Art is Long

Ars longa, vita brevis, occasio praeceps, experimentum periculosum, iudicium difficile. –Aphorisms of Hippocrates

(Art is long, life is short, opportunity fleeting, experiment dangerous, judgment difficult.)

Hippocrates may have meant his thoughts to be strictly for the world of medicine, but they are timeless and infinite in application.

Before I found this quote, I was thinking of a Doctor Who quote. That quote ended up being ‘Life is short, and you are hot‘ (Blink – Doctor Who). Not quite the words of wisdom I was looking for (you may be hot, but it’s not applicable to my topic).

Let me break down what Hippocrates words mean to me:

Art is Long: Perfect your Storycraft. In the text, ‘art‘ refers to technique or craft, not to the fine arts. Writers/authors/pen jockeys do not be sloppy in your writing process. Pay as much attention to the structural details as you do your story.

Life is Short: Pay attention & Make the most of what you have.  Whether you believe in a life after this one or not.  We have to life in the now.

Opportunity Fleeting: Take that leap of faith.  If the opportunity is there, grab it.  Failure is not how many times things don’t work out.  Failure is not taking the opportunities that come your way.  So many of them will never cross your path again.

Experiment dangerous: In the writing process, experimentation is absolutely essential.  Yes, there are dangers – censorship, failure, and other assorted uncomfortable things.  Experimenting gives us impetus to explore our boundaries, find out how far we need to push or retreat.  Aside from being born, paying taxes, and dying, nothing is set in stone. It is up to us to find our wings.

Judgment difficult: You can please come of the people some of the time, but you can’t please all of the people all of the time. The judgements of others are subjective. Glean what makes you a better writer and discard the rest.

Life is short, and we are talented.  Just write!



  • Well said! Whatever we do in life, we should always give it our best shot. If we do that, we have not failed.

    • Exactly! That’s why we birds of a feather flock together. We want to do the best we can. 🙂

  • Wow I love how you broke down the quote and compared it with the Craft… Great post!

    • Thank you! I’ve fallen in love with this quote. I’m getting all artsy craftsy with it. I’ll post my result when I’m finished.

  • Pingback: Vita Brevis « Write Am I

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