(This column is posted at www.StevenSavage.com and Steve’s Tumblr. Find out more at my newsletter.)
I’m writing this in 2021, a year of plague, political unrest, and climate change. As I write it, I find myself asking what value my writing has and how it can live on to help people. If you are a writer, artist, or other creative, such doubts and concerns may plague you as well.
We can hope people buy our books, treasure them, and pass them on. Perhaps our works will live on as legacies. Maybe we can make donations to libraries or Little Free Libraries. We may reach people unborn, when they find a peculiar book on a shelf.
But books rot, and decay, and fall apart.
Perhaps we can live on in electronic formats. The internet spans the world, and data storage is cheap. Our legacy may be in electrons, pieces of ourselves in a digital afterlife of ebooks.
But can we count on those who distribute them? Businesses are self-interested, and technology changes.
All of this, all of this counts on people taking an interest in our works. Even if our mark is made in libraries and scrawled on silicon, people may not care.
I won’t lie. I certainly hope my work leaves a legacy, that it is read after I am gone. I hope enough of the world is here, so I have a chance to enlighten or entertain or confuse someone after I’m gone.
But I’ve learned – again and again – that a good writer wants to make an impression now.
Many an author I’ve met speaks of “that one person” – the person whose life changed due to their book. I’ve had that experience, and to see your work change a life reminds you that your creations matter. You make an impression.
Then there are the reviews. That one review on a website that says your book made a difference. Maybe you weren’t a life-changer, but you made their life a bit better. You make an impression.
There are sales, newsletters, blog posts like this one. Each one is a chance to reach people. Each is a chance to make an impression.
These impressions we make don’t end. They shape lives, direct people, and change them. Those changes live on in what they do, who they talk to, and how they think. If you wish, you can easily think of it as obvious karma.
Maybe we even make the world better enough that it outlasts the troubles we’ve created.
Our work, first and foremost, must improve others. Let it live in the libraries of the mind.