Narrative Authenticity: Breaking Free from the Shadows of Comparison
I shouldn’t have begun reading other people’s essays.
“I do not care so much what I am to others as I care what I am to myself.”
― Michel de Montaigne
Montaigne wrote in his essays how he felt about the way he wrote, not too great. In his essay A Consideration on Cicero, he tells you how he likes to write. He doesn’t like to adorn a lot what he says, but rather, to speak more bluntly.
Earlier, I began reading some articles on Medium about whatever, and upon reading them, I began to become anxious about what I was going to write about. Almost instantaneously, I began to wonder whether what I was going to write would be better, comparing myself.
A mistake of course, because what I write shouldn’t be guided by comparing myself with people who have lives so different from mine.
We all should write about what we know. No life is boring, if you look close enough. That’s the reason why I love documentary films, even more than movies. Especially more than Marvel movies. They are real. They show you life as it is for people in different parts of the world, and this facade that we constantly look through falls apart to give way to an approach to an aspect of real life that helps you understand yourself and others a bit more.
Envy is ignorance, and imitation is suicide, said Ralph Waldo Emerson.
It is not OK to think that you have nothing to say. You have, but you need to find it. Or maybe, you need to develop and create it. The best way to go about forming a judgment is without a doubt to write. Writing about what makes you mad, asking yourself why, and then realizing that you don’t really know why something makes you angry.
The goal here is to become, in your intellectual life, a meaty human being. Montaigne criticizes Cicero for being vacuous. He argues that Cicero, more than writing substance, wrote with a focus on “prettiness” and a good flow of words. Writing, he argues, should be done not for a want of fame, which he saw as a vice, but more for a solid argument that you want to make.
Who do you agree with? Of course, there is space for beauty in writing, but in this instance, we are talking about moral writing. Montaigne was comparing him with Seneca.
And I have to tell you, I have read Seneca, but I haven’t read Cicero yet. So I should go ahead and shut up now.
What I want to leave you with is this: you have something to say that only you can say, and if you’re trying to do it for fame you’re not going to write about something completely true to you. So write, about whatever, but write.
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