Does it ever strike you that we are given only one life to live? There aren’t any do-overs or replays. We are born, we live, we die, and our earthly legacy is only what we achieve, what we do in this life. So how is our one life going to be remembered?
Some of us will be remembered through our families, our children, grandchildren, great-grandchildren, and so on. Some of us will be remembered because we did something embarrassing or incredibly foolish, although hopefully that won’t be our only legacy. Some of us will be remembered through our legacy of works and/or faith. Some of us will be forgotten because we let all the chances to do something memorable, to take the opportunities given to us, pass us by because we were too afraid or were too busy or just didn’t feel it was the right time or that our efforts weren’t good enough to move past the starting gate.
As writers, we have one life to live but that life can produce many books or only a few books that will impact someone somewhere or no books at all. Writing is hard. It takes courage to bare our ideas, our thoughts, our hopes and dreams, and even a little piece of our soul through the written word. And to be perfectly honest, I know I’ve sat at my desk staring at my looming To Do/Wish list and just thought that I am never going to get to the end of the first leg of the journey (aka publishing). But then I look at the stories I’ve already completed, at the projects that HAVE reached some sort of stepping stone, and at the reasons why it took longer than originally planned to reach the point of “ready to publish.” One, I wanted to have a true polished piece so was unwilling to take shortcuts. Two, I wanted to write stories that honored God and that meant giving my very best. Three, I still have a life outside of writing that demands my attention and time too.
Writing is emotionally and spiritually draining at times because you’re pouring your whole heart into the words, the plot, and the characters. If you are anything like me, you also pour your heart into the non-writing areas of your life. All this effort, this sinking of yourself into your work makes being able to recharge mentally, emotionally, and spiritually extremely important and also difficult. For example, a few days ago, I sat down with a book to read for fun. A major CBA book that wasn’t fantasy but I hoped it would help with the recharge. Instead, I ended up even more drained because there wasn’t anything truly fulfilling or relaxing in the book’s plot. The reason I mention my reader experience is because it also ties into having one life to live and our legacy as writers. Do we want to produce the sort of books that leave readers more drained than they started or the books that provide hope, an escape from the harshness of our world (at least for a little while), a reminder that we can still laugh and enjoy life, and show the different ways Christ’s love surrounds us?
We have one life to live. What is your legacy going to be as a writer? Are you going to be brave enough to put your work out there even if you don’t personally feel it’s as ready as it can be? The hardest part in the editing process is knowing when you’ve reached the point where your tweaking has become detrimental instead of helpful to the story. It’s also knowing when to say this is the final draft even if it’s not as perfect as you imagined. Are you going to be embarrassed by what you have written if your family learns about it? Then do you really want it to be your legacy? Are you going to pour yourself into your writing? Are you going to make the effort to make a difference with your stories by focusing on light and hope in spite of the darkness? Are you going to stop making excuses and procrastinating on finishing what you’ve started, what you’ve been dreaming of and write your book? You don’t have to be a best-selling author to have an impact, a legacy. But you do have to finish the first draft. You won’t have any legacy if you never make the effort.
What is your legacy? When your one life is over, will you be wishing for a do-over or be content in the knowledge that you made the effort and left something behind that’s worthy? Everyone has decisions or periods in their lives that they wish they could do over and do differently but we don’t have to let those moments be our only legacy. As writers, we can leave any number of legacies. Sometimes we’ll write flops, sometimes we’ll write hits, and most of the time we’ll write the middle ground. But even a flop can be a better legacy than never trying. Don’t let your life be one filled solely with “I wish I had” or “I wish I had not” or “if only . . .” Seize the moment, have faith, and be courageous. Be a writer who finishes their work and who leaves a legacy.