The Stoic Writer

Writer

I have to share this article from Medium, one of the great writing resources on the Internet. While not targeted specifically at writers, this list of Stoic principles for regaining control of one’s life and time is pure gold for us scribbling souls. The article, 9 Stoic Practices That Will Help You Thrive In The Madness Of Modernity, quotes famous Stoic thinkers and provides examples of how these insights from ancient times can benefit us.

You’ll want to read the whole thing, but here are some outstanding selections:

1. Develop An Internal Locus Of Control

“Man is disturbed not by things, but by the views he takes of them.” — Epictetus

Much of what happens in life is not within our control. The Stoics recognised this undeniable truth, and focused instead on what they could do.

Born a slave, it would seem that Epictetus had no reason to believe he could control anything. He was permanently crippled from a broken leg given to him by his master. Epictetus would live and die in poverty.

But that wasn’t what Epictetus thought. He would say that even while his property and even his body was not within his control, his opinions, desires, and aversions still remained his. That was something that he owned.

You can find dozens of articles stressing that your characters must have agency, that is, the ability to evaluate, decide, and act, but step one for any writer is to develop and exercise their own agency. You want to write, but darn it, there are bills to pay, friends who want you to watch the big game, and those new cat videos on You Tube are so funny! Who’re you fooling? It’s not external things stopping you from writing – it’s you.

Interesting characters with agency affect their own story. As writers, we must take an active role in writing the stories of our lives.

3. Don’t Outsource Your Happiness

“I have often wondered how it is that every man loves himself more than all the rest of men, but yet sets less value on his own opinions of himself than on the opinions of others.” — Marcus Aurelius

Much of what we do stems from our primal need to be liked and accepted by others. Disapproval from our social group had serious repercussions in the past. It would have likely meant exile and eventually death in the wilderness.

That’s still true to some extent today. But how much time and effort do we spend trying to win the approval of others? What is it costing us?

Your PC dings, you check your email, and there it is – another rejection. Yes, it’s a let down. We all know how scary it is to hit that submit button. But a rejection is no excuse for self-pity. First of all, editors reject pieces for all sorts of reasons. Your piece may be similar to a submission they’ve already selected, it may be the wrong length, it may be a fantastic piece of writing whose tone doesn’t fit with the editor’s current theme. Or mood. Or whatever.

More important, it’s self-defeating to put your pride as a writer in the heads of strangers. Yes, we want others to read and appreciate what we’ve put so much of our hearts and time into. But we must accept the fact that not everyone will embrace every piece.

6. Consolidate Your Thoughts In Writing

“No man was ever wise by chance” — Seneca

Of the many things we can do daily, none are as important as looking inward. The act of self-reflection forces us to question ourselves and examine our own assumptions of the world. It’s how the answers to some of the world’s biggest questions have surfaced.

Modern life is abuzz with distractions. There are dazzling time-wasters and cleverly packaged temptations that can quickly lead you astray. Taking the time to gather and organize your thoughts by writing them down is not easy, but the very act of writing forces you to focus and think clearly. That’s the way to find our true selves within the modern whirlpool. Our passion to write is our path to liberation.

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