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Writing Quote: Sit or Stand?

April 4, 2010

Happy Easter.  Today’s writing quote comes from the famed writer and naturalist Henry David Thoreau.  Best known for his experiment in simple living chronicled in his book Walden, Thoreau had this to say on the subject of writing:

How vain it is to sit down to write when you have not stood up to live.

~Henry David Thoreau

For writers, of course, we have to sit down to write.  But that does not preclude standing up to live.  The best of writing, I think, flows from living first.

Of course, living can be a relative term.  All of us are alive, in the organic sense, sure.  But are we alive, in the sense that we are full of energy and vibrancy?  That we take each moment and make as much of it as we can?

Those are hard things to do – not for writers, but for anyone.  There’s more to experience just here, on our humble marble in space, than can be seen or experienced in even the most adventuresome and free of lives.  Most of us are not so free of responsibilities and obligations.  But having those responsibilities does not mean that we can’t get out and experience life.  Sometimes we’re limited to adventures a little closer to home, but we can still get out and see it and do it.

Dear Wife and I, for instance, like to occasionally take a trip over the state line up into the mountains to visit her grandfather.  It makes for a great opportunity to “stand up and live”, feeling free from the weight of those obligations without ever having to leave them completely behind.

What’s more, living this life – whether it’s just finding joy in the day-to-day moments, or taking the weekend to go visit a favorite place – as a writer you’ll find that much more invigorated to write when you sit down to write again.

Honestly, I think that’s a particularly appropriate message for Easter Sunday, a holiday which is primarily a celebration of life: whether you celebrate Easter religiously or secularly.

Happy Writing, & Happy Easter.

2 Comments leave one →
  1. April 4, 2010 12:33 pm

    It’s my theory that’s why most writers don’t get published until they hit their 30’s. I think we need to get enough experience under our belts before we can write about life convincingly.

    Happy Easter!

    • April 5, 2010 8:37 am

      I don’t doubt that there’s something to that. Even for those of us who write stories based in “invented worlds”, our experience in life (or lack thereof) still shines through in the way that we approach characterization and dialog.

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