What “Is” Is

Sometimes it really does depend on what the definition of “is” is.

“Is” can indicate class inclusion, or the attribution of a quality to a thing, or two different things of the same classification, or two names for the same thing.

“Is” can be precise or approximate. Sometimes something “is” what it is to some specified degree of precision.

“Is” can be temporally constrained, or not. Spanish distinguishes between these ises with “ser” and “estar.” “Estoy infermo” means “I’m sick.” “Soy infermo” means “I’m sickly.” It’s a statement about my essence rather than my present state.

We need that distinction in English. Take the sentence, “He can be charming when he wants to be.” If we were forced to decide whether his charm was an essential trait or a transient state, it would affect how we feel about this slippery fellow.


Writing requires stamina, so you need to eat, and preferably eat healthily. Regular exercise is also important. You need to maintain the body for the mind to do its work.

Writing requires inspiration. You need to go to new places, listen to people and the strange things they say, get out of doors and open all your sense to the world around you, sit quietly and just take it all in.

Writing requires knowledge. You need to do research, and a lot of the research you’ll do you won’t realize is research. Expose yourself to new sources of knowledge and experience.

Do all of these things, but do them later. First, write. Every day, before you do any of those necessary things, do the essential thing: write. It’s a job. If you’re not writing, you’re not a writer. Just write.

That’s what it takes to be a writer.