Earlier today, 2012 came on the boob tube and, of course, I couldn’t resist watching (it was one of my top ten films of 2009, after all) and it got me thinking of a scene that happens later in the film. It turns out that underneath all of the special effects, the nonsensical actions and the unbelievable stunts, lies an allegory of survival beyond your expiration date that really resonates with me.
In the scene, Thandie Newton’s character is distraught over the politics behind the selection of who and what would survive in the new world. She doesn’t feel that it’s right that she be forced to pick and choose what works of art deserve to be saved, while discarding other, lesser known works simply because they don’t meet the criteria of what constitutes a masterpiece. Beyond that, she doesn’t believe it’s right that only the rich or most important people should live while those with less significance, or “some nobody” must suffer.
Chiwetel Ejiofor’s character claims different. He asks her if she has ever heard of a man named Jackson Curtis (John Cusack’s character), who once wrote a novel that wasn’t just panned by critics, but completely ignored by readers, and what the chances might be for a guy like him to survive. They are slim to nil, but because someone who has been chosen to survive just so happens to be reading that very book (for reasons of chance or nature or purpose), Jackson Curtis is now part of the world’s legacy.
“Our culture is our soul and that’s not dying tonight.”
I bring this up because it’s a good reminder that, as a writer, just because I may not sell millions of copies of my book, it doesn’t mean that what I have to say within the pages of those books (or my blog, or my screenplays) won’t one day be worth something to someone, or prove to be important to the legacy of our world at some point in the future. Whether I ever see that moment occur, or whether that moment ever comes to pass in the first place is beside the point.
I can’t allow the lack of sales, lack of followers or lack of readers to push me into giving up because it’s impossible to know whose hands my book might fall into or who might find solace, power, or truth within my words, urging them to hold onto it and make it matter, if only for them.
I’m not going to lie—it would be great to make a living with my writing, see the popularity of my work as a New York Times bestseller, to know that people are connecting with my words, my characters and my ideas, or even be considered a modern classic. But at the end of the day, none of that matters if it’s left behind when the world as we know it comes to an end. Only the words will matter then, and just because I may have only sold a dozen copies of my books , it doesn’t mean that me, my viewpoints or my voice hasn’t made an impression on someone somewhere.
Even if I never know that it mattered, that is where our legacy (as writers), the legacy of our words, and the legacy of our ideas will continue long past our own demise. But those words can’t live unless we let them free and give them the chance to find their way to those they are meant to inspire, because it’s nature (and our Lord) that will ultimately choose who is meant to be remembered and protected when those final two words are typed on the manuscript of our lives.