Saturday, December 29, 2012

Writing quote XIII

Times are bad. Children no longer obey their parents, and everyone is writing a book.
Marcus Tullius Cicero (Roman philosopher, statesman and orator – b. 3 January, 106BCE)*

So, it seems that even two thousand years ago parents despaired that their kids’ generation would be the downfall of society, that everything that they’d worked for would be swept aside by the narcissism and self-importance of the ‘modern youth’.

What does this tell us? Simply, that people are the same now as they’ve ever been. The same things drive them to behave the way they do now as they ever did – lust, greed, power, fear, love.

But there’s more. Look at the last part of the quote: ‘…everyone is writing a book.’ Really? More than two thousand years ago, people were reading books, laying them down when they’d finished and saying to themselves – and each other – ‘Huh! I could do that!’

Of course, the publishing mechanisms were very different then. The printing press was still more than 1,500 years away, e-readers more than five hundred beyond that. Even so, it would seem that there were people in Ancient Rome who believed that they had something worth saying. That their words were worthy of preservation. That their views deserved to be heard just as much as those of anyone else. And of course, there would have certainly been those who felt that they were absolutely entitled to any success that came their way.

It’s probably safe to assume that there were people being ‘published’ back then who were hacks. Perhaps they got their big break because of family connections, or because they just managed to jump on the crest of a zeitgeist. Perhaps they slept with the editor. And by that same token, we can be confident that there were some remarkable writers mooching around Rome who never quite got that break, no matter how undeniable their talent.

And now we're all writing books. Not everyone should, perhaps, but if we want to, we can. One of the freedoms we hold most dear is the ability – the liberty – to express ourselves. The truth is, no one has the right to tell you that your creative dream is frivolous or worthless or silly or unattainable. But at the same time, no one is entitled to success. 

So go ahead and write that book, but keep in mind that you’re not the only one doing so. Which means all you can do is work hard to make your writing better than everyone else’s, and hope for the best.

* This quote is somewhat apocryphal. It’s usually attributed to Cicero; however, unlike most of his other quotes, no one seems to be able to name the work from which is taken. The other possible sources include an Egyptian priest, an Assyrian clay tablet, and a stone inscription from Turkey. But since these supposed sources are much older (2,000 to 5,000 years older, in fact) than Cicero’s relatively recent observation, that simply reinforces the point I’m making. For more, go here:


Sue Whiting said...

That quote is priceless! Same old, same old, I guess.

Anonymous said...

Unfortunately it's also apocryphal.