Writing as Legacy: Quirks and Perks

Little boy writing a letter by Norman Rockwell (1920)

Why write? Answering with soul-scraping honesty may be too difficult, so instead here’s an alternative question from the end of Lukeman’s First Five Pages. It requires a simple yes or no.

Quote: Ask yourself what you would do if you knew you would never be published. Would you still write? If you are truly writing for the art of it, the answer will be yes. And then, every word is a victory.

In the extreme: if you knew your work would never be read by anyone else—would you still write?

That strikes at the heart of writing as a communication medium between people, but it still leaves one reader that you have to sleep with every night: you. Perhaps writing in that case is an extension of the conscience (and consciousness).

Language is an inherently societal legacy that allows every literate person to feel a part of humanity, even if he or she leaves behind no traces for others. That said, I believe that every life has something to contribute to our common heritage. So next time you think your writing isn’t worth keeping, think again. History, too, is a qualified judge of relevance.

 

6 responses

  1. Pingback: Writing as Legacy – HemmingPlay

    • I agree.

      The question that does throw a curveball is ‘who is the ideal reader’? Even if we’re not consciously targeting someone, every ‘coherent’ piece of writing appeals to a certain group of people.

      I once saw a scale: on one side are purely private scribblings (like diaries and shorthand notes) that can only sensibly be read by the author; on the other side are the hand-holding, fully-explanatory discourses (like manuals and scientific papers) that can be read with perfect clarity by at least some particular group of people. All other writing is somewhere in the middle of the scale (Children’s and YA fiction closer to the explanatory side; poetry closer to the private/cryptic side).

      All this to say: I have a feeling each of us enjoys writing for a certain type of audience, and a certain type of ideal reader, even if we’re not aware who this (mythical) creature is … But it would be fun to get to know them!

      Like

  2. In her book “Blood and Roses” about the Paston family in Norfolk in the 1400s Helen Castor says that “Little now remains of the buildings and monuments on which they lavished such care” and “Not a single fifteenth-century Paston tomb survives and “What did survive, against all the odds, was not brick or marble but paper.” The paper on which they wrote letters to each other.

    In His Dark Materials Philip Pullman has the dead learn how to be released – by telling their own story.

    Liked by 1 person

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