Jeff Seymour - Author of Fantasy, Literary Fiction, & c.: Legacy

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Friday, June 27, 2014

Legacy

Today's post inspired by this post, written by the inimitable J.A. Kazimer. Julie's going blind, which is sad for a nearly endless host of reasons. And she's thinking about her legacy, and in her post she asks other people to do the same.

So I'm going to, because this is a question I have struggled with over the last year.

To me, the question of legacy is one of what you want to be remembered for, which boils down more or less into what will make you consider your life a success. And that, in turn, translates into the question of what it's most important to do with your time. Because time is the one thing we can't get more of.

All this interacts with the writing lifestyle in complicated and terrible ways.

The writing monster will consume as many hours as you throw at it. You can always write more. Do one more revision. Sleep less. Quit your job. Abandon your family. Live for the art and the art alone.

Really, you can. There's nobody who can stop you from doing so but yourself. And there seem to be (and I place a lot of emphasis on seem to be here, because our culture loves narratives of hard work) a lot of successful writers who, at some point in their lives, did pretty much nothing other than write.

So for me, struggling and struggling and struggling to build a career out of hard work and dedication glued together with a little bit of talent, I had to confront a very difficult question last year:

What is most important to me, in life? Is it being the best writer I can possibly be, or is it something else?

And I decided (more accurately, I remembered) that writing successfully is not the end-all be-all of my existence, even though that poses certain challenges when making a career out of it. A long time ago, I decided that the measure of success in my life would be how many other lives I improved.

So that will be my legacy, I hope. When I cross paths with people, I want them to be glad they met me. And when I'm gone, that's what I want people to remember.

Writing is one way I hope to do that, but it can't be the only one.

And if I succeed at writing well, I suspect that will be why. When writing is all you have, it's easy to get desperate---for praise, for money, for validation. And you can't be desperate when you write. People can smell desperation, and they tend to stay away from it.

But if you build a balanced life and give writing only as much of it as it deserves, you can avoid that, I think.

So cheers. Legacy. And if you're into it, go read one of Julie's F***ed-Up Fairy Tales.

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