Happy Birthday Emperor, and Thanks for the Good Advice

Marcus Aurelius Was Multi-Talented

2019 0426 Marcus Aurelius Lit Quote

Today marks what would have been Roman Emperor and philosopher Marcus Aurelius’ 1898th birthday. That’s after some minor adjustment for a little Julian calendar anomaly hundreds of years ago. Adjusted or not, he lived a really long time ago. Apparently Marcus had a bit of influence back then.

Did you know he wrote a book?  Not surprising, given his philosophical bent. He entitled his work “To Himself”, it is now known as Meditations. I suspect how-to-be-a-good-writer books weren’t so common back then. I’ll even suggest that self-help books were relatively unknown in the Roman Empire.

Timeless Advice from the Emperor

Despite that, Aurelius offers sound advice for would-be authors.

If you’re like me, you’ve got little notebooks and random scraps of paper, and maybe index cards with flashes of brilliance on them.  If you’re like me, they may be populating your glovebox, crinkling in your handbag, nestled in between bills and magazines. Great little gems, scenes, starting points, mental pictures, scattered amidst regular life and that paying job.

What good are they doing you?  Well, other than helping kick in that declutter urge.  You’ve jotted down that great bit of inspiration, but it won’t gain much traction scribbled on the back of a Walgreens receipt.

Just Do It

More recently, some Nike marketers paraphrased the great philosopher and (snicker) ran with it. Apologies, sometimes I just can’t help myself. But you cannot deny that this advice works. It worked for selling ridiculous quantities of casual footwear. And it’ll work for you, too.

That novel or poem, short story, memoir or even flash piece will never see the light of day if you just think about it.  Get pen in hand or fingers on keyboard and start saving those words rattling around in you head. Sit down and do so regularly, and if you do, as Marcus reminds us, “thou wilt have finished”.

Well done!

 

 

 

 

 

 

At Least I’ve Got the Page Numbers Done


“I’m writing a book. I’ve got the page numbers done.” ~ Stephen Wright


Then…

I suppose I should begin with the times when it was easy.  When I was a student, an intern, a researcher, a scientist, an engineer, those were the easy days.  I wrote textbooks and technical papers, manuals and government reports.  I wrote Really Hard Stuff, except that is wasn’t that hard.  That writing came with the job, and the priority was the data, the process, the procedure, the specifications.  I got published.  My work is still in use, decades later, around the world.  I made a few bucks.

Early on, when I was part of a team, I knew I’d be expected to get our results documented.  Nobody else wanted to do it, after all. Except, here’s thing…  Whatever you’ve got in your head is amazing and profound and life-changing only to yourself until you share it with others.  Not just share, but share in a way that can be understood and put into practice.  I never got why others hated writing.  I loved distilling a whole mess of technical into something organized and understandable.  Useful.charles bukowski quote about writers block

And I Got Paid…

Later, I did more solo projects.  First I’d justify the cost.  Then I’d do the researching and the calculating, the experimenting and the graphing, the justifying and the concluding. I’d get to document the whole messy thing.  I’d distill piles of sticky notes, mounds of data and journals and scribbles into something useful.  And people would read what I wrote and use it and make a difference.  I taught people.  I shared new discoveries.  I developed and documented procedures that saved corporations more money than I’ll earn in a lifetime.  I showed workers how to do dangerous things without killing themselves or anyone else.  I revealed the secrets that engineers needed so they could teach to those whose brains work more traditionally.  I translated government mandated policies into real-world application.  And I enjoyed every last minute of it.

And I got published.   And I got paid.

Then I took a break, set my sights on different priorities.  And now I’m back.

Now…

And I want to make stories.  I’d like to change people’s lives just a teensy bit, one chapter at a time. I hope to create something compelling enough that it provides entertainment and escape and maybe even a life lesson or two. That’d be perfect.  I’d settle for even one of the above.

And I am Stuck.

I see too much expanse of blank whiteness, sitting silently and expectantly, mocking me for my inability to string together a few coherent words.  Oh, I want to silence that accusing blankness with some genius keystrokes or the scritchtey scribing.  The inability to string together a coherent paragraph always takes hold at the worst possible time. No, not when I’m facing a deadline.  The absolute most  inconvenient time to have trouble composing is those occasions, oh so few and far between, when I have uninterrupted time to dedicate solely to my craft.  Most unfair!

Okay, so today I got nothing done on my novel.  But I thumbed my nose at The Block and got a blog post put together. Perhaps this will be the introduction to my  future series on how to overcome The Block.  Ideas a-plenty – I’ve got’em!

Now, let’s see what I can do with them.

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