About readwritenow

writer, editor, publisher, avid reader, wife, mother, opinionated middle-aged, guitar playing (sorta), singing (sorta), liberal, Midwestern, Greekophile

For the things we have to learn before we can do, we learn by doing.
~ Aristotle (384 – 322 BC)

(Warning: Sunday afternoon rambling alert…)

What am I? Since my novel is not published (yet), am I a writer, an “aspiring writer,” an unpublished novelist, or what? I don’t write short stories, so I’m not submitting to lit journals and I’m a sometimes prolific but almost always pretty terrible poet, so I’m not submitting to poetry anthologies. I write novels. But I haven’t been paid to write novels, so am I merely an amateur novelist?

Last night I took my youngest daughter out to pizza where we talked about a story idea she’s been working on and possible plot twists in the next book in my Aithera series. She’s nineteen, a sophomore in college and has already had more recognition for her writing than I have. She went to the Iowa Young Writers Studio and was awarded a full scholarship to the Young Writers Institute at Washington University. In high school, she won both poetry and short story prizes in the writing contests judged by alumni authors. And she received a poetry prize from the Wednesday Club (founded in 1890) which has honored many famous literary figures in the past. She has worked on countless poems, short stories and novels over the years and still she hesitates to call herself a writer.


(She’s also an amazing artist, but I digress….)

I paint (not as much as I’d like to) abstracts canvases where I like to play with color and texture, but I do it as a hobby and I would never presume to call myself an artist. But writing is different. I don’t want to “be” an artist–I want to “be” a writer. And yet, even though I’ve written all my life, I too have hesitated to lay claim to the title: writer.

There are lots of people who ride bikes for exercise, sport, or just enjoyment and they may call themselves cyclists. Do they have to be competing in the Tour de France to earn the name? There are people who cook for a living and are “chefs” and people who cook for enjoyment and are “gourmet chefs.” Do they both have to be credentialed?

What is it about the creative arts that makes some hesitate to lay claim to the title? Many artists and writers achieve success without MFA’s or other degrees–without credentials. And many more people sketch or paint watercolors for fun or write in journals every day and would never dream of showing–or trying to sell–their work to someone else. Are they artists? Writers? Or must you create/write with an external audience in mind in order to earn the title?

For those of us who create/write and want to get our work out there to external audiences but just haven’t achieved that goal yet, it’s sometimes difficult to get over the lack of credential without the imprimatur of having an agent represent you (so you can say, “yes, I’m a writer and my agent is working on getting the book out there”) or an editor/publisher who actually puts your words between two covers and puts a real book up for sale–with their logo on the spine.

But I think I’ve finally learned, at age 50, that, as Aristotle says, “For the things we have to learn before we can do, we learn by doing.” For years I’ve been writing. And during all that time, hopefully, I’ve been learning to be a better writer. And with each new project I undertake, I’m learning by doing. So with a new novel started, one completed, and three others in some state of suspended animation, I finally feel confident in saying:

I am a writer.

And so is my daughter.

Now, I have to get back to my story…

If you wish to be a writer, write.*
~Epictetus (AD 55 – AD 135)

For at least 2,000 years, the best advice for aspiring writers was to just do it. Just write. Write every day. Like any other habit or exercise, the writer who writes daily will get better at his/her craft. And the writer who reads incessantly–and who reads great writers–will inevitably internalize what looks right on the page and learn what sounds right to the ear.

We all know we should write every day. The problem is not the want of writing, but making the time for writing (and/or blogging, tweeting, editing, marketing, promoting, working the day job, eating, sleeping, exercising)…. As I start looking over a long-neglected manuscript and filling in the outline for my next Aithera novel, I have to keep Epictetus’s advice in mind and know that if I want to be a writer, I must write. Period. No excuses.

* Epictetus was a Stoic philosopher who was born into slavery in Hierapolis, Phrygia which is present day Pamukkale, Turkey. He lived much of his life in Rome as a slave for a wealthy freedman (former slave) and secretary of Nero. His owner apparently encouraged his studies and eventually he gained his freedom and began to teach philosophy. Sometime around 93 AD, the Emperor Domitian banished all philosophers from Rome and, ultimately, from Italy. Epictetus left Rome and founded his own philosophical school in Nicopolis in Epirus, Greece. He believed philosophy is not merely a theoretical discipline to be studied, but a way of life to be lived.

By words, the mind is winged.
– Aristophanes (446 BC – ca. 386 BC)

I started my first blog in 2007 as a sort of online journal in which I recorded my thoughts and reactions to current events, book reviews, some poetry (mostly bad), and song lyrics which, along with their basic chord patterns, were all less than good and all sounded like the same knock-off quasi-political protest songs I grew up with in the 1960s-1970s. Over time the blog grew more political and less about books and writing. After the 2008 election, I was exhausted and the blog fizzled out.

But now that I’m attempting to become a published author, I keep hearing that I should have a blog to promote my work. After all, that’s what I told my own authors. As a co-founder of Blank Slate Press, a small press devoted to discovering, nurturing, publishing and promoting new voices from the greater St. Louis area, I urged our debut authors (Fred Venturini and Anene Tressler) to not only blog, but to get Twitter accounts (@fredventurini and @AneneWrites – please follow them!) and to use them to connect to others in the writing community and to potential readers. So, it is seems only fair that I should take my own advice.

The problem is that, GAH!, I don’t want to add one more thing to my plate. I’m already behind at the Blank Slate Press blog and I’ve got manuscripts to read and edit, marketing for my authors, and I’ve got two novels of my own in progress. So…I’ve come up with a partial solution.

While I may blog here about writing, reading, publishing, and marketing, my main focus is going to be on Ancient Greece. I’ll include what I think are fascinating tidbits about the culture, the people, the myths, the wars, and whatever else about Greece that strikes my fancy. But most of all, I’ll be posting quotes and/or passages from the works of many of the greatest thinkers in the history of civilization. My aim will be to post quotes and passages that inspire, provoke or that serve as “food for thought.” So welcome, return often, and, above all, remember that “By words, the mind is winged.” So, let’s take flight together.