have granted us fantastic opportunities (expressing ourselves on social media, for example), opportunities that may not have existed even a decade ago. However, we have also inherited unresolved issues, such as the Great Recession, that may force us all to completely change our perception of normal life.

I am, I guess, a moralist – maybe that is how others will describe me if I ever gain some recognition for my writing. But, in the same way that all writers are opinionated and egotistical (and I include myself in that description), all writers are moralists to some extent. Perhaps with the exception of writers of nonsense literature, it is almost impossible for a writer not to comment on their surrounding society in some way, mainly because it is the source from which most of them gain their inspiration. Take George Orwell, for example, a writer whose work, mostly his essays, influences my own writing greatly. Whether fictitious or not, each piece of writing for which he is famous (‘Animal Farm’, ’1984′, ‘Politics and the English Language’) is firmly rooted in reality. Sadly, there has been no other ‘great’ political writer since Orwell – well, there has been no one so widely celebrated as him anyway. However, as a writer’s work is invariably influenced by their surrounding world, perhaps there been no political writer as popular as Orwell because the political climate has, comparatively, been peaceful. With both fascist and communist parties coming into power during his lifetime, Orwell witnessed some of the most politically significant events of the last century (the Second World War, for instance), and such events arguably form the basis of his literary success. ‘Animal Farm’ and ’1984′ are both satires against a totalitarian government, and several of his essays, such as ‘The Prevention of Literature’, deal with the same matter in detail. ‘Every line of serious work I have written since 1936 (since the inception of the Spanish Civil War) has been written, directly or indirectly against totalitarianism and for democratic socialism, as I understand it,’ he says in ‘Why I Write,’ one of his most insightful essays. The context in which Orwell lived influenced his writing, then, and the context in which I live equally influences my own. One day I hope my writing might influence others. Ultimately, I do not want to be remembered as a moralist, fatalist or pragmatist: I just want to be remembered, with writing as my primary method, as someone who made a difference to other people.

In truth, to suggest Orwell’s literary success is solely due to the period in which he lived would unfairly discredit his undoubted talent. Though one’s subject matter can indeed help to intrigue a reader, and sometimes compensate for poor writing, it is mostly the responsibility of the writer to entertain their reader. Orwell’s mastery in this sense is evident via the fact one of his best essays, ‘Some Thoughts on the Common Toad’, is on a rather strange subject. The opening sentence reads, ‘Before the swallow, before the daffodil, and not much later than the snowdrop, the common toad salutes the coming of spring after his own fashion, which is to emerge from a hole in the ground, where he has lain buried since the previous autumn, and crawl as rapidly as possible towards the nearest patch of water’. Orwell’s depth of detail and clarity of expression, evident in the quoted passage (the longest word used is ‘daffodil’), set him apart from his contemporaries. Orwell is not remembered so much for his intellect, but for his simplicity – his simplicity of language. ‘The great enemy of clear language is insincerity’, he writes in ‘Politics and the English Language’, and he is right: he is absolutely right. Like Orwell, I want my writing to have a societal impact, ‘to push the world in a certain direction’, as he puts it, ‘and alter other people’s ideas about the kind of reality that they should strive after’. I am not the next Orwell, though, despite how much I wish to be. History, literally, does not repeat itself: Vladimir Lenin, Adolf Hitler, Francisco Franco, Orwell himself – all of them are long dead. My generation is now faced with new political issues and new fears: the threat of nuclear war looms ominously above Western civilisation, and one of the world’s largest economies, that of the United States, is peering over the edge of a fiscal cliff from which it may never fully recover if it falls. Whatever happens, I hope I will be able to write about it, and try to improve some part of society, no matter how small, in the process. It may be agonisingly hard at times but, no matter how much I complain about it, I will never stop loving writing – and I will never stop writing as a result.


  1. Chris Stupples says:

    Don’t ever stop writing. The future depends on communication which, despite modern innovations, needs the written word, an expression of feelings and a way of putting forward ideas without dissent. The old adage ‘the pen is mightier than the sword’ is still relevant today and must be preserved for the future.

    • benstupples says:

      ‘The pen is mightier than the sword’ indeed! That little maxim is too often forgotten, pushed out of our conscience by endless celebrity gossip columns and the tabloid press. Perhaps now is the time, with so much poor journalism in the mass media, when that saying should be remembered most. Cheers, Grandad – ‘Don’t ever stop writing’ is the best encouragement anyone could ever give me :).

  2. grammatteus says:

    Great work, great writing. I too am a writer on many things, including politics, with a desire to encourage debate and thinking. I don’t expect everyone to agree with me (few do LOL), but I look out for those who can engage in reasoned thought and be open to change their mind if needed and possible. My only complaint about this piece would be the word ‘bigoted’ – it’s such a negative word, and I know of no writer who is bigoted. Opinionated, maybe, with a desire to let the world know: “what I think is…”, but a bigot is someone, to me at least, almost incapable of proper writing and reasoned debate. Keep it up!

    • benstupples says:

      Dear Tim,

      Thank you visiting my blog!

      I have just been trying to find yours; I can’t find a link on your Gravatar profile. Could you send it to me?

      Having just changed ‘bigoted’ to ‘opinionated’ in the above article after reading your comment, I guess I fall into that bracket of people who are willing to change their minds. Writers are often the worst people at admitting they are wrong – we almost see acknowledging someone else’s opinion as a chink in our armour – but I think there is a strength in saying, ‘I was wrong here, you are right’. It earns people’s respect, encouraging them to think of you as a reasonable person, and subsequently makes them more willing to listen to you in future. In this instance, therefore, you were right and I was wrong, having double-checked in a dictionary, about ‘bigoted’. I interpreted it, wrongly, to have a similar meaning as ‘opinionated’ without such negative connotations! If you send me a link to some of your posts about politics, I will give them a read. I cannot promise I will agree with them, but I promise not to be bigoted ;).



      • grammatteus says:

        My experience of writers (and I have been in an online group from around the world for many years, and a ‘real’ one locally for a couple) is generally good, and while we have differing opinions on things, we tend not to degenerate into squabbles. The online group I am in has one rule : ‘no flames’ and it does tend to draw those who have no desire to flame others. A couple of other groups I joined before that DID tend to see certain bullies try to belittle and ‘talk over’ others but i truly hope they were the exception. Anyone should be able to change their mind or see another point of view because quite simply, nobody is perfect. It DOES engender greater respect from those who can also humble themselves, but bigots just see it as weakness if you don’t ‘stick to your guns’ 😦

        I find the gravatars on wordpress a bit strange too; they don’t link to anything of content. My own blog is: http://thealternativeulsterman.wordpress.com.

      • benstupples says:

        Having spent a good thirty minutes trying to figure it out, I can reveal the mystery of the Gravatar (it almost sounds like a Hollywood film, doesn’t it?): you need to add your blog’s link to your ‘Verified Services’, accessed, if I remember correctly, by clicking onto ‘Edit My Profile’. I hope that helps, and that the followers, if they haven’t already, start to flow thereafter!

        I really enjoyed reading through some of your posts, Tim, particularly your most recent poem, ‘I Don’t Want To Remember Him’. Its ending is haunting – it made me re-read each stanza – and poems always read better when its author does not use complex words, though I have been guilty of this myself in the past. Having received no feedback or constructive advice about my poems for years now, would you be willing to have a look at the ones I have published on my site? If you could, I would be very grateful! Have you written any others? If you have, it would be great to read them.

        I also liked reading through your post about Politics, a subject that interests me a lot. You being asked to “talk about something interesting, please?” made me nostalgic about almost every time I engage in political debate in a group conversation. I understand, of course I do, that some people are not particularly enthused by such a subject. However, I cannot understand people who reject it completely in conversation, who swat it down before it has been allowed to develop into something that might interest them. Have people always been this passive about politics? Or is it simply a case, as you suggest in your post, of people becoming unhealthily immersed in their surrounding world, preventing them from showing any concern for what surrounds them?

      • benstupples says:

        P.S. I hope you are fully recovered!

  3. grammatteus says:

    And “Why I Write” has also been a real inspiration for me too.

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