I was saddened by the recent news that Gabriel Garcia Marquez, Nobel Prize winning author of One Hundred Years of Solitude (1967) and Love in the Time of Cholera (1985), is suffering with dementia. With his failing health comes the unfortunate end of his writing legacy. Marquez has written some memorable books that will endure for decades to come but the tragedy of his fading health has left me considering the untold stories we’ll never get to hear or read.
Many authors write into their old age and were it not for mortality then they would surely go on. It’s terrible to imagine just how many great novels will never come to be. What more could Charlotte Bronte have written had she not died in 1855 aged just 38? Would she have created a novel to rival, even better that of Jane Eyre (1847)? What of George Orwell who died in 1950 at the age of 46? If he’d lived through more of the twentieth century would he have conveyed an even darker dystopian vision than in 1984 (1949)?
Such lives cut short cannot help but make you think of your own life. As a writer of fantasy fiction I have ideas for novels and short stories set in another world, a world where the history is always being built. Looking through the lists of ideas I often imagine how many years from now will it be before they’re all written? How many more ideas will come to me in the near future or the years that follow? The answer is I do not know. The future is uncertain and the road on which I traverse on this writing journey is no exception. Dangers are afoot, dilemmas wait in the shadows and the scuttling beast that is procrastination is never too far away.
I don’t believe many writers will tell all the stories they wish to in their lifetimes and that will be the same of me. While writing novels I do plan to build an encyclopaedia of my fantasy world – a complete A-Z of everything a reader needs to know. However, that is destined to remain an unfinished work, just as the great J.R.R. Tolkien was still building the world of Middle Earth when he died in 1973 at the age of 81. Ideas never fully dry up for writers. Each day they experience, every significant event or moment in their lives, could well be the trigger for a new novel. That’s one of the luxuries of our imaginations – ideas are always growing.
All that authors can do is write, write, write and share as many stories as we can with the world. Only we can do it unless we have been thorough in our planning just as the late Robert Jordan was upon his tragic death in 2007 at the age of 58. Having completed eleven of the fourteen Wheel of Time novels, Jordan had planned ahead and his widow was able to turn to Brandon Sanderson to complete her husband’s series.
Some of us may be fortunate in telling all the stories that we want to but I imagine this won’t be the case with the majority. Therefore, it’s time to procrastinate no longer. Each writer has a unique gift that must be shared with the world. Write as much as you can and when you can. Turn as many of those ideas and notes into living books for there is nothing sadder when it comes to writing than an unfinished story.
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