My hope for every person on this planet is that they die never having completed everything on their bucket list. That may sound strange and morbid now, but please bear with me. I hope by the end of this post you’ll agree.
When I diagnosed with cancer, I was halfway through writing a book. It was there on my hard drive, half written, half notes, with a smattering of ideas and thoughts that, at that point in my life, I thought would never be completed. I was a bit sad about that but it was a small problem in the storm my life had become.
I realized later that I was strangely at peace about that work in progress. The reason is that it was life interrupted and not life completed. As neat and tidy (and totally Hollywood) as it would be to have everything on my life list checked off before I checked out I thought about how sad it would be if that were the case. It would mean that I had stopped trying and stopped striving to do things. It would have meant that I had already ‘died’ in some sense because there was nothing else I was working towards.
I laughed at this point. I couldn’t think of anything better than having passed away in the middle of doing something that I loved.
Some of you out there may disagree. I think of authors like Robert Jordan, author of the Wheel of Time series, who passed away before the final three books could come out. Friends have talked about what a shame it was that he didn’t finish and how awful he must have felt. I don’t know that he felt bad at all. When my cancer rolled in, I looked around at the things in my house that I had previously valued and saw that it was just stuff after all. Worse, it was stuff that my wife and kids would have to deal with. For Jordan, I know that he had notes that he shared with his wife, who passed them along to Brandon Sanderson to (admirably) finish off his great work. For me, this would have been enough. To know that it would get done even if I weren’t there to see the end of it.
How can I say this? Well, I have two young children. My daughter was just two and my son was four when I found out I was sick. While I’m totally fine now and ideally will be for many years to come there was a time when I had to consider what it would mean for me to be gone from their lives. I had to find comfort in knowing my wife and my family would tell them who I was though I wasn’t there to complete the story myself. Maybe it was the same for Jordan. I hope it was.
If you’re a reader, I hope you never finish that last book you were reading at the ripe old age of 105 (or whatever). I hope you never stop wandering the paths of the Shire, that you don’t stop waltzing on the deck of the Titanic, and that you never stop enjoying the endless swinging through New York City with Spider-Man. It’s the journey that matters in each of these cases.
If you’re a writer working away on your book, while I hope you finish and look forward to reading your work, I hope you never take the journey for granted. It’s what keeps your readers turning the pages and coming back to your stories time and again. How your characters get where they’re going is a lot more interesting than what happens to them once they do.
Everything should be a work in progress. Enjoy life for every moment it offers and don’t stop doing new things for even a second. Even these posts for Open Book, which I have greatly enjoyed writing and wish to thank everyone here for the great honour of letting me write them, should never be compl
The views expressed in the Writer-in-Residence blogs are those held by the authors and do not necessarily reflect the views of Open Book.
Brian Wilkinson attempts to juggle multiple careers as an author, high school teacher, and librarian. He currently lives in East York, Ontario, with his wife and two children, who served as the inspiration for the main characters in his first novels, Battledoors and Paramnesia. Brian was born and raised in Guelph, Ontario, where he attended the University of Guelph and received a BA in English Literature. He continued his writing career by earning a diploma in Journalism from Humber College, and applied those skills by working as a reporter for the Toronto Sun, the Toronto Star, and EYE Weekly, as well as serving as a co-publisher for the comic news site ComiXfan, and an editor for Humber Etcetera, where he won a Columbia Scholastic writing award for first-person column-writing. He was even lucky enough to realize a lifelong dream by writing for Marvel Comics when he co-wrote X-Men: The 198 Files. Brian feels like he is the luckiest person on Earth. He gets to be a dad, a husband, a teacher, and a writer. Not too bad, huh?