Once again, Anne Lamott tweets words of wisdom. (Seriously, guys, go follow her on Twitter). This made me stop and think, though, because I think the desire to be remembered underlies a lot of my writing (or has in the past, at least).
I used to journal a lot, and I think I always had this idea that after I died people would go through my papers and “discover” me and I’d end up being the next Emily Dickinson. Now I wish I’d written more in my journal while I was in college, not so much because I think every word from my mechanical pencil will be gold someday, but because I’d like to have those memories in writing for myself.
I don’t think wanting to be remembered is such an awful motivation, (if it actually gets us to write) but the truth is that we probably won’t be. We can’t all be Shakespeare. But does that mean the things we have to say are any less important? Not necessarily.
If we truly have “a voice, a gift, a nagging inside … that says ‘Tell it,'” the words we write will be important. Even if we don’t end up in the classic literary canon, there’s a chance that someone, somewhere, will read what we’ve written and think, “I’ve been there. This writer captures that experience that way I wish I could.”Somewhere, a reader may become so immersed in a world we’ve created that it’s hard to come up for air. (The internet makes this more likely than ever).
But even if no one else reads a single word we write, it is still worth writing, because writing gives us a way to remember ourselves as we once were and to envision what we might be. Writing gives us the chance to articulate our thoughts in new ways, and in so doing to give birth to new thoughts.
If we write solely to be remembered, our writing has the potential to become pretentious or fake. But if we write because we want to remember ourselves, to remember what it is to be alive at this moment, to see what we’re seeing and feel what we’re feeling, or if we write to imagine what life is for someone else or to tell a story that needs to be told, then we will never have a reason to stop writing.