Lessons Writers Can Learn from a Thief

The thief, the rogue, the cat burglar… These sneaks pad through the night to make off with our valuables. Yet, writers and artists can benefit from the tactics of these tricksters.

Dov Ber ben Avraham of Mezeritch, a Jewish philosopher from the eighteenth century and founder of Hasidic Judaism, had much advice to give for life. Bod Dylan so admired Dov Ber, that he pinned his teachings on his wall.

From a thief you can learn

1) to work at night

Often writers work during the twilight hours between dusk and dawn. Even if your prefer mornings, most of us seek times that are quiet with few prying eyes (good for both sneakery and creation).

2) that if you cannot gain what you want in one night to try again the next night

Perseverance is the cornerstone of a good thief. So long as you’re not caught, you can return, night after night, to make off with the goods. 

Us writers need to keep working night after night. Oftentimes the progress is slow and incremental. It’s okay to struggle and only get small compensation for your efforts. But as a writer, you’re still moving forward. 

3) to love your co-workers just as thieves love each other

Fellow writers and artists are comrades in arms. They can provide vital feedback to help you grow. 

4) to be willing to risk your life even for a little thing

A thief will risk everything, even for a small heist. So too, us writers need to go all out even on a short story or a character sketch. If you’re not willing to risk your life for what you believe in, then why are you doing it?

5) not to attach too much value to things even though you have risked your life for them — just as a thief will resell a stolen article for a fraction of its real value

What do writers and artists do with their precious creations? You share them with the world. Possibly for some cash and recognition.

6) to withstand all kinds of beatings and tortures but to remain what you are

A thief is nabbed by the authorities, will get tossed in jail. There, they’ll face a myriad of humiliations and beatings. Writers and artists have to endure the harsh criticism. Each time you put your work out there, random trolls relish the opportunity to tear you down. But you must withstand it and forge ahead. 

7) to believe that your work is worthwhile and not be willing to change it.

Your work is yours. Don’t compromise on your writing or art. If you put all of yourself into it, then it will be worth fighting for. 

Tim Kane

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4 thoughts on “Lessons Writers Can Learn from a Thief

  1. ill certainly be reading into Dov Ber. I was thinking to look into more writing technics for myself, wondering if i was doing it wrong on those really slow days. but, to risk all of yourself because you believe in it…i can get behind that. thanks for the inspiration!

  2. It’s all about that perseverance indeed. Writing will never be a one-day thing. Every new project we embark on will take time, and it’ll often be thankless. Great reminder. Thanks for sharing!

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