One of the benefits or hazards (depending on your perspective) of being an author is that I get asked to write and edit people’s obituaries. I’ve lost track is to how many I’ve done but I’ve learned a lot whether the obituaries were for people who were an important part of my life (such as my parents) or those I had never met (such as my friend’s sister).
An obituary is so much more than facts such as birth and death dates, hometown and burial place, and names of those who passed and those who were left behind. An obituary is about capturing the personality of the individual and what and who was important to them.
Several years ago, I was struggling with what direction to go with my life. I had already begun my career as an author but life is much more than work. I’ve seen many lives affected by workaholism and knew that finding balance had to be a priority.
But as I’ve shared in the last couple of blog posts, I’ve struggled with having too many priorities. I believe that if everything is a priority then nothing is a priority. As that was bouncing around my head those several years ago, I remembered a comment that few if any people on their deathbeds wish that they had spent more time at the office.
So I began thinking about what and who really matter to me. What were my priorities? How did I want to be remembered? I didn’t know the answers but I knew the questions. I also knew a way that would help me get those answers. So I sat down and I wrote my obituary.
When I write a book, I refer to the first draft as “emotional vomit”. In the subsequent drafts, I clean up the mess. But the first draft is about getting what’s in me out of me and onto paper. I strive to do true brainstorming which means not judging whether what I write is feasible or not. I create how I want the book to be.
I applied the same strategies and techniques to the process of writing my obituary. I have dreams that I want to accomplish and wrote my obituary as if I had done so.
Also, I limited the length of my obituary. By doing so, I was able to hone in on what my priorities truly were at that time. Yes they have changed but it’s more of a tweak than a deletion and replacement.
And of course, I left out the date and place of death cuz I don’t know when and where and where that’s going to happen. Incidentally, I’m not planning on having this obituary used anytime soon. 🙂
But I do use it myself as the foundation for making my priorities a reality. I don’t want them to simply be words on a piece of paper but ways that I live my life.
I have shared this writing your own obituary idea with others and quite a few have said doing so has helped them find their priorities. It’s not for everybody but if you’re willing to do so, I encourage you to try it. If you have any questions or comments, please let me know.
So that’s my story and I’m sticking to it! Thanks for taking the time to read this blog and have a wonderful Wednesday ☺
Jane Freund is an author, encourager, speaker, book coach, and pun lover. She has written or co-written 19 books and helped authors from 5 to 85 get their books written and published. Jane’s latest book, her first historical fiction novel, will be out in the fall of 2018. Previously, Jane taught Communication for ten years at Boise State University.
Jane can be found on Facebook, Goodreads, LinkedIn, Pinterest, Twitter, Instagram and smoke signals. OK, she is kidding about the smoke signals!