NaBloPoMo #18: Signs of a Life Well Lived

Prompt: What do you hope people remember about you after you’re gone?

When I was about eight, I suffered an existential crisis (see this post to learn more). It was at that time that I lost my faith in any divine being and suddenly and terrifyingly came to understand that I would one day die and the world would continue to spin on without me. It is not a coincidence that shortly thereafter I decided I wanted to be a writer.

While eight-year-olds aren’t dumb, they don’t always grasp the full significance of what they want, say, or do. I was peripherally aware of what a writer did (It’s in the name.), but I was very naïve about what writers could do. For many years, I thought that being a writer could make you immortal – in as far as writing would assure that your name and legacy lived on for centuries. I mean, Shakespeare was a thing, right? (Oh, and writing would totally make you rich.)

It’s taken me an embarrassingly long time to understand and come to terms with the fact that writing will almost assuredly not make me immortal – and that that’s okay. The expectation that every single thing I’ve ever written will have to be good enough to last forever has created serious writing block, making me afraid to finish anything. It’s only been recently through the help of authors like Lucy Knisley, Rainbow Rowell, and Christopher Moore than I’ve come to realize that the vast majority of writing isn’t going to last for very long and that writing is ultimately about the writer, not centuries of posterity.

In other words, Shakespeare was a Goddamn fluke.

It’s been a relief to know that I won’t have to shoulder the entirety of English literature. However, I’d still like to make an impact, even if it’s just for a few thousand people. I’d like to make a reader as happy as my favorite authors have made me, and I’d like to make someone feel like they’ve been heard and appreciated. Accolades, prizes, and fellowships don’t matter as much as that (though I would absolutely like to make a living as a writer).

Want to make an impact on others is part of why I still write and part of why I try so hard to make sure what I write is decent. I know I can always go back and edit or revise or apologize, delete, and ignore, but I still want what I write to be the best of my current ability. That more than anything is what I’d like for people to remember about me: “She tried so damn hard, and she never did anything less than her best… and it’s what made her amazing.” That, I think, would be a fine testament to a life well lived.

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