Thoughts on Legacies in a Time of Lockdown

Content warning for mention/discussion of death. 

This is a post about publishing, about career-making (or breaking) decisions, and about having a life’s work to leave behind you. In the grand scheme of things, it’s perhaps not the most important topic, but I find importance to be a fairly relative thing.

I feel the need to justify talking about publishing decisions at the minute, given the current state of the world, but I’m not sure how logical that is. What I can say is that it matters to me, personally, and I’ve found the current global situation has given me a little perspective.

Previously, I’ve spoken about my thoughts and feelings about mortality, and I’ve written here ad nauseam about publishing and self-publishing and hopes and dreams. Now I find all these topics overlapping in my brain, mixed in with an unhealthy dose of anxiety.

My thoughts about wanting to see myself in print have gone on a journey from wanting to get really far really fast, to finding folly in being ill-prepared, to slowing things right down and waiting for the right time. And I’ve documented pretty much all of those thoughts as they evolved.

Well, now they’ve moved onto this new place where, on the one hand, I still want to be cautious and careful about making the right decisions but, on the other hand, am worried about what happens if I wait too long and I lose all my opportunities through indecision.

I guess what I’m looking for is a middle ground. I haven’t found it quite yet, but am writing this post as a means to help me do just that.

Thinking about death right now is morbid and probably unhelpful, but also fairly unavoidable. There are many aspects to life that death affects – of course there are. And, like I said, I know publishing isn’t exactly up there with the most important ones. But I am wondering what would happen to my writing – something I’ve devoted my life to – when I die. If I were to go soon, the realistic answer is that nothing would likely happen to my writing at all. Whereas if I go a long time in the future, I’d like to think I’d have been published by then and would therefore be leaving my work out in the world.

The thing about it is the uncertainty of not knowing. How can you plan for days ahead when you don’t know how many you have in front of you? You can’t, really. You just play it by ear and hope for the best, just like everyone else.

Maybe my next question, then, should be what my ear – or, rather, my gut – is telling me.

It’s probably fear talking, but my gut is nudging me more towards self-publishing at the minute. Right now, it cares more about my books being in the world than it does about having money and a marketing team behind me. (Obviously marketing is still a factor, even when self-publishing, but I hope you get my meaning.) There are many factors at play, with pros and cons, payoffs and risks with both options.

I’ve circled around the point of this blog post a few times at this stage, but now I will be blunt about it: I don’t want to die without having left a legacy of words behind me. I can say I’ve found and given love in my life so far, which I honestly believe to be the main purpose of this whole existence thing, so I have no regrets on that count. With that therefore taken care of, I think my only regret would be the books I never got to write.

I talk about choosing between self-publishing and traditional publishing like it’s a decision, but obviously it’s not as simple as that. If I could just decide to be traditionally published, I would. It is what I prefer, but whether someone else publishes me or not is ultimately out of my hands. I can submit and submit until the cows come home, and I can wait for that to eventually pay off, but there are no guarantees that it ever would.

So maybe the crux of this whole thing is about me looking for control while surrounded by uncertainties. And maybe that isn’t a bad thing. (I still don’t know.)

For the moment, I’ve settled for making a deal with myself in which I’m not self-publishing right away, but I’m very much considering it within the next six months. I can’t say that’s the right decision, but it’s the closest I’ve got to one at the minute.

If anyone else has thoughts/opinions, I’d very much like to hear them!

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