I Have Stood Up And Lived

“How vain it is to sit down to write when you have not stood up to live.” – Henry David Thoreau

I remember reading this quote as a child, most likely a result of some required reading in high school. I can’t really say with any degree of accuracy what it meant to me then but I will make a guess that the meaning was explained to me by a teacher with the best of intentions.  I am older now, and my interpretation of any reading or quote is based on my knowledge of the subject matter, what I might or might not know about the author, and my own life experiences. This particular quote by Thoreau happens to be one of my favorites.

As I embark on this journey we call writing, this quote has new meaning to me due to how I define living at this point of my life. It doesn’t translate that I must venture down a path on some spiritualistic quest in order to write with conviction. Nor do I interpret this quote in a literal manner.  I do however; feel there is a continual element of self-reflection involved regarding my life that allows me to write.

I have lived. I have lived through hundreds of books that I have read over my lifetime. I have lived through life experiences. I have lived through imagery, both real and imagined. I have lived through other senses: tasting, smelling, touching, and hearing.  I’ve lived through both physical and gut wrenching emotional pain. I’ve lived through loving and having been loved. I’ve lived through life’s lows and euphoric highs. And so have you.  Toss vanity aside,  we have something to write about.

As for what I haven’t lived?  We have technological tools today, that combined with imagination and life experiences, allow us to write about almost anything, regardless of age, demographics, or any other self-imposed barrier we tend to use as an excuse .  I have been fortunate enough over my life to travel to many places both domestic and abroad, yet I feel I could write about a place I have never been to.  For example, I have traveled most of the United States with the exception of the Pacific Northwest, New England, and the South. Could I write a scene or story based in Oregon? Absolutely.  I’ve read others who have written about the area. I’ve watched movies and documentaries set in the area. I have friends who have lived there. I could get on the internet and ‘walk’ along a street, seeing what the storefronts or homes look like or browse photographs of a trail and walk it in my mind.  I’ve enjoyed a rainy day served with dark clouds, hold the sunshine, and can imagine what multiple days of that entrée would be like in a city such as Astoria, Oregon. And yes, I have watched Goonies at least twenty times over the years. At some point, I am living it. And so are you.

With all due respect, I am not diminishing the artistic value or skill levels of those who have mastered the craft of writing. Nor am I demeaning a quote that resonates with me on a very personal level. I am simply stating, and a bit cliché: everyone brings something to the table.

The amazing thing about my writing journey is that I am still a student and will be for some time.  I welcome that because lifelong learning is a mantra I subscribe to. There are, however, a few things I do know: I’m not vain, I have stories to tell, and I have stood up and lived. I will write knowing that.

Happy writing!



  1. Nicole Bauer

    I love this line: “I’ve enjoyed a rainy day served with dark clouds, hold the sunshine, and can imagine what multiple days of that entrée would be like in a city such as Astoria, Oregon.” You have a talent and it’s amazing you have found what that is. Some people search their whole lives to discover what it is they’re supposed to be doing. Great post!

    • W.C. Cunningham

      Thank you Nicole. I have a very long way to go but am finding I really love writing more than I thought I would.

  2. emmawicker

    I absolutely love this post Bill because it resonates so deeply within me. As you know, I regularly peruse books about a certain somewhere I dream of. Your outlook is really inspiring and your writing – all of it – is a joy to read. As I hold up my glass “Cheers Bill”

    • W.C. Cunningham

      Thanks Emma and “cheers” back at you. You get the best of both worlds, living that dream now and again at an entirely different level in the future.

  3. perfectprosesservices

    Great post! You can really tell you are enjoying this blogging lark now! And, for the record, in my opinion we are always students. Every day we learn something new, no matter if it’s in our writing or not. Susan

    • W.C. Cunningham

      I enjoy learning and tend to have that attitude about everything. I feel if you don’t you become stagnate. Our minds are quite the storage media.Thank you Susan and yes, I am enjoying it.:-)

  4. jhmae

    Nicely put. I love that we live in an era when we can experience so much from home. I’d prefer to get out there, but at least we have the option. 🙂

    • W.C. Cunningham

      Thanks! I will always prefer the physical experience first and thankfully have been able to see and experience a great deal over my life. In light of the original quote though, and looking back at those writers who did not have the tools and treasure trove of information at our fingertips that we have today, I just feel we are at an advantage to “live” some things that others before us couldn’t.

  5. Carrie Lynn Lewis

    Great post.

    When it comes to writing, we’re all students until our final breath.

    So keep on learning and breathing!

    • W.C. Cunningham

      Thank you Carrie. Lifelong learning…

  6. Courtney Turner (@mauijungalow)

    Aloha from Hawaii, WC. Looks like you are doing a great job networking and finding your voice. Hopping over from StoryDam linkup this week.

    • W.C. Cunningham

      Thank you Courtney!

  7. Georgia Rose

    We all add our experiences, both physical and emotional, in to our writing. It stands to reason the more you have lived through the more you have to enrich your words and I am thankful that where there are gaps we now have the ability to research widely in a way never possible before. Great post Bill 🙂

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