For Writers

It’s a noble thing to decide to try and make it as a writer. I’m automatically keener to anyone who admits to being a writer. Recently I met someone who expressed frustration about his earlier efforts trying to make a living as a writer, but found that doing so was impossible. He finally accepted a job totally unrelated to writing because it paid the bills. He concluded from his experience that “print media is dying.”

I would have to disagree with this often expressed view: all one has to do is consider the Internet. Once the Internet became the Internet “2.0”, it opened itself up for every-day users to contribute their work to third party websites. You need look no further than IMDB.com or Gamespot or Yelp to see people contributing content to the web. Content is being created for the Internet community, by the Internet community. Granted, it’s not making anybody but the hosting websites money, but it’s being created by writers for consumption. Bloggers are still on their own in attempting to produce enough diverse content to make a solid revenue stream.

But books are still being published every year in the tens of thousands. It is simply the case now that writers must adapt to changing times. Non-fiction books must now entertain as they edify. Fictional books must be engaging while delivering meaningful content. Everything a writer writes should be articulated well enough to be read without strain. Having advanced syntax is not a mortal sin, but an essay or story should be easily read, entertaining even, complicated syntax or no.

By the way, this is my biggest complaint with the erudite world of philosophy. I have met many a philosophy major who relish in incomprehensible works like Heidegger. I have to fault philosophers for making their works confounding by writing in cloistered language. The medium shouldn’t block the message with so much jargon and pedantry. A writer should communicate a point clearly and convincingly. Philosophers should be held to the same standards of writing as everyone else, if they would claim that their writing is actually good.

My core message for aspiring writers is this: don’t quit your efforts, the world needs your ideas. Writing is an art, and if you find yourself disposed to write for others, don’t let discouragement drown your desire to contribute meaningfully to the world of ideas. Bruce Lee said that failure in great efforts is not to be feared, only low aim. Failure at a glorious goal is still valuable to the world, and for you, yourself, to strive for.

It is noble to try to change the world with your ideas. It is important to not give into cynicism. Hope is as important for humanity as free will. If you have the inclination to write for others, embrace it. Creating a work that will outlive your life is a great endeavor. And in the words of William James, act as though what you do can make a difference, because it can. Take note that writers like Rachel Carlson changed the world through their writing. If you can eloquently sell your ideas or tell a story, don’t abandon your writing skills because pragmatism and doubt dampen your dreams. You were given your skill set for a reason, make something of it.

© David Metcalf

Advertisements

Generating a Core Values List

I recently bought some books on journaling looking for ideas on things to write about in my electronic journal. Journaling is something I do when I have a spare moment between full time grad school and a weekend job. It was also once a useful trick when I worked as a substitute teacher because when a day was slow with nothing to do, I could write a journal entry in class and the students would assume that I was writing a report for the teacher (mostly this worked for days when all the classes were watching videos for the day, or had individual assignments to work on quietly).

A recommendation from Writing Down Your Soul by Janet Conner is to generate a “core values list” and narrow it down as much as possible. This is good advice, and I decided to share it with my blog. If you already journal, or you’re looking to start, I think a good topic to begin with would be to create a list of core values that you hope to practice to the best of your abilities. It doesn’t mean that you will always succeed, but it does create a sense of what’s important to you and helps you identify who it is that you want to be in life.

I will provide a list of some of my core values because I had fun doing this.

Tao of the Sage

  1. Accept every person as they are: travelers on their own journey.
  2. Treat everyone with respect and kindness, no exceptions.
  3. Have gratitude for all that you have, and for all the people who have supported you and been your friend.
  4. Accept your mortality as a fact of life, and live each day with no presumed promise of the next.
  5. Forgive those who wrong you or speak ill of you, for your sake if not for theirs.
  6. Accept uncertainty and doubt as a basic component of all beliefs, but to seek to understand the world, other people, and your own beliefs as best as you can.
  7. Accept that there may be a pantheistic, Einsteinian God, while having awareness that there might not be any higher intelligence to the universe, and live life with this realization in mind.
  8. Know that everyone, even yourself, is capable of great heroism and horrific cruelty in every moment of his or her existence, and all other actions in the continuum between the two.

Most Importantly:

Nemo mortalum omnibus horis sabit.  “No mortal is wise at all times.”

Put simply: always do your best; expect to fail, but never surrender.

When you complete your list, narrow it down to your best items (my original list had 16 items), and print them out in order to post them somewhere in your home.  I recently purchased an 8″ by 11″ frame so that I could post mine in my apartment.
This is the final printout.  It's already framed but already I need to re-print because I'm tweaking the phrasing.  You'll spot some slight differences between the list in the blog versus this pic.  That's because I believe very much in precision of language (except not in the sense of the term used in "The Giver).

This is the final printout. It’s already framed but already I need to re-print because I’m tweaking the phrasing. You’ll spot some slight differences between the list in the blog versus this pic. That’s because I believe very much in precision of language (except not in the sense of the term used in “The Giver).

This is where my Core Values list is currently displayed.  Pictured here is my guitar and a picture of my father, circa 1973.

This is where my Core Values list is currently displayed. Pictured here is my guitar and a picture of my father, circa 1973.

© David Metcalf