But someone had posted an announcement on my friend's page that he had died suddenly from acute pancreatitis. I was shocked. Then I thought, no, no, this must be an extremely tasteless April's Fool prank. I sent a message to his son to confirm that it was a joke; he replied the announcement was true.
According to actuarial tables, my friend should have lived another twenty-five years. But Fortuna spun her wheel and he received a different fate.
One sometimes hears the saying "Live every day as if it were your last." It's not particularly practical advice; if I followed it, I would never do laundry or floss my teeth or pay the mortgage, and we'd end up stinky and homeless, and I'd be toothless to boot. The Western style of life requires people to plan their days and weeks as if they'll be around for a while.
My friend wasn't a writer, but his sudden death made me wonder, how should a writer should spend each day so that she leaves behind a good legacy?
I have no answer to the question. If I knew I would die within the next year, I would stop exercising and otherwise caring for my long-term health and instead burn the candle on both ends to get a lot of words written. If I knew I would live another forty years, I would continue taking good care of my health and pace myself so that I didn't work so hard I burned out.
Not knowing, I stumble along, never quite sure whether I'm writing enough or exercising enough or experiencing the world enough or visiting my family enough. If I die soon, my legacy will be small to nothing and I'll regret (if regret is in fact possible after death) not having worked longer days and pushed myself harder. If I live a long time, I may wish at the end that I had spared more time for other pursuits.
How do you reconcile planning your writing career and legacy when you lack the most crucial piece of data, your lifespan? Do you agree with me that you would make different choices if you had only a year to live than if you had decades before you?
I'll be posting again at Novel Spaces on April 21. Please stop by again then.