If you’ve spent time on social media in the last few months, or paid close attention to the news, you’ve probably picked up on the meme that 2016 has been a grim year when it comes to celebrity deaths—David Bowie, Prince, Muhammad Ali, Alan Rickman, Gene Wilder, Florence Henderson, Alan Thicke, Leonard Cohen, George Michael, Carrie Fisher… yikes, this list could go on forever.
I also suffered a more personal loss this Christmas, when my grandmother passed away. She had lived a long and full life, one worthy of great celebration, but it’s been painful coming to terms that she is gone from this earth. She had been a big part of my life.
All these deaths have led me recently to do a lot of thinking about our mortality. Specifically, I’ve been pondering the question: what is my life’s work? By life’s work, I’m referring to the labour I’m most passionate about, the labour I want to be remembered for. Although most of my time is spent editing books and newspaper articles, and although I enjoy that work a great deal, my proudest accomplishments are my novels. Someday, when someone close to me sits down to write my obituary and thinks about my contributions to the world, I hope they think about my writing first and foremost.
But here’s the thing: the parts of that future obituary that are most important to me concern accomplishments I haven’t gotten around to, well, accomplishing yet. I still haven’t written my best books!
2016 has reminded me that I may not have time to waste.
When I think about all the celebrities we lost this year, I can’t help but marvel at their accomplishments. I’m sad that these people are gone and that they will create no more. Their bodies of work are complete. But the reason I will miss them is that they worked so hard during their lives and made enduring contributions that will live on. People will be listening to David Bowie’s and Prince’s and Leonard Cohen’s music for decades. I still smile when I see Florence Henderson on old episodes of The Brady Bunch. Carrie Fisher’s performances in Star Wars are timeless!
When you think about your life and what you want to be remembered for, when you think about your life’s work and what’s most important in the grand scheme of things, what comes to mind? Many of you are writers, so I suspect you also have great books inside you that haven’t forced themselves onto the page yet. Instead of making a list of resolutions this year to exercise more and eat less (laudable goals nonetheless), perhaps reserve some time to consider what’s stopping you from pursuing your writing dreams.
As the calendar turns, my life’s work is heavy on my mind. Maybe like me, you can use 2017 as a first step toward realizing the most important items on that future obituary you imagine for yourself.
Evan Braun is a full-time author and editor. He has authored three novels, the first of which, The Book of Creation, was shortlisted in two categories at the 2012 Word Awards. He has released two sequels, The City of Darkness (2013) and The Law of Radiance (2015), completing the series. As a professional editor, Braun has seven years of experience working with Word Alive Press authors. He is also a regular contributor at The Fictorians, a popular writing blog.