(Every man should) plant a tree, have a child, and write a book. These all live on after us, insuring a measure of immortality.
We’ve all heard the old adage of semi-obscure origin. Over the years it has evolved and grown. Some versions it include the marrying of a spouse and building a house. (Nowadays, we would probably change the building part to a more leisurely visiting of them in Parade of Homes.) But the premise has always been the same - the Ultimate Bucket-list.
First of all, I think we should accept that whoever started said that probably didn’t have wifi. Thankfully, modern technology has sped up our lives enough that we no longer need a growing tree in the backyard for a source of entertainment.
Seriously, though, each of these three ultimate bucket-list items has incredible merit. My two points today are simply, 1) It says something that writing a book could rank in the top three, and 2) Writing a book is the best alternative of the lot.
1) Planting a Tree Takes Time. Yeah, yeah, good things take time and great things do not come easily. I get it! You get what you pay for! But I’m just lazy enough to do a quick cost-benefit analysis in my head and come up somewhat less motivated.
And before the rosy, picturesque image of planting a small seed and reaping a beautiful backyard paradise makes you angry at me, let me tell you a story. My dad had exactly that vision. Almost every year, for my entire childhood, he set out cultivate our front yard. He planted trees. He planted lots of trees. He sprouted them from neighboring trees and even freighted them in from the nearest nursery, on the far side of the state. He brought in potting soil by the ton, dug holes, buried water lines, planted grass, put in a sidewalk, and built fences.
He never quite got the “neat and tidy” american front yard, though - with the smooth, dark green grass and inviting shade from towering trees. At its closest point, the backyard approximated the african jungle more closely than anything. Not the trees, though. Oh, no. The trees died. I’m talking about the giant, thorny tumbleweeds that responded to his nurturing efforts by eating up the lawn and growing nearly as high as his hopes for the dead trees.
In retrospect, someone should have told him either not to put his house in the heart of not-even-cacti-grow-here Nevada, or to take up dry landscaping.
My father’s tireless efforts weren’t entirely without rewards, however. On possibly the best summer day of my life, after being bested at every level by the manic tumbleweed forest, he literally let me take a flamethrower to it.
Bottom line, writing a book is never going to take that long. Even if it doesn’t turn out as you hope, you’ll know a lot sooner. Then you can put it on a shelf somewhere and have it to look back on, without ever once worrying that it is secretly sprouting thorns and growing out of control.
2) Having a Baby Isn’t a Pastime. Don’t get me wrong, having kids is a life-changing experience on nearly every level. It’s just that after we have them, we spend the next twenty years fighting against, and trying to undo those changes. And...yes...as a father, I am forced to admit there is nothing more important or rewarding. But having babies, in my mind, always seemed like it belonged in the “Top 5 Unavoidable Milestones” list.
Take a novel for example. It too takes time and nurturing. You get to see it grow and mature. In a very real sense, it is also “your baby.” But if you get a headache, it will stay quiet. If you need a break, it won't go "Emo" on you. It doesn’t generate one metric ton of crap per year and the only time it wakes you at night is when it just gave you an epiphany.
Nobody says things like, “You know, I’m just still so young, with so much life to live! I think I’ll wait until I’m in my early forties to write a book.” Yet most people have babies and few of them write books. Point is, we bring enough responsibility and head-ache on ourselves. Writing is actually fun!
3) Writing is Imagination on Steroids. Now that we’ve taken care of the competition, let’s take a better look at writing. Almost anyone who reads a book, and then watches the movie, inevitably replies, “The movie was great, but not as good as the book.” You’ve been there, right? Why was that? Because when we read, we invest our imaginations, and that is inherently a rewarding experience for us as a species.
But if you think that reading is a trip, you should try writing! In 2014 I finally got up the courage to write Tribes: The Beastman and it’s sequel Tribes: Celestia, an idea I first created in 2007. To my surprise, I could remember nearly every, character, plot point and location in great detail, as bright and vividly as though I’d thought them up the day before. I believe that occurrence is common with most writers. We really give a piece of ourselves to its creation. No life is more deeply touched by the finished work, than the author.
4) Writing is Great Self-Expression. We all need it, know it or not. Writing, (and I’m being serious here) is one of the greatest therapists of all time. I, myself, have written several stories to help cope with a tragic event or another. (No, these stories have not, nor will they ever be seen by human eye.) If you feel overwhelmed, imprisoned to past emotions, or misunderstood, give it a try.
5) Finishing is a Rush. I thought it fitting to save this point for last. Like any project, finishing a novel, being able to type, “THE END”, close it, and know that therein lie emotions, living characters, and a compelling story of your own making, is probably one of the single-greatest feelings that I have ever felt. As invigorating as it is to write and create, it is equally as satisfying to reap closure.
And, as an added bonus (much like how this could have been a sixth point), once it is done, you get to pick it up occasionally and relive the perfect story again and again.