Thoughts on My Legacy as a Writer

How will I be remembered as a writer? Will I be remembered at all? How would I like to be remembered? I think all artists, and those who think of themselves as artists, ponder this. An architect designing a public building must certainly wonder—will people a hundred years from now think it’s as delightful as I do, be indifferent to it, or will they consider it an abomination? Or will it have long been torn down as being not useful in the least? Have I wasted a lifetime thinking I’m something I’m not?

It may seem arrogant to speak of one’s own “legacy”—isn’t that something other people are supposed to consider? Yet it does take a certain degree of arrogance to be a writer, though no more so than people who start their own businesses because they want to do things their way, or  athletes training for the Olympics (or even the local team) because they feel they might prove themselves the best at what they do.

Actually, I don’t think arrogance is even the right word. I think self-belief describes it better. I’ve never felt the least bit arrogant, either about myself or my writing, and I think those who have known me would agree with this. But I do believe in what I’m doing and what I’ve done—I’ve never had a crisis of confidence. If I’ve suffered moments of doubt or frustration, it was always along the lines of, “Why don’t they see?’’ rather than, “Maybe I’m just not good enough at what I do.”

The fact that I can read something I wrote thirty or more years ago and still say, “Hey, this is remarkable stuff! And just what I meant to say, too!”—makes me think that I haven’t been kidding myself all these years. I know the writing’s good and the ideas sound. For me, that’s not the question. I’m more concerned with why the work hasn’t been found useful to others, and what I can do to preserve it—so that people in the future who might find it useful will know about it and be able to access it. That’s the reason I started this blog. Not to blow my own trumpet (I loathe self-promotion), but to leave a record so that something potentially valuable to others (though that’s their call) won’t perish. That’s the reason I’m getting involved with social media—not to show my pics or make new friends (or catch up with old ones), but to try to draw attention to the writing. No one else will do it, right? So now, near the end of my life, I become a publicist.

So let’s get back to the legacy thing. How do I see my work in the overall scheme of things? I suppose this has two sides: what I’ve left behind, and what effect it’ll have on others. I probably don’t need to consider the first one, as the answer to that has been implicit (or even spelled out) in what I’ve written for this blog. I know what I’ve left behind. So my concern, then, is whether or not the work will be found, understood, appreciated, published (or otherwise disseminated), and finally, used.

This is not such a pressing matter in one’s youth because there’s always tomorrow, and the next book just might strike a chord and let one see some of the fruits of one’s labor (in thought and action, not money!). But as a writer (or anyone, really) gets older, he or she naturally has less confidence in “tomorrow,” though it’s true that hope never dies. In my case I’m still querying literary agents about several of the books I’ve described in this blog. But one becomes realistic as a pattern of rejection repeats—and when a person actually sees the end approach, a certain philosophical “So that’s the way it is” moods descends. That’s the position I find myself in now. One wonders with more urgency, then, not about the value but of the viability of the work. And one begins to scheme about ways—writing a blog for example—to try to keep the work from being forgotten. So that if my tomorrow doesn’t come, hopefully the writing’s will.

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