Imagine if you were dying right now, what would you choose to focus on.
Kathryn Koromilas is a writer, an educator, a creativity coach, and an event host and speaker. She uses ancient wisdom and writing practices to help reignite creativity, reimagine purpose, and foster a thriving creative practice for living well.
She is co-organiser of the Stoicon-x Women: Practical Paths to Flourishing event, leads The Stoic Salon, which is a Facebook group dedicated to reading and writing with the Stoics, and hosts The Stoic Salon Podcast where she engages guests in long-form conversations about life, love, work, play, the universe, and Stoicism.
She is writing two books inspired by Stoicism. The first is The Joyful Practice of Stoic Death Writing, forthcoming end 2021. The second is a collaboration with Dr. Ranjini George and it’s called Journaling with the Stoics.
How did you become interested in philosophy?
I’ve always been curious about literature, philosophy, and creative living. As a child, I’d be the one asking “Why” on repeat. At nine, I knew I wanted to go to the University of Sydney to “learn everything.” At age 17, my English teacher told me not to do philosophy at uni because she had a friend who spent the first week crying on the steps of Wallace Theatre because of those metaphysics lectures. When I heard that I knew I wanted to learn stuff that would be so metamorphic it would make me cry.
What’s the most important concept or idea that you teach people?
At the moment, my focus is on paying attention and on creative listening. Some of the creative writing practices that I teach include copywork, literally copying texts word-for-word as a way of listening, learning, memorising and as a way of finding a way into one’s own creative voice. This is what Arrian did when he recorded the Discourses and this is what Marcus Aurelius did in Meditations though he reframed, re-expressed, and reformulated the Stoic teachings, to use Gregory Hays’ words.
What do you think is the most important piece of practical advice that we can derive from your work?
I think it would be delaying gratification. We have a sense that we have to respond quickly to texts or to people with our own answers and opinions. We aren’t allowed to just sit in silence without an answer or an opinion. The more we rush to respond and interject and interrupt, the less we are really listening so we end up in a monologue with ourselves. So, delaying gratification, delaying the gratification we get from hearing our own voices to leave space and silence to really listen to what we are reading and to others.
Do you have a favorite quote that you use?
ἄφες τὰ βιβλία: μηκέτι σπῶ. οὐ δέδοται
I love it when Marcus Aurelius in Meditations, Book 2.2 tells himself to stop being distracted, to throw away the books. I just feel there is such a pressure to consume everything, even knowledge, these days. And there are companies that sell apps with condensed versions of books so that we can pack more and more into our brains in the shortest period of time. And there’s such a pressure to entertain and distract ourselves. But just imagine, imagine if you were dying right now, what would you choose to focus on. I try to ask myself this question every day. I’ve spent the last three years reading snippets of Meditations everyday. In one way, that book is all the books.
What advice would you give someone who wanted to learn more about what you do?
I don’t like to give unsolicited advice, so let’s email or set a date and chat first.
Suppose you were able to give a talk or workshop at the original location of Plato’s Academy…
I would love to talk about Plato’s two women students. Axiothea of Phlius and Lastheneia of Mantinea. I love that Axiothea read Plato and travelled to Athens to study with him. She had to dress as a man so that she could do that. I’m fascinated by stories of women who entered the male arena by either dressing as a man or using a male pseudonym. I’d love to know what that was like and how awesome would it be to have that conversation on the very ground she walked.
I love learning in community so if you are working creatively and into Stoicism please connect with me via my website, Instagram, Twitter. And if you’d like to learn more about or get involved in the Practical Paths to Flourishing women in Stoicism events which will be held yearly, please make contact through the website here. And, see you at the Academy soon!