Mortality as Inspiration

It’s a kind of stiff upper lip holiday season for my family since three of our number are battling cancer. We are very close-knit, so we’re all anxiously waiting for news and trying to help out the best we can.

As always with this disease there is so much uncertainty, which might be a blessing because it leaves room for hope that the degree of scariness will be reduced. We lost a beloved cousin to a very fast-moving form of cancer years ago, so we know what the worst outcome is like.

It reminds me of Little Women by Louisa May Alcott. It is when her sister dies that Jo March (Louisa) sees that the life she has known will one day pass away and no one will ever know anything about it unless…

That’s when she stops writing silly (but fun!) adventures and starts writing the novels that made her famous.

When you think about it, this idea can be generalized for writers everywhere: Your entire world, all of life as you know it, will, much sooner than you think, pass away forever. Is there anything that you love, that brings you joy, that you would like to pass along to the poor souls who come after us?

Millions of people all over the world know all about the March family and draw inspiration from their story because one person took the time to set it all down in a way that people would enjoy reading.

Admittedly, all those millions of people and all their books will be dust, too, one day, but it’s a way of passing along something worthwhile to the next few generations and setting them on the right path so they can do the same.

I think there’s another lesson for writers here, too: You don’t have to be inspired. You just have to put down what you see.