If you wish to be a writer, write. – Epictetus
What does that mean?
While it is usually hard to find these quotes, I have managed to find a precise source for this quote of Epictetus. It is in his Discourses, in a section talking about how Habits are Formed.
The meaning is both simple and profound. If you want to be a writer, then all you have to do is write. That’s all there is to it, just start writing. That’s how most great writers got their start.
This quote is about doing, not just thinking. It’s about determining what you want, and taking steps in that direction. You can start with training, or try it on your own, but to be a writer, you must write.
Why is writing important?
To become a great writer, write a great deal, and learn while doing so. At least that is how I would extend the quote. Well, no one wants to be a bad writer, right? But we all write. E-mails, texts, notes to others, notes in class, software, documents, or analysis for work, a blog… The list could go on and on.
Writing is one of many ways of expressing ourselves, and a fairly intimate one at that. And if you’re going to have to write, you can either dread it, or you can get busy doing it, right? To me, that is at the heart of the quote, getting busy and writing it. Otherwise, you aren’t much of a writer, are you?
Yet how many of us put things off, and for various reasons, don’t do them? Either we don’t think we’d be good enough, or we don’t think we can actually accomplish what we want to do. This quote has the antidote. Action. Do something. Take the first step. To become a writer, write. If you wish to become something else, simply do that instead.
Where can I apply this in my life?
When I started this blog, I would have given you a dozen reasons why I’m not a writer. I’m dyslexic. I have clumsy fingers. I don’t have anything to write about. No one wants to hear what I have to say. I don’t like writing. And there are countless other reasons, excuses, and lies to add to that list.
But, on a lark, I decided to try my hand at it. I started with a simple premise, and just ground out a few posts. In short, to become a writer, I wrote. And here I am, over three and a half years later, with multiple millions of page views already. How did I do it? I wrote. It’s just that simple.
Take a moment and consider what you might want to do in your life. Something you haven’t done because you don’t know how, don’t know where you’d begin, or really don’t know if you’d be good at it. Grab some paper and write down a list of them, or at least your top three. Next to each, list your reasons or excuses for not doing it.
What would it take to actually get it started? Could you find a way to try it out on a small scale first? Could you start writing poems by reading books of poetry and imitate what you see? Could you find a book on how to write poems, attend a class, or even find a mentor? All these are ways to get started.
Pick the thing you’d most like to do on your list, and consider how to handle your objections, as written. If you don’t know how, consider what you would need to do to get enough information to have a little more confidence in yourself. If you don’t understand it well enough, find a book (search engines are wonderful tools), find a class, find a mentor.
The idea is to run yourself out of excuses. There may be a limitation you cannot overcome directly, but I’ve corresponded with a blind person, who uses text to spoken word software to ‘read’ what I write. There are few excuses which cannot be overcome, unless you want them to remain. If you argue for your limitations, we cannot help you.
You can have excuses, or you can have results. But you can’t have both. The one will crowd out the other. If you want it, and you want it badly enough, you will find a reason, and you will get stated. From that point, you will have to learn, adjust, and determine if you wish to continue. But you can’t do it until you have taken that first step.
You never know what will happen after you get started. You may find a new pleasurable pass-time, a new hobby, or even a new calling. You may find that you don’t like it. But you won’t know until you try. So take a deep breath, and take that first step. After all, that’s how this blog started. I simply wrote.