I have been doing my best in an untutored way, to live a Stoic. When I say ‘untutored’ I mean there on-one I can speak with to talk about various issues, and ideas I may have about this Stoic Life ‘thing’ I am trying to live.
I have read about stoicism, I have read a book about Stoicism by Massimo Pigliucci, and I try to understand my life in terms of what I do, and whether I am approaching my life in the proper, Stoic ways. I do my best to do the best I can, for myself, for other people, for the wider world. Is this enough?
Well, my life is not over, I hope I still have many more years to live. So obviously continuing to live my life, looking to making the best decisions for all will have to continue. I look to others, who are doing good, and try to emulate their ways, if possible. I try to look to the wisest ways to live this life I have. I try to look at the true reasons for things, and not lay the blame where it is wrong to lay it there.
I am aware we all are human, at various levels of knowledge, life skills, wisdom, and so on. I am unable to say the best way for everything for all, because the circumstances for different people requires different actions. And every day, might bring different needs and so actions …
I know what I most wish to do with my life, right now, but I am aware too, that by writing these words here, now, I am certainly not doing that wish of mine. That wish is to write books in a particular genre, and sell lots of them. Simple, yes?
But I’m not doing that, am I? And why is that? I’m looking at my life and thinking about things, and absolutely zero words therefore are currently being written by me, in the genre I tell myself I most wish to write books in. This is a thing that requires thought though, and so here I am, ‘journaling’ on this matter …
What is the reason?
I have been sending small sections of my book, in my most wished for genre to a friend, and she has indicated she is enjoying what I have written. So, I am able to write entertainingly, as is needed if I am to get books published. I am only writing short fragments of a book which will need to have a great many more words.
My suspicion is that I fear not actually being able to write well enough, but what of it? I am not dependant on writing, to have food, shelter, and loved ones supporting me. I will have those things, no matter what I do with my time, really. That fear is a fake fear, and I am being pretentious even caring about it, I think.
So OK, that actually feels true, but what of it? Right now, I have nothing I must do. I have no need of more food right now, I have water close by, I am comfortable. I feel what I need, if I am going to be the writer in the genre I wish to write in, I need to actually properly commit to it, and not ‘fluff around’ merely playing with the idea of this novel writing.
I know how many words are required, I understand the genre well enough. So I need to write. If I get a book written and it is never published, will my life be ruined? No, it won’t. I have plenty of books written and appreciated by others. My skills with words are of a high standard.
Commitment, yes, that, or more truly, the lack thereof, that is the reason for my lack of steady progress with this first book, which could it is hoped, lead onto the next book, and the next, and so on. So how to make myself meet this commitment?
I’ve just been outside to do one of my tasks for the day, a small thing, easily done. Being outside though, looking at the various plants we have out there, seeing Nature at work, well what could be a better inspiration than Nature, for finding Stoic ways of doing the best thing.
A mandarin tree will only produce mandarins if it has enough water, and shelter. Without those things, fruits if they come, will be burned by the hot sun, and not grow. And even with the best care, that tree can only produce mandarin fruit, nothing else. But the tree doesn’t think about these things, it just does what Nature intends it to do, following the rules laid down in the seed that grew to become the tree.
My dog, She may like to be patted, as a cat may also, but she is definitely a dog, and is content to be that thing she is, as the mandarin tree also seems content to be that tree. So who am I? I am a woman, with some talent in writing, who wants to do her best for self, family, community, and the world. I indeed to that the best I can for all. I am content with that. I may aspire for other things, but my most important thing is to do my best at doing the best I can in life.
This further thinking is leading me to consider who wants me to write in that genre, and my answer is multi-pronged. I do, some of my friends do, others in the world, if they know of my want, may also. But the world doesn’t need it, nor do those others. Is it only a small part of me that wants this book, these books? Or is it a different thing?
I feel I will have greater self-respect, if I were able to do this thing. But am I lacking in self-respect in other matters? No, I am not. I am good at many of the things I do. I am a worthy person. Do I need to write anything at all to continue being a worthy person? Yes, I feel if I were to cease doing one part of my writing life, it will be a sad, even a bad thing. But there is no way I would stop doing that particular writing.
What I write of, is a community newsletter that people enjoy, and even rely on, to some extent. It is a regular thing, it has commitments it holds to, and if I were to suddenly stop producing it, I would be letting down many, including myself, but especially my community. That writing is far more important than my writing of particular kinds of books.
Because that community newsletter has a form, and a time for production, I easily follow along as I have for many years, and get it done. Book writing though is something different. But the principles of getting something done are simple (I’ve just done some googling and found my answer, here https://www.howtobeast.com/stoic-principles!)
This is my answer – decide what I want to do, and just do it! Bang, just like that. I want to be a writer of Cosy Murder Mysteries? Fine. Write them.
So my problem may have been too much thinking, and simply not enough doing. Goodbye, I have a cosy murder mystery book to write!
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4 thoughts on “Being a Stoic – What Is It?”
Your post reminded me of one of Seneca’s sayings describing fear as being a self-imposed form of torture. “He who indulges in empty fears earns himself real fears.”
Our thoughts influence how we interpret the world. If we spend too much time in our own heads we can risk trapping ourselves in a vicious cycle of self-fulfilling prophecies. We can’t let fear hold us back. When we find ourselves in these trying moments, we need to reflect on Nike’s motto—Just do it.
It’s a fitting maxim for Nike, named after the Greek Goddess of Victory so I like to think of it as the formula for success. Victory = Just do it. Keep up your Stoic studies and writing.
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Thank you for these wise words, Joshua. This 2000 year old way of thinking is certainly still valid now. Pandemic and wars, people and pastimes, so much of it the same thing, over and over …
I agree. Want to be a writer? Write. There’s no other way
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