Oliver Barton will be joining Kathy Fish and I in the beautiful hills of Casperia, Italy, next May! I got a chance to chat with Oliver a bit about his writing process and how to stay in touch with the creative inner child and a sense of play while making art.
Nancy Stohlman: The biggest challenge most writers have is finding the time to write. How do you “retreat” in your day-to-day life in order to honor your creativity?
Oliver Barton: Time is not the real issue with me; my enemy is prevarication. One way I combat it is to repair to a café. There I can sit in the isolation of the babble of voices and lose myself in whatever I’m trying to write. I like to write in longhand there so as to be entirely divorced from the temptations of the web. Otherwise, there is the time before getting up, lying in bed letting a story unfold…
Oliver: In a writing group we run, as an exercise, we give ourselves ten minutes and a more-or-less randomly chosen trigger, and simply write. No time to have second thoughts or to plan, just to get going and see what happens. And nearly always people end up with a beginning, a middle and an end that they never expected. Wonderful! Let the right-side of the brain take over – is that it? It is no big deal if the piece is rubbish, it doesn’t matter. So we don’t worry about it and most of the time little gems and an extraordinary variety result!
Nancy: Yes, I do something similar–creative play! What piece of your own writing are you most proud of? Where can we read it (if it’s available)?
Oliver: Today, I think I’m most proud of The Signpost, (https://www.dropbox.com/s/shyd0un7fo0rt8o/The%20Signpost.pdf?dl=0).
Nancy: Wonderful! Now react to this quote by Edgar Degas: “Painting is easy when you don’t know how, but very difficult when you do.” Do you think it’s the same for writing?
Oliver: A dreadful little rhyme we used to chant in the playground when I was very young and which we thought exceedingly funny comes to mind:
See the happy moron,
He doesn’t give a damn.
I wish I were a moron –
I say, perhaps I am.
As a child, anything goes until the great adult world says, ‘No, you should do it like this,’ and inhibition and embarrassment sets in. The lesson for me, and perhaps from what Dégas said, is to use your experience and knowledge and skill to present what the inner child wants to say.
Nancy: I love what you just said about inhibition and embarrassment as the real enemies to our inner child’s wisdom–I agree. Have you been to Italy before? What are you most looking forward to?
Oliver: Yes. Thrice to the Castello Sannazzaro in Giarole, where we sang Renaissance polyphony for a week, and a trip to Ostia Antica and Rome. What better place to let the writing flow, along with the wine! Who knows what will result.
Oliver: I once toured with an opera group playing the part of the Betrayer in the Guise of a Dog while suffering from Shingles.
Nancy: I adore opera. Maybe you’ll sing for us in that big castle in Italy??? Anything else you want to add?
Oliver: I have a website, www.musicolib.net/index.html, which currently is music that I’ve published (online), much of which I wrote and also houses archives of the Green Branch Opera Group.
Nancy: Thanks so much for taking the time, Oliver! I look forward to seeing you again in May!
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