Setting pen to paper

Adilson S. Proença
3 min readMar 6, 2018
Vintage engraving of a Young victorian man writing a letter

If you’re interested in history, particularly Brazil’s, carry on . I occassionally intend to set pen to paper — or, fingertips to keyboard, for an updated line. By intend I mean off a fixed schedule. After all, the average undergraduate student in an (ever)emerging country like Brazil has no choice but balance work and studies, which implies a 40-hour-plus weekly workload and all that which university life entails. But I want to write, so I guess I’ll just have to find the time.

Why write? Well, when I first flicked through my The Wealth of Nations copy (which I still haven’t finished reading — blame it on laziness/tiredness) I stumbled upon what I think to be one of Smith’s most famous lines, after the so-called “Invisible [bungling] Hand”, a term which he also coined in his 1776 masterpiece. It read:

“It is not from the benevolence (kindness) of the butcher, the brewer, or the baker that we expect our dinner, but from their regard to their own interest.”

Inasmuch as I am inclined to share Smith’s reasoning, I would definitely not go as far as having the excerpt quoted above willingly tattooed, say, on my chest. But it’ll be fair to say that I believe that in pursuit of my own self-interest (paragraph below) I may end up bringing about some sort of general, uninted “good”. Differently put: I figured that I might benefit and be benefited from channelling into composition-structured texts what I’ve learnt over the past few years.

Here’s what’s in my noggin. By putting into words what so far has been pilliing up in my head I expect to (a) level up my writing and vocabulary usage skills both in Portuguese and in English; (b) digest/rearrange and solidify content which I have either studied already or am currently picking up on; ( c ) break through the urge-for-perfection wall which has barred me from completing texts and ending up with at least a score of unfinished texts!; (d) since texts will be written, why not have them published online and, hopefully, give someone (probably a student with late homework that’ll have ended up on Medium)?

Why in English? Well, the French have a great proverb: c’est en forgeant qu’on devient forgeron. “Practice makes perfect”, for a quick, approximate translation. And what is it that I would like to get better at? Writing, of course. Whether it be in Portuguese (my first language) or in English, successfully putting down on paper whatever it is that lurks one’s mind is but a talent which can be perfected through writing (and a great deal of reading).

A healthy warning. I am not a historian, but History, so conventional wisdom suggests, is relative. I’m not going to be the sower the seeds of discord either. The type of texts readers shall get from me is of a descriptive nature with, at times, a personal stance on the topic discussed. For instance, I am inclined to argue that of all the burdensome treaties that Portugal stroke with a then rising Great Britain in the second half of the 18th century, Methuen is not the most relevant one. Naturally, making up one’s mind depends on how much and what sort of readings one has done. That will be the case whenever my own incling is present in the text.



Adilson S. Proença

An International Relations degree holder; a language, history and economics aficionado; and a soon-to-be Economist who sees writing a thought-untangling act.