I think a lot about death. Not because I’m some weird dark emo chick who tosses my hair and thinks that life is pain. I’m a lawyer who specializes in estate planning and administration, so my day job consists of me talking with people about what happens after their death or helping people deal with the administration after someone’s death. I also am on the board of a non-profit that contracts with a local mortuary to guarantee our members low cost burials and cremations. So I think a lot about death.
And when I think of death, I often consider the idea of a legacy. Partly that’s my job – my clients want to leave a legacy in place for their family members, their friends and loved ones, their communities, and charities they support. They want to be remembered. Usually through large cash donations.
But a legacy doesn’t have to be monetary. It can be fond memories, or selfless acts that change lives for the better. It can also be a bad legacy, of remembered misdeeds and vilification. Try to avoid that, if at all possible.
My parents were recently honored for their service to the community they live in, which is terrific. They’ve done a lot of good things for people and never expected a reward for it, which makes it even better that the community recognized their hard work. They will leave an excellent legacy behind for their children and grandchildren to follow. I want to be like them.
All this nonsense aside, as a writer, you’ll also be leaving a legacy behind. After all, how many times have we heard the stories of a new manuscript from a famous author being published after their deaths? The great writers, long dead now, still have a huge mark on our society and a legacy that extends onward. You may not want the kind of legacy that say, Shakespeare, has left behind, but you’ll leave one, nonetheless.
In the same way that nothing ever disappears from the internet, your written words/works will (likely) never be completely lost. I mean, I occasionally lose a blog post when the server crashes and it disappears, but if you’re published, you’ll probably live on for some time to come through your words.
So, in much the same way that you’d rather be remembered for your humanitarian efforts, instead of being considered the next Dahmer or Hitler, make a bit of an effort to ensure that your legacy as a writer is a good one. Don’t publish before you’ve polished. Maybe learn some grammar and how to use commas.
Make sure that what you’re putting out there, that may last for generations to come, is something you can be proud of. Because Shakespeare is the one we remember, not who his editor was. Any mistakes/issues/problems with your work will be attributed to you, not to the team of people who may (or may not) be working on your book.
This, frankly, is why I haven’t self-published. Because I want to ensure that my legacy is a polished one that has passed in front of many eyes prior to making its debut it the annals of history. Because I’m selfish. I want a pristine legacy. And because I’m a humanitarian, damn it. I want humanity to read the best possible version of my work that they can.