Last Will and Testament
by Cait Collins
I hate downsizing. I have boxes that I must go through and decide if the items are keepers, to be recycled, donated, or trashed. I started with a box of personal papers. Most of it was bagged to take to the shredding service. But I found my insurance policies, the deed for my cemetery plot, and my Will. I need to check with the insurance carriers to make sure beneficiaries are up-to-date. And I must redo my will. As I read through the list of who gets what, I started thinking about what I would leave my writer friends. So I wrote a Last Will and Testament to my writer family.
I, Cait Collins, being of sound mind do hereby declare this as my Last Will and Testament. This instrument supersedes and voids any and all previous declarations of my final wishes.
I designate as my primary beneficiaries Wordsmith six, my ninth grade English teacher, Mr. Jennings, Mr. Sweat, author, Michael Cunningham, all my creative writing instructors, the agents and editors who kindly rejected my work and then told me how to do it better; the established writers who offered friendship, and the young ones who will follow. You will share equally in my estate.
I bequeath you the surprise of a blank page. Do not fear the empty white space. Instead, embrace it and fill it with your dreams, your observations, your life, and your stories.
I leave you courage. Step out from the shadows and proclaim “I am a writer.” Then go write. Courage comes from knowing who you are. Once you have declared your identity, you can begin the journey.
To all young men and women who want to be writers, I leave you a teacher like Mr. Jennings. He expected the best from me and would never let me get away with less than my absolute best effort. He taught me to love poetry and the imagery of the genre.
As you begin your career, I bequeath you a mentor like Michael Cunningham. He overheard a group of students discussing the reactions of friends and family who think your new book is about them. He offered this advice. “Never let anyone dissuade you from writing your story. People may think they are the subject, but remember it is your story. Write it.” When the book was finished, I emailed Mr. Cunningham to thank him for his encouragement. He responded to the news and wished me success in placing the book.
I leave you the joy of discovery. Writing is an adventure. You will meet many characters along the way and you will travel to many locales. Embrace the thrill of the discovery. Along the way, you may even find yourself.
I give you a librarian like Mr. Sweat. His affinity for the written word made me realize that a book is a living being. The words on the page may not change, but in the appreciation of generations of readers I realize the story has evolved and brought a new understanding of life, and history, and man’s relationship to his home, his occupation, and to his fellow man. Long after electronic readers are replaced by new gadgets, books, real books, will remain.
I leave you success. You may never get rich from your works, but you succeed each time you complete a project, polish it, and submit it. Success comes from passing on what you have learned. Success is knowing you have done your best. Do not downplay each achievement. Remember success breeds success.
I bequeath to you gratitude. Be thankful for your achievements and for those who have supported you in your writer’s journey. Never fail to express your gratitude to those who have been part of your success. Never fail to be thankful for the gift you have received. Honor the gift by nurturing and fueling it. Do not hide your talent. It is a sin to waste a gift.
I leave you love and appreciation. Your friendship and fellowship have inspired me and warmed me. You have been with me in good times and bad. I honor our relationships. Thank you for being a fellow writer and sharing your talents with me. I pray we have many more years of friendship ahead of us.
This will is not intended to be a sad thing. It is not something you have to wait until my death to receive the benefit. It’s yours now. Claim it and use it. Thank you for walking the road with me.