Who Wants to Live Forever?

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Writing is an immortal profession. Think about it – being an author is one of the few careers wherein age discrimination doesn’t exist. In fact, older writers are often more well-respected for their craft than younger ones, by even the youngest of readers. In our society, where disrespect for the elderly is both acceptable and encouraged, writing is one of the rare fields where age is not an automatic dismissal of your value to the world. You never heard an avid reader say, “Oh, I can’t read that author. She’s too old.”

Never happens.

Yes, it may happen among some idiots who never read a book after high school. But, among people with brains (and yes, I am insinuating if you are literate and never read books, you have no brain), authors are never ousted due to being “too old” or “too young”. All that matters is the quality of the writing; The stories themselves. No one gives a crap about the age of the writer. 19 or 90 makes no difference.

(Screenwriters can be dismissed due to age, but that’s because most middle-management people running film studios are idiot douchebags in their 30s and 40s who can’t read anything other than “BMW”… Painters. Perhaps painters and illustrators enjoy such a timelessness too. But I can think of no other professions, not even creative ones, wherein age is irrelevant. Only writers. Certainly, actors and directors and dancers enjoy no such immortality.)

What inspired this realization; that being a writer means being immortal?

During the spring of 2013, I finally read Dandelion Wine by Ray Bradbury; The first book he ever published. Immediately afterward, I started reading the sequel, Farewell Summer; one of the last books Ray Bradbury published before his untimely death at the far-too-young age of 91.

Now, here’s the part that got me thinking about immortality and time travel. I know, I didn’t mention time travel yet, but I am now: Writing is also a profession of time travel.

Dandelion Wine takes place in 1923. The book was published in 1957 and Farewell Summer was published 50 years later. This is fascinating to me, because by my own personal perception, these books are brand new. Within my own imagination, these stories have never existed before. In my sphere of knowledge, Farewell Summer and Dandelion Wine exist simultaneously.

However…

Any 10 year old boy who read Dandelion Wine in 1957 had to wait until he was 60 years old to read the sequel. He waited a lifetime! But the characters hadn’t aged a day! They remained the same people they always were.

Then you have me – someone who read Dandelion Wine, then got to instantly skip over the next 50 years, and keep right on going with Farewell Summer. The full impact of that hit me as I picked up the second book – I just jumped 50 years ahead through a time portal! This wasn’t a metaphorical experience – within seconds, I literally skipped ahead 50 years in Ray Bradbury’s life.

Strange, isn’t it? Writing is quite literally a profession of immortality and time travel. No exaggeration. We can live forever and fly past decades in a heartbeat.

Ray Bradbury famously and frequently repeated the same story about being a young boy and meeting a sideshow performer named Mr. Electrico, who touched an electrified sword to Ray’s nose, and demanded that Ray, “Live forever!”

Indeed we can say Mr. Bradbury has obeyed that lifelong command. So too, do all writers. No matter if you only write one book in your lifetime or you write everyday for more than 70 years, as Ray Bradbury did, you are still among the immortals. You have created something to give to the world. You have made a gift to share. What will your gifts be? Spooky? Hateful? Loving? Compassionate? Inspirational? Educational? Perhaps just plain fluff and fun?

Whatever path you decide to take, keep your eternal life in perspective. By “eternal life” I’m not talking about religion or an afterlife – I’m talking about the immortality you are given as a writer. Keep that eternity in perspective – for what you write at the age of 19 will become your legacy at the age of 97. All of it remains connected to the pallet which paints the portrait of who you are, and what you gave to mankind. Make sure that the things you leave to this world will make your fellow man grateful that you were here at all. Make sure that when you depart this earth, people will lament that you didn’t have enough time to write just one more book, share one more idea, express one more thought – because they so loved all the books, ideas and thoughts you shared earlier, and they now cherish even more deeply, all that which came before.

You too, are going to do as Mr. Electrico commanded.

You are going to live forever.