Friday, June 19, 2015

The Writer's Legacy

Shannon Dittemore is the author of the Angel Eyes trilogy. She has an overactive imagination and a passion for truth. Her lifelong journey to combine the two is responsible for a stint at Portland Bible College, performances with local theater companies, and a love of all things literary. When she isn’t writing, she spends her days with her husband, Matt, imagining things unseen and chasing their two children around their home in Northern California. To connect with Shan, check out her website, FB, Twitter, Instagram, or Pinterest.

The word legacy isn't a word most of us think about on a daily basis. Writers are a little different in that regard. We think about these things more often. We want to leave something behind. We want to be remembered. We want to leave the world better than we found it. But even for the creative soul, legacy often floats on the edges of our day-to-day life. There but in a very ethereal, hard to touch kind of way.

Most of the time, we're just trying to get through the Friday before us. Survive our schedule. Mold life into something we can live with. Be productive. Be happy. Enjoy the journey. Maybe just get through the stack of homework languishing in our bags. 

But every now and then something happens and the word legacy feels closer than it did the day before. At least that's how it works with me.

This week one of my heroes passed away. I'd never met Elisabeth Elliot, but her life touched mine in a profound way. When I was a teenager--your age, probably--I read her book, Through Gates of Splendor. It's the true story of her experiences reaching out to the Auca Indians of Ecuador. Experiences that included the brutal death of her husband and four others. 

When I opened the book, I thought I knew what I was going to read. A true account, sure, but one that would inspire me to do as she had done. I so wanted to mirror her legacy.

But the pages of her writing brought me something else. They brought me reality. This woman's life was not easy. It wasn't some fairy tale experience in another country. It was bloody and lonely and full of the kind of sacrifice I can't even force myself to consider. And instead of being inspired to live like she did, I found myself honestly counting the cost of leaving behind such a legacy.

It was a surreal experience. But one that has never left me. And though my life has not taken me where hers took her, the journey she walked continues to inspire mine. Because even if I'll never be as brave as she was, I want to be. I want to live with that kind of passion. She and I have many, many differences, but we do have something in common. 

We're both writers. By my count, Elisabeth Elliot penned more than twenty books in her lifetime. Just this week I read that she toyed around with poetry as well. She was a writer, like you and me, but that's not what we remember most about her. We remember that she lived. She fought. She suffered. She inspired. She took very seriously the path that was laid before her. And because she did, her life left behind ripples that will continue into eternity.

That's what I want. I want to write stories. I want those to matter. But our legacies should be about more than what we put on the page. It should be about how we lived, who we touched. And when a person of such passion leaves this world, we're reminded that this life is a temporal one. If we live it the way it's meant to be lived, if we tackle the journey before us, maybe, just maybe, our lives will leave the kind of ripples Elisabeth Elliot's did.

Have you thought about your legacy? What is it you want to leave behind? 
Do you have any heroes who inspire you like Elisabeth inspires me?


  1. Great thoughts, Shan. This is something I think about more and more in regards to my fiction, since I want to write books that are more than entertaining. Though of course, a good story needs to entertain as well.

    I think it's one of the reasons that I love the Harry Potter series so much. It's entertaining and funny and all that good stuff, but the bravery of the characters is also very inspiring.

  2. What Mrs. Morrill said. I do often consider what I'm leaving behind, especially in my writing. One thing in my writing that I want to inspire in readers is kindness to others. Even if you don't agree with something in a person's life or something that person is doing, you can still treat them with kindness. Thanks for the thoughts, Mrs. Dittemore. :)

  3. Thank you for the post, Shannon. :) Mrs. Elliot was also my hero, as well as my role model. It is very sad that she has left us, but at the same time, wonderful that she is now face to face with her Savior!!! And she can also see Jim Elliot again. :) I am so grateful for her books and the testimony and legacy that she has left. She has touched, inspired, and encouraged me through her writing and speeches. I'm grateful for all that she did with the Lord's help, and I pray that her work continues on through her legacy and books. She has taught me much!

    By the Lord's grace and help, I want my writing to point people to Christ, encourage them, draw them into closer fellowship with Jesus, and also showing day-to-day struggles that we can relate to and be challenged to work on. I want my life and my novels to bring glory to Jesus.

  4. I agree with what Mrs. Morrill said. A real story, one that touches, haunts, and inspires, has to be more than entertaining. It's why the Lord of the Rings is so awesome, and why we still remember Shakespeare after four centuries. I want to inspire the greatness that those guys did, and write stories that make you wonder about the bigger stuff. And while I may not reflect that in the first finished WIP that I pump out (hopefully this one), I hope that's my legacy.

  5. Wow. I had never heard about Elisabeth Elliot before, but it sounds like her brave story left behind a beautiful legacy, and now I want to read Through Gates of Splendor. I guess one of my role models is Corrie ten Boom. Her book The Hiding Place was such a touching story and it made me marvel at how brave she was. Even though I don't have a background like hers, I want to write fiction that behind all of the madeup characters and plot points, inspires readers and gives them the sense of a deeper meaning hidden just beneath the surface of the story.

    1. Love The Hiding Place, Ana!! Another favorite of mine. :) Elisabeth Elliot actually met Corrie Ten Boom in person. :)

  6. In agreeance with Mrs. Morril here. I want to write a story that means something. Not just some run-of-the-mill book that's forgotten in a few years. If my book inspires just one kid, I'll know I've done my job. Writing a story that makes someone's life a little bit brighter--that's what I hope my legacy will be.

  7. I want to tell a story, not just write a book. I want the story to mean something and inspire people and make them think beyond the words of the page.
    And now that we've gotten what I want my legacy to be down, can we talk about yours? Every time I read one of your posts I am inspired to write. You write so beautifully and always say the things that I need at the moment to start to write. Thank you for that :)

  8. Writing a story that means something--to anyone, even one person other than me--would be wonderful. Legacy really is such a scary word to look at, but then it doesn't seem so hard to think of after a while. :) I look at Harry Potter, Shakespeare, and so many others that have such an impact that will continue to be read. Those are the legacies that remind me to keep going at however small a pace I can.

  9. I want my legacy to bring others to Gods love. Through writing and everything else in life. I want to leave ripples that will inspire others to serve Him. I hope that my books will be published someday and that by reading them, even when i am long gone, that they will show others Jesus light.

    Keep on writing!
    God bless!

  10. This isn't one of those posts that sends me rushing to comment on how I relate to it. But that is only because I relate deeply. It makes me think and choose. And being a big choice, it's not something on which I can pop up and flippantly say "me, too!"
    But I do want to make ripples like she did. Not for the sake of the ripples, but for living the life that I am supposed to lead. Just like I don't think she wrote books for the sake of becoming a writer but because that was part of her life, too.
    And it IS worth it.

  11. My legacy is something that I think about very often. If God takes me home tomorrow, I want something good to be left behind.

    Elisabeth Elliot is one of my heroes, too. I've read several of her books, including Through Gates of Splendor and Passion & Purity. Actually, in remembrance of her passing, I'm hosting a special series on my (brand new!) blog sharing one of her top 30 quotes Tuesdays, Wednesdays, and Thursdays. ( The legacy she left is so inspiring. I'm so thankful for her life and her mission.

    And I'm very thankful for this post! :)