Past, Present, and Future
Leave a Legacy
By Steve Hooley
It is the time of year when we reflect on the past, give gifts during the holidays, and plan for the future. So, how does that relate to writing? Can we learn from the history of writing to plan for the future of our writing? It has been said, “Those who fail to learn from history are doomed to repeat it.” (Winston Churchill, 1948, a paraphrase from George Santayana, 1905). And from geometry we learn that it takes two points to define the trajectory of a line. Could those two points be the past and the present? And does the trajectory of that line give us any clues about the future?
The Past – Reflection
For the past, we turn to British and American literature. Now, I am out of my element on this topic. I studied math and science in college. So, those of you English and literature experts, please help me out here.
For a listing of the periods or eras in British and American literature, I turned to Wikipedia. Here is what I found:
British Literature – periods and eras
Old English lit. – 658-1100
Late Medieval – 1066-1485
- Elizabethan era – 1588-1603
- Jacobean period – 1603-1625
- Late Renaissance – 1625-1660
The Restoration – 1660-1700
- Augustan age – 1701-1798
- Roots of Romanticism – 1750-1798
Romanticism – 1798-1837
Victorian lit. – 1832-1900
- Modernism and cultural revival – 1901-1945
- Late modernism – 1946-2000
21st Century lit.
- Early prose
- Revolutionary period
- First American Novel
19th Century – Unique American style
Late 19th Century – Realist fiction
20th Century prose
- 1930s – Depression era
Post WWII fiction
- Short story
I have gone back and reread “classics” from the 1800s in my attempt to educate myself. I have been surprised repeatedly by how much styles have changed from then until now. Many of those books contain techniques which we are now encouraged to avoid: omniscient POV, head-hopping, author intrusion, slow pace and entry into the story, lengthy description, tell don’t show, etc.
There were many cultural, societal, and economic reasons why those styles worked then, but wouldn’t work now. What can we learn from them?
Before we move from past to present, here is a link to John Gilstrap’s post from three days ago. John’s post It is a fantastic history of the publishing industry over the past quarter century.
The Present – Giving
We give gifts in the present. Do you consider your books and stories a gift to the future? If a gift is handed down to descendants and it is considered to be of value, it is a “legacy.” Are your books a legacy? Do you want them to be a legacy?
On a side note, but still about giving, today is “Goose Day.” If you investigate the secular tradition of “The Twelve Days of Christmas” and gift giving, you discover that we start with the 12th gift on December 13th and work our way down to the 1st gift on December 24th. This is December 19th, so if you are looking for a gift for your “true love,” it’s six geese a layin’ today. And hopefully, some of those geese will be layin’ gold eggs. Now, that’s a legacy.
The Future – Planning
If we wish our books/stories/wisdom to be a legacy, of value for the future, and maybe for us if we’re still around, how do we plan for that? Does our writing, or the way we publish, need to change? Can we predict trends for the future based on what has happened in the past and what is happening now? How will writing, publishing, and reading change? And how do we best position our writing to be ready for those developments?
- What era/period from the past would you choose to write in, if you could choose?
- Why did you pick that era/period?
- What new developments for writing/publishing/marketing/reading do you see coming in the future?
- Do you plan to position yourself for coming trends? How?
- Publishers Weekly says it’s about “what’s new and what’s next.” If you subscribe, what can you share about expected coming trends?