I admire artists whose work is larger than they are.
What made me start thinking along these lines was thinking about Mount Rushmore. Shelly and I have been talking about doing another road trip sometime in the next few months, and we have never been to Mount Rushmore or to the Black Hills of South Dakota. I started thinking about that project.
The carvings of the four U.S. presidents was started in 1927 by Danish sculptor Gutzon Borglum and finished by his son Lincoln Borglum in 1941. Actually, I can’t say “finished,” because they really didn’t finish. They simply ran out of money.
Millions have visited the national monument at Mount Rushmore. Millions more–like me–have heard of it, but never visited. Very few of those people know who Gutzon and Lincoln Borglum were.
And maybe that’s the way it should be–at least some of the time. Many authors cherish a secret dream that their books will live long after they are gone, but few of them put their books on a higher level than themselves. I guess it has to do with the Message and the Messenger. Which is more important?
I also think about what kind of project would get me to commit to it for 14 years. I know of writing projects that took at least that long. Proust only wrote one book, but still is known for it. Tolkien published The Hobbit in 1936, then spent 10 years writing the Lord of the Rings trilogy, publishing it in the 1950s. He wrote The Silmarillion and a few other short stories and small books, but in many ways, his books became larger than he was.
I spent six years writing the three books for my Champion series, and as much as others applaud my other books, these three books are the ones I would like to be known for. The challenge for me now is determining what I can write that will capture my interest in the same way. And it goes beyond interest; I need to know that what I am writing is somehow important.
I think it’s a good thing for writers to look for stories that are so big they intimidate them in some respects. I think that challenge is what makes writing worthwhile. And I hope the readers will be challenged just as much.