What We Leave Behind


Last week was a rough one with the loss of two of the great creative idols of our time: David Bowie and Alan Rickman both taken by cancer at the age of 69.

Both of these men were masters of their personal art, ruling the stage and screen with their own iconic brands of stardom. Bowie made it “cool” to be weird – to embrace all of the internal oddities that he had and put them on display for the world. His most iconic moment for me will always be his role as Jareth, the Goblin King, but all of his music had the same fantastic sense of possibility to it. Rickman is probably best known now as Severus Snape, ala Harry Potter, but in all of his roles, he managed to shine, drawing the audience’s attention even when taking only a “side” role. His Colonel Brandon will never fail to make me sigh and swoon, and Hans Gruber is still one of my favorite villains of all time.

You only have to glance around the internet to see that so many people felt the same way I do and mourned both of these amazing men. They’ll definitely be missed, and their music and movies will be rewatched and played on repeat for a long time to come.

But it was part of the news that came out about David Bowie that really got to me this week. According to several of the news stories I read, Bowie knew he was terminal for over a year. He kept it completely secret, but took the time to make one final album, one he called his final gift to his fans. Just think about that – the man knew he was dying, and considering the pain and exhaustion that can be caused by cancer and the treatment for it, it’s a really awful way to die – and instead of spending his last days just relaxing and being with friends and family, he decided to write and record an entire album. For his fans.

I gotta say, I don’t know that I’d have that kind of courage or dedication to my craft. And that got me thinking – if I love writing as much as I say and think I do – shouldn’t I have that kind of courage?

Shouldn’t I want to create that badly?

It was a wakeup call to say the least. I spend so much time just pissing away the hours, scrolling through my twitter feed, reading fanfiction, trolling blogs for writing tips, staring off aimlessly into space… Honestly, some days I will do absolutely anything to keep from actually having to sit down and put words on the page.

I may love writing, but most of the time, I don’t really act like it. And that’s not OK. Not if I really, truly want to succeed as much as I say I do.

Maybe it’s a terrible cliché, but the fact is, losing Rickman and Bowie gave me a stark reminder of my own mortality, and of how little time I really have left. And that’s even if I live the average lifespan of a white woman in the US – that’s not considering the chances that I could die tomorrow in a car accident or end up with cancer or succumb to a truly terrible stomach flu. We just don’t know. Hell, a dear friend of mine just lost her brother-in-law to a very sudden electrolyte imbalance leading to organ failure in less than a week. He was only in his 40s.

We just never know what might happen.

With that reminder in the forefront of my mind, I spent the weekend buried in words, throwing myself into writing again, and managed more in two days than I’ve written so far in all of my lazier-than-planned-January. Keeping up the momentum has always been the hard part for me, but damned if I don’t need to figure out how to make myself do it.

I know I will never be “finished” as a writer – there will always be another story to tell, another scene or character in my head that wants to come screaming out on paper for all the world to see. It’s the same for any creative individual, I’d guess. We’ll never feel like we have enough time for all the things we want to create and bring into existence for other people to see.

All we can do is keep going, one word, one brush stroke, one musical note, after the other. Time may seem limitless, but it is oh so terribly finite for human beings.

One day I will reach the end of my time here on Earth – I don’t know where or when it will be, and I don’t know who I’ll leave behind to mourn. I can’t control any of it. All I can do is strive to make the most of every moment I have left.

I know I love to write. It’s one of the few certainties I hold dear. So it’s time to remember that – to make a pact with myself to spend my time in a way that I wouldn’t regret if I ran out of minutes tomorrow.