Dying Your Whole Life (Kafka via Jeffrey Eugenides)

'What if this is the last work you will ever do?' That's the phrase that pops up each month as a reminder in Omnifocus (my project management system). It's an admonishment that I have very little time to devote to writing and should concern myself with not only doing it well but serving work worth serving. It's also why I don't publish more 'top ten reasons' posts and try to stay away from content as mere click-bait. I prefer to write about what matters (to me). Which is why I was encouraged when I read this article about 'Writing Posthumously' by Jeffrey Eugenides:

“A serious person should try to write posthumously,” Hitchens said, going on to explain: 'By that I took her to mean that one should compose as if the usual constraints—of fashion, commerce, self-censorship, public and, perhaps especially, intellectual opinion—did not operate.' Hitchens’s untimely death last year, at the age of sixty-two, has thrown this remark into relief, pressing upon those of us who persist in writing the uncomfortable truth that anything we’re working on has the potential to be published posthumously; that death might not be far off, and that, given this disturbing reality, we might pay attention to it."

Eugenides continues:

"To follow literary fashion, to write for money, to censor your true feelings and thoughts or adopt ideas because they’re popular requires a writer to suppress the very promptings that got him or her writing in the first place. When you started writing, in high school or college, it wasn’t out of a wish to be published, or to be successful, or even to win a lovely award like the one you’re receiving tonight. It was in response to the wondrousness and humiliation of being alive ... So what I’m saying is, this is what got you here tonight: your over-stimulated, complicated, by turns ecstatic and despondent, specific self. And if you’re anything like I was when I got one of these awards, some twenty years ago, you didn’t know exactly how you did it. You write your first stuff pretty much for yourself, not thinking anybody will read, much less publish it, not thinking it’ll earn money, therefore not worrying about pleasing anyone or falling in line with any agenda; not worrying about censoring yourself, either, because who’s going to see it? And, miraculously, it worked out."