Stoicism in Writing

Stoicism is the idea that whatever happens happens and that we need to accept it. Not everything is in our control and to those that are not, don’t worry about it. To those that are, don’t worry about it. Thus stoicism, embracing the power of indifference.

Okay, how does this philosophy lesson that sounds good in theory but terribly difficult in practice apply to writing? Well, I would think it very obvious since most new writers (and some veteran ones) are Dr. Spock-type perfectionist that fuss over every little thing and are most likely part of the grammar police and need to chill out a bit.

But, in case it isn’t obvious, let me show you how it applies.

What if I told you that the stories you write are not within your control? Sure, you can influence them and turn them in a certain direction but they’re not in your control. What do I mean by this? I mean that you don’t control the course of events that compose your story, that those events come from something greater than you, that your imagination is the one that supplies the story and you are the vessel with which it composes the story with.

But come on, we all know this right? Sure we do. So why do we let our own emotions get in the way of things when we write? Why do we try to write god-level content on the first go? Why do we judge and criticize our own work just because of what other people think about it, especially when it isn’t even us consciously divining the damn thing?

That’s where Stoicism comes in.

Now, I’m not going to get into the principles and Marcus Aurelius’ The Meditations to explain it. This isn’t philosophy, this is literature. But what I am going to do, is explain how the power of indifference can vastly improve writing.

  1. Objectivity- when writing in third person, the narrator often has to be objective in some fashion. Well, with the power of indifference, you can become the objective narrator and relate the events as they happen without your ego-mind judging and criticizing before the thing is even finished. You can focus on making the story as clear as possible and adding necessary details that make the world come alive, it also helps you with getting in the zone and doing deep work where your mind is clear and nothing exists but the story in front you.
  2. Turning Pro- This is a term coined by Steven Pressfield, author of The War of Art and other non-fiction self-help books for writers. What he means by “Turning Pro” is that you focus on writing, that you don’t ask for help unless you need it, and that though you may ask someone for their opinion, you don’t care what they think. Sure, you may take it into consideration but you don’t let it affect you personally in any way, shape or form. You simply go on writing.
  3. Storytelling- When you get rid of that perfectionist inside your head by embracing indifference, you find that the quality of your work increases because you’re focused on doing the one thing that matters, telling the damn story. You’re not trying to sound pretty and use flowery language or purple prose, you’re not trying to use tricks and techniques that make it look good when it actually sucks, and you’re not trying to be overly original at the expense of relatability and alienating your audience.

Those are just three things indifference can help you with on your writing journey. Can you come up with anymore? Leave’em in the comments below and share some ideas on what you want to learn about next. I’m always open to searching up new things and learning!

And, as always, that’s my spiel on the subject.

Till next week. . .

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