Saturday, December 10, 2022

The Urgency of Now and Knowing Who You Are

By Scott D. Parker

Well, by my own definition, I’m officially in my mid-fifties.

For any given decade, I consider the years ending in zero through three to be “early.” Four, five, and six are “mid” while the last three years are “late.” I turned fifty-four on Tuesday.

You might think that would be cause for a great, big sigh. Sure, there’s a little of that as well as the realization that there are more years behind me than in front of me. That, my friends, is just a sign of mortality.

But here’s the giant cherry on top of this sundae we call life: I’m alive! So it is always good to recognize and respect and cherish that simple fact.

And yet, as I took stock of what I had accomplished and all that happened in my fifty-third year, I started to wonder what I would do in my fifty-fourth. It was the latter thought that gave me a sense of urgency.

Marcus Aurelius, the Roman emperor who was also a Stoic, wrote the following opening paragraphs in Book 5 (or should it be V?) of his Meditations (as translated by Gregory Hayes):

At dawn, when you have trouble getting out of bed, tell yourself: “I am rising to do the work of a human being. What do I have to complain about, if I’m going to do what I was born for—the things I was brought into the world to do? Or is this what I was created for? To huddle under the blankets and stay warm?”

—But it’s nicer here…

So were you born to feel “nice”? Instead of doing things and experiencing them? Don’t you see the plants, the birds, the ants and spiders and bees going about their individual tasks, putting the world in order, as best they can? And you’re not willing to do your job as a human being? Why aren’t you running to do what your nature demands?


Much of that passage reflects on what it is like to be a human. Heck, I’ll be honest and say that the spirit of these words permeate my brain when the alarm goes off at 5am and I need to get up and get to writing. Usually, but not always, they are enough and I get up.

When it comes to the writing side of things, re-imagine that same passage but substitute “Writer” for “human being”:

At dawn, when you have trouble getting out of bed, tell yourself: “I am rising to do the work of a Writer. What do I have to complain about, if I’m going to do what I was born for—the things I was brought into the world to do? Or is this what I was created for? To huddle under the blankets and stay warm?”

—But it’s nicer here…

So were you born to feel “nice”? Instead of doing things and experiencing them? Don’t you see the plants, the birds, the ants and spiders and bees going about their individual tasks, putting the world in order, as best they can? And you’re not willing to do your job as a Writer? Why aren’t you running to do what your nature demands?


My fiction self fell apart in 2022 and I’m largely (partially?) to blame. That’s what I wrote about last week. I mostly shrugged it off, chalking things up to life experiences (my son moved out of the house), the day job (the most creative day job I’ve ever had), and a willingness to consume stories rather than produce them.

But I turned fifty-four this week. I’m in my mid-fifties now. Time is not infinite, so why the heck am I not writing more? Because when I boil myself down to my essence and set aside the crucial qualities of being a husband and father and child of God, what am I?

A Writer.

I go to concerts and take notes. Ditto for author events. I keep a notepad in the car so I can jot down ideas and notes during my commutes. When I read books at home—including fiction—I take notes. When I take trips, I make sure I have pen and paper. When I go to conventions, I take notes on what I see and what I want to buy. I am always writing.

Why? Because that’s who I am. And now, at fifty-four, there is a sense of urgency spurred from Aurelius’s quote (with my modification): “And you’re not willing to do your job as a Writer? Why aren’t you running to do what your nature demands?”

Okay, okay, okay. I get it, Marcus, I get it. I am who I am. I’ll strive harder to be more myself from now on.

All of this begs the question for you, dear reader: do you know who you are? And are you doing it?

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