I don’t know if Benjamin Franklin had it right when it comes to fiction writing.
Does writing something ‘worth reading’ prolong life and memory beyond the years of our physical lives? Yes, we know of Shakespeare today, but what about a thousand years from now? Would he still be remembered? Besides, did he really write because he wanted to get as close to immortality as possible? What were his motivations for writing?
To do something ‘worth writing about’ is again a dubious thing. What is worth writing about? Do writers write only of great adventures, achievements, of lives lived in the limelight?
According to me, everything we do is worth writing about…all our gestures, eccentricities, deformities, sins, ugliness, just as much as our joys, our triumphs, and all the beauties of human nature and existence. No matter how big or small, human lives deserve to be written about in all their glorious and humiliating detail—because that is what gives us life beyond life–a celebration of our existence upon this earth each moment of the finite time we’re given.
So, I’d rather write not to make myself immortal, but to make the life of my times live beyond me–to celebrate life as it is around me today, in all its positive and negative aspects, across the entire spectrum of society, see it for what it really is and mirror its reality for the coming generations. (Perhaps, this is why when I go to museums I’m as impressed by a humble brass tobacco grinder as a beautifully worked jade bracelet– both transport me to the times their owners lived. I do think Fiction is a different, and somewhat more authentic, telling of History.)
Besides, when I write fiction, I’m not aware of reasons and motives beyond the immediate one: I want to say something, and will keep trying to say it in the best way I can, mostly because the voices in my head won’t shut up. Once my work is out of my hands, it is on its own, and its readers would decide its life and death, quite irrespective of me, or my longevity beyond my death.
What is your take on this? Do you write to live beyond your natural span, so you aren’t forgotten? And if you’re not a writer, do you strive to live in such a way that you’re written about? Any other views on what Mr. Franklin had to say?