Memento Vivere – Memento Mori

Agh. I hate myself for doing it. Opening a post with a title written in Latin makes me feel like such a fraud. This isn’t ancient Rome, and the fact that I write from my heart, rather than my head means that I can hardly be considered to be a scholar. So to use an adage as historically significant as I have in a vain attempt to pass myself off as some kind of well-versed academic just feels wrong. And yet I did it anyway. I chose a title written in a dialect that I will never fully understand and tried to claim it as my own. Memento vivere – Memento mori.

Remember to live. Remember to die.

Lately it feels as though I’m dying. At least from a creative standpoint anyway. I have been plagued by a writer’s block so nauseating that I haven’t actually written anything for weeks. Instead I have been opening up my laptop, or staring at a blank page in one of my many notebooks and wondering where the hell my creative impulses went.

When I finished writing my sophomore novel War, I was on a high and ready to take over the literary industry by force.  Yet at some point during the editing process I lost all confidence in my ability to create and fell into a frustrating void of nothingness where it became impossible to find my creative spark. It may not seem like much to some, but it is a pretty serious issue for a writer who defines himself as being aggressively creative to suddenly suffer from an affliction that leaves you devoid of the inspiration to write. If I take away the creative, I’m just aggressive.

Writing is my passion. It’s something that I have spent a decade struggling and striving for, living and dying by my work. During that time I have experienced success: winning competitions, curating my own website, and publishing a novel. But I also know better than most what it feels like to fail. Throughout my writing life I have been overlooked for more opportunities than I can even remember. In my formative years I was repeatedly told that I wasn’t talented enough to make it as an author; nowadays I’m continuously told that that my style isn’t palatable by industry insiders and other authors. Hell, just last week I was told that I’m not marketable as an individual, and that I fail in comparison to others because of this.

While it hurts to admit, these failures have taken their toll. There have been moments where I have suffered a crisis of confidence so grand that I have given up and walked away from my dreams. I have cried in wardrobes, set fire to manuscripts and called people horrendous names while struggling through spates of depression. At times I have I felt so emotionally shattered due to circumstances beyond my control that it has been a struggle just to crawl out of bed and face another day of feeling like I wasn’t good enough. But every single time that I have failed and fallen, I have eventually picked myself up, dusted myself off, and set out to achieve my dreams all over again.

I have always assumed that I had been blessed with an iron will. I’ve spent years believing that there was something remarkable about me that allowed me to keep striving forwards even when I felt completely hopeless. But the truth is that  I’m no different to anyone else. My ‘unwavering desire to succeed’ was merely a by-product of my life moving through a series of ebbs and flows as it unconsciously followed an idiom uttered by Roman servants to remind generals that they were fallible. Memento Vivere: Remember to live. Memento Mori: remember to die.

What that means is that for every single moment of triumph in my life, there will also be a moment of great pain. Last year I received news that a health scare that had me contemplating my own morality wasn’t as serious as I originally believed, only to discover a few months later that a close friend had taken his own life. I have seen my debut novel released, and have had my writing featured on websites run by literary geniuses; only to suddenly suffer from a lack of creativity so stifling that it feels as though there is a weight is pushing down on my chest.

These transitions from success and elation to inevitable heartbreak and failure are cycles of life and death that are occurring within my own existence. I’m not referring to death in the physical sense; I haven’t met my maker just yet. But death in the sense that opportunities, circumstances and relationships come to their natural, or sometimes premature endpoint, so that I can progress onwards to the next.

At first this can be hard to accept. I’m yet to meet a man or woman who enjoys seeing their relationships falter, or who finds solace in watching circumstances and opportunities that they have fought valiantly towards fail. But these deaths are quite possibly the most integral component of the human existence. Without them, how could we ever know the wondrous ecstasy of life and success when we experience them?

It seems ridiculous that it has taken me a decade of moving through these periods of life and death within my creativity before I actually realised the importance of suffering from writer’s block and creative lapses. Without them I would never know just how amazing it is to be blessed with the ability to write in the first place. Unfortunately, I have spent the past few weeks mentally and emotionally beating the shit out of myself for not being able to create anything; when in hindsight I should have used that time to allow the journey that was writing War to come to its natural point of closure, so that the next stage of my writing career could come to fruition.

But angst and self-regret caused by retrospection is the curse of the damned. There’s no point beating myself up all over again for failing to recognise an opportunity to reflect and refocus. All I can do is move forward from here and learn to remember to live, and to die spectacularly at whatever it is that I do.

As for the industry insiders that have told me that my style of writing isn’t palatable, or that I’m not talented, or marketable enough to make it as an author… Their words may have shaken my confidence and caused me to doubt myself at times, but I’m ultimately stronger having lived through their criticisms. At twenty-seven years of age I have a published novel and a successful website which is frequented by some of the most remarkable and passionate people that I have ever had the pleasure of meeting. I have friends and family who are proud of the man that I am, and I’ve beaten depression and found happiness in myself.

My writing might not necessarily be palatable to some; but I’m not only talented, and marketable; I’m a fucking juggernaut too.

Author: Chris Nicholas

Chris Nicholas is an author from Brisbane, Australia. He has published two novels, and is currently working on his third.

75 thoughts on “Memento Vivere – Memento Mori”

  1. When you are standing for something, fighting for something, being palatable is the least of your concerns 🙂

  2. Did you ever try mindfulness? I’m asking because many of the things you say are clichés we are taught as true (iron will = strength for instance) but are just plain wrong from a psychological perspective. As an example resilience to change is coming from a soft and flexible heart, one that is not set into a lot of wants and needs and haves and don’t haves but floats with the joy of curiosity and discovery. Being strong is being a reed in the wind that bends but doesn’t break.

    Creativity is also coming from an open and light heart. It’s when we are not engaging the stories that our mind constantly builds as if they were reality but watching them with curiosity that all of a sudden something pops up and we are inspired.

    Btw there is a typo “pretty *series* issue”

  3. Well done my friend! I’m in the process of writing my first novel. I just keep telling myself “I’m my worst critic.” The inner critic can actually stop you from even finishing a product. “Dune” had to be published by Chilton Auto Manuals because Frank H. couldn’t even get his toe in the door 🙂

  4. An insider’s notion of “palatable” may only imply those insiders haven’t yet determined how your work will pay for their next meal. A linear, tiresome and uncreative metric for judging the value of creative work, but for those very reasons largely irrelevant. You’re right that more flexible judgments will ultimately prevail – and your progress seems great!

  5. Pretty sure when they say your writing isn’t palatable, what they really mean is, ‘hey you’re not writing the same predictable drivel as everyone else, stop rocking the boat.’ ; )
    I say keep rocking the boat, those lazy suckers need a good swim


  6. Thanks for stopping by at my blog. I know what writer’s block feels like and yes, it’s worse than the physical death. It is like how Coleridge felt in “Dejection: An Ode”. If you look at my posts, I am writing after a break of 3 years. It was that bad. I wished death was way better than this. I couldn’t enjoy the drops of morning rain showers, the colours and the sounds. It was dull and painfull. But it has made me stronger today. It is part of life in this ‘Wasteland’.

    No matter what someone tells you, never give up, ’cause if you do, you will realize that the person who let you down is you.

  7. I love the way you write. I’m going through a lack of creativity myself right now. I totally get it! I try to read more when this happens. Other poetry blogs and such. Good luck.

  8. Thanks for visiting my blog and liking my post on pet peeves. I have enjoyed reading some of your post and you do write from the heart. Usually when nothing is coming to me, I just leave it and do something else. Most times, I try to learn something that has to do with my hands like drawing, crafting, sewing e.t.c; because I am not good at handy things. I find the more I wrestle with my hands and try to create with it, the better I feel especially when I succeed, even if it is drawing a straight line. I do hope the floodgates open up soon and ideas come gushing in to you. Cheers!

  9. Hi there Chris,

    You have incredibly insight for your age (I promise I’m not being patronising, I’m 54), it’s taken me a lot longer to see the truths you have written about living and dying, the ebb and the flow of life, and us writers have to have full on self belief to keep going. Your story echoes mine even with such a difference in age, writing being my new passion, with a first novel to ‘get out there’, with self doubt and despressions to handle. But as you say, the dyings and the rejections can make us stronger in ourselves. You have such an open and honest blog here, you have a great direct style which I prefer to more convoluted discussion. I’ll be following you, and thanks for dropping by mine.

    1. Did I write this? You speak to my heart and soul. I am decades older than you and just starting to blog and I find your writing not only “palatable” but full of insight. I’ll be following you and, as soon as I get it together, I hope you will follow me.

  10. Look at you, with 10,000-plus followers!!! You go, Chris! I’d say that seems pretty “palatable”! Love your ending line on this, by the way!

  11. Thanks for visiting my site, Chris. You might like to have a squizz at Big Magic, by Elizabeth Gilbert, a very down-to-earth book about creativity. Anyway, good luck, hope the creativity returns and pours forth.

  12. You chose a good latin phrase to feature. “Remember to die.” I so love it. It’s kind of like, to me, saying remember to change. I just wrote a post myself about things I used to do that I can’t even remember anymore. It bothers me, but then, I “remember to die.” Some aspects of ourselves in our journey don’t continue. And that’s sometimes a good thing, or sometimes something we can and should grieve. Maybe it’s a necessary path towards some kind of rebirth. Yes, I relate to everything you have written here, except that my struggles with writing are not exactly the same. I consider myself wildly imaginative. I think it’s where my potential comes from, but I lack the natural perseverance you seem to possess, and I have come to believe that this may be more important if I am actually ever to finish and publish things. I have great admiration for those who finish things.

  13. Chris,
    we all move through pain at our own heart’s pace. So time is not relative.
    But actively moving through is key – no matter the speed.

    On another note, and strictly as an FYI —

    The Latin grammar nerd in me shares this insight
    into the Latin phrase in your title here.
    It is a well known play on (conjugated) words,
    which is only referenced but not translated properly
    in English lexicon.

    The Romans, as militaristic as they were,
    used this as a command (imperative)
    often spoken by a general
    to a battle commander who
    may have to fall on his own sword.
    Gruesome was their army life.

    Memento conjugates in
    the first person indicative,
    “I remember”.

    Vivere is the infinitive, to live, but here
    it is used in the present passive imperative,
    “You were living”.

    The second ‘Memento’ is not only first person indicative,
    but also the future active imperative of
    the verb memorare.
    So here it means “You will remember”.

    Mori is the infinitive, to die.

    “I remember, you were living.
    You will remember to die.”

    Or as the church says it: “Remember man you are dust
    and to dust you shall return.”

    Different from the way you use it, but not any less powerful
    in the way you have expressed your feelings.

    ” . . . found happiness in myself” is the best part of the “remembering.”

    Enjoyed it.

  14. Dude, I’ve worked with people who claim to be ‘experts in their field’, who’ve turned out to be clueless f*ckwits. I’ve also worked with teenagers lacking in experience, who’ve stunned me with their insights. The world is a rich and diverse place, there to be explored at your leisure. Once you strip away all the veneers of credibility and culture that experts cling to, their opinion is just that: an opinion. It tells you a lot about the person who has it, how they interface with their reality, how they think you fit into their map of the world. Remember a map is only a map, it’s not the territory. It tells you nothing about where you’re stood. You have to use your eyes and ears and touch for that. An opinion tells you where someone else thinks you are in the world, and it’s probably based on the first 15 seconds of meeting you. Your reaction to that opinion, be it good or bad, is what shines a light on who you truly are. We writers are tortured souls at best. We write because we have to. We expose our inner thoughts to try and make sense of the world, and in doing so hopefully help others who are battling the same issues but lack the introspection or eloquence to find the answers in themselves. You’ve written some beautiful prose. Long may that continue. It takes a certain kind of strength to stick to one’s principles when all around you others are abandoning theirs. My advice is: be yourself. If you try to become someone else to keep others happy, then you’ll end up the unhappy one.


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