Hey Rebooters! It’s time for our take on a slightly more serious topic – legacy planning!
Not in the traditional financial sense of planning what happens after you die, but from a personal, creative and business standpoint – what are you leaving behind you, what is your legacy, and also what will happen to your business & creations when you’ve passed on?
It’s not something which comes into general conversation often, but we think it’s really important – it’s your creative work, after all!
Carla, while not morbid, talks about this stuff a lot and her detailed planning for her own funeral (down to music choices and cake flavour) comes from a place of love – wanting to remove a burden of stress from her (presumably) sad loved ones.
But really what we want to focus on most in this episode is our creative legacies – what we want to leave behind in terms of creativity, art, business the work that we do – what’s going to carry on when we’re not here anymore.
Beliefs about death
We’re both fairly practical about death, with Sarah believing that once you’re gone, that’s it, and Carla having some vaguely comforting ideas about a big bar/garage/stable in the sky for those that have gone before us.
We get one precious life on this earth – it’s so important to make the most of that life, but we are also able to have some influence over how we’re remembered if we think about it while we’re here.
Crafting the story of your life
It’s quite powerful to think about how you would be remembered vs how you’d like to be remembered – both to see changes you’ve made from earlier in your life, and it can also throw into sharp focus the things you may want to continue to change up!
Perhaps this is predictable for us because so much of our work is based on storytelling and telling stories (not always the same thing!), but we want to craft the story of our lives while we’re living it. No one else gets to live your story
It’s not a formal process – not one where you sit down and “do some legacy planning today”, but it’s starting to think about some questions – what am I doing that goes beyond my day to day business work? What am I creating that will outlast me? What do those things say about me? It ebbs and flows like anything else but they are good questions to keep in mind when you’re thinking about this.
On creating independently
This episode was partly inspired by a conversation Carla had with Destiny Blue earlier in the year, about what we’re trying to express through our art. While she has a fantastic following and is a full-time artist, she doesn’t take commissions – and her response to the question of whether this was a deliberate choice or just the way things worked out floored us.
She said it was a deliberate choice because she didn’t want anyone else to influence what she wanted to say – her art is her own self-expression, unfettered. And it had such a massive impact – as creative business owners, most of what we do is to a brief, led by other people’s wants and needs. As much as we love our clients, we can’t always do our most creative, experimental work for them, because we have to deliver to a brief. But those things aren’t going to survive us as part of us.
Is this process only for creatives? No, not really – it’s something anyone can consider and think about, although it’s perhaps more immediately relevant to creatives. It can also be more pressing for those who are childfree, whether by choice or by circumstance because a child is an obvious legacy.
The lovely Annastasia Ward, content writer & the other half of Ink Drops, introduced us to the idea of a letter that goes with your will – a letter of wishes, without enshrining it in your actual will. This way it’s more flexible and you can change it any time you like.
She wrote a post about it for Ink Drops a few years ago and it’s one of the most-visited posts – so clearly a topic that resonates, despite having nothing to do with stationery except being in an envelope!
Although we also talk about planning your funeral, leaving in the same way you lived and sorting out a wake you’d want to attend yourself, we want to emphasise that this goes beyond funeral planning.
It’s good to talk
More formal plans, like a will, are especially important because once you’ve gone, that’s the only way you have to communicate your wishes about things like what happens to your body and your possessions.
But it’s also really healthy to discuss this stuff while you’re alive – talk to your loved ones, tell them what you want, find out what they want! If there’s a particular painting and you want it to go to a particular person, make sure someone knows that beforehand!
An overall direction
This is absolutely not another stick for you to beat yourself with as a creative, business owner, or human. It’s not about sitting down and figuring out exactly what creation you’re going to leave behind when you pop your clogs in an unspecified number of years – that’s an impossible task.
It’s much more about working out the overall feeling, and then moving in an overall direction that reflects that feeling. No 5 or 10 or 30 year plans here!
It’s about knowing what you want in this life so that, when you do die, you’ve done what you wanted, and what you leave behind is what you made in that life that you wanted and created.
Our directions? As simple as having made creative work which makes our hearts happy – not a lot more specific than that.
Mindset really does matter, though – when you think about your creative work, and you know what sort of feel you want, and then you immediately start planning prints, merchandise, and monetising it – then you’re looking at it all backwards. Especially if you’re already a creative business owner, you are allowed to do things without it being business-focused, or for money.
And one of the best ways to look at your legacy is creating to make your heart happy, rather than your bank account happy.
You can write a book without needing to get it published, and you can make art without needing to exhibit it. It’s for you first and foremost.
People often think about this stuff only when their health starts to fail, and even then only organise the practical bits – talking about it instead when you’re healthy and well, means you’re making decisions purely based on what you love.
And you have to get comfortable with the fact that you’re planning for frivolity – you’re planning to spend some of your life creating something that may have no meaning for anyone except you, but will live beyond you. It’s a weird concept!
The two big questions
Why am I doing what I’m doing?
What do I want to leave behind?
These two questions underpin all the legacy planning – if you’re feeling wobbly about your creative practice, or you’re not yet quite where you want to be, or you haven’t honed your craft, you’re beginning something new, or if you’re in any kind of change or flux, you’re going to get a bunch of not-enoughness coming up, and these questions can help to alleviate it.
It doesn’t have to be a formal process, but once you’re aware of it, if you want to plan your legacy you can keep it in mind and plan around it.
A tangent about journals
If you are a creative of any sort, there is a good chance you have journals and sketchbooks, notebooks and diaries and papers. Those are part of your legacy and need to be considered. Are there some you’d be happy for people to view and read, and are there some you don’t want people to see?
If so, have you nominated someone to deal with this according to your wishes after you die? Big scary question – if someone curated an exhibition about your life and your work, what would you want to appear in it and what would you definitely not want to be there?
Connected to this is what happens to your digital life – your blog, your social media accounts, your website. If you have strong feelings about what happens to these, it’s good to make plans and let someone know so they can act on them.
Curating and building your own life is so important, and your legacy is made up of what happened during your life. And planning for what happens after you’ve gone generally comes for a place of love.
So there’s some deep stuff to think about until next episode!