I’ve recently been having a chat in a linkedin writers’ group about why we write, and someone said the point for him was to leave something of himself behind after he dies.
I said I wasn’t concerned at all about people reading my books after I’m gone, and someone else said surely there’s no point in writing if we don’t want readers. Which was going off the point a bit, I felt. I mean, of course writers want to find readers.
Knowing your work will be read enhances the experience of writing, but for me it’s about enhancing it now; I don’t think it’ll do much for me after I’m dead.
And yet I do feel that writing gives us a kind of immortality, in that it expands our experience of living beyond the here-and-now limitations of ordinary life. Where am I when I’m writing? I still exist, but I’m not entirely here. My soul is going walkabout among different lives and times.
Dreaming is the same, an experience that is mine yet goes beyond ‘me.’ In dreams, even more deeply than in writing, the dreamer lives on after consciousness is gone.
Writing and dreaming are experiences of soul, which is conscious immortality rather than the kind that might or might not happen after we die, through people reading our books.
Do you think of writing as a way of leaving something of yourself behind after you die?
12 thoughts on “Conquering death through writing and dreaming”
I love the way you express writing as: ‘My soul is going walkabout among different lives and times’ – it is just that isn’t it? As for leaving something behind – yes, I did feel that, especially with the first couple of books, and still a little bit. I think, for me, it’s the notion that if I create something and it just stays in my head, no-one will ever know it was there. A painting, book, piece of music etc. makes it a concrete thing so a part of you lives on in that creation. I don’t need to be dead for that to happen though, but it is kind of nice to think that long after I’m gone little ones still might pick up one of my books… illogical but nice all the same!
It is a nice thought, and I’m sure they will! I suppose I think the most important part of me lives on anyway and transmigrates, so the concrete things don’t feel all that important to me. But if I think about Sue Townsend, it’s wonderful to know her books are still with us, her lovely voice and spirit, at least for current generations and perhaps for future ones too. Thought-provoking – thank you, Abi.
I read your blog post with interest. After cancer treatment in my early 30s, I couldn’t have children. Writing has helped me come to terms with this loss. I also know I’d not be here now, living out my dream as a published writer if I had a young family- I just wouldn’t have the time, money or energy. So it’s a mixed sort of blessing, or maybe a positive in a sad situation. But to get to the point, yes I do think that maybe, like children, our books are our legacy to the world. This isn’t why I write,but it’s certainly a thought that’s crossed my mind!
Hi Emma – you’ve really got me thinking! I do have children, but I’m not sure I’ve really ever thought of them as being a legacy of me. I’ve thought of them more as seeds that landed in the ground of my life, that I’ve tended as best I could while they grew into themselves. My books, on the other hand, feel much more identified with me. I’m sure my writing career would have been very different if I hadn’t had children – I certainly would have got started earlier and been able to put much more energy into it. Thank-you for commenting 🙂 x
Reblogged this on Brian G Spare PhD and commented:
Hi Jenny I have the same thoughts as you. Write for yourself. Write for the moment. Write to share your dreams with the world. And if what you write goes on to be shared after you die all the better.
‘Write to share your dreams wit the world’ – yes, writing defies space as well as time. One thing I love about blogging is that here I am, in Cornwall UK, chatting to people from the other side of the world.
I know the chances of me attaining both professional and financial success as a fiction writer are slim, so I retain my technical writing ambitions as a realistic career choice. I simply hope I can achieve success as a writer during my lifetime. But, I don’t write stories just for the here and now. I no longer follow the latest trends in anything – clothing, food, etc. I pretty much do what pleases me. It would be even better, though, if my writings help me secure a level of immortality after I’m gone. I’m not so arrogant to think I’m the best thing since bottled water. But, I want to leave a positive impact on this world through my written words.
Leaving a positive impact after we’ve gone, I think that’s a great ambition. And if you can make any kind of writing the bread-and-butter that supports the child-of-the-heart books, that’s a real blessing. Thank-you for commenting, Alejandro
It wasn’t until I read your post Jenny that I realised that I’d never actually considered the idea of death and writing. When I gave it some thought I was surprised at how much it meant for me to be read now, because life for me is very much about living in the moment. Of course I’d like my daughters to be proud of my work when I was dead but it would mean much more to me for them to appreciate it when I was still here.
Carolyn, I fully agree with you. I feel the same. The sad reality, however, is that – aside from family and close friends – most writers will never see their works produce the desired profits and adoration during their lifetimes. In a sense, that’s what writing is all about: it’s not for immediate pleasure. True literary works last a lifetime. I don’t expect to become a millionaire from whatever I write. Outside of my blog, I haven’t published anything yet. But, if I die at age 80, and my writings suddenly become popular a decade later, then I’m satisfied with that prospect.
Yes – I wasn’t until someone started the thread in linkedin that I realised I’d never thought about my writing as some sort of legacy, Carolyn. One of the reasons I love these blogs and forums is because they make you think in new ways about the things you’re interested in, From reading your blog, I’m sure your daughters will be very proud of your work – and of you.