What Will Your Writer's Legacy Be?

Did you know that there's a company that puts QR codes on tombstones? Seriously.

A QR code, or quick response code, is a barcode-like, black-and-white square. And they've been popping up everywhere in advertising these days.

Companies put QR codes on their products, and consumers "scan" them with their smartphones. That takes the user directly to the company's website.

So why put a QR code on a tombstone?

Simple. We all want to be remembered, right? There's just not enough space on a grave marker to write out our life story or how we want to be remembered.

So you scan the QR code and are instantly taken to a website dedicated to the deceased.


I may be a little strange, but I spend a fair amount of time thinking about what I'm going to leave behind. I don't plan on kicking off anytime soon, but I try to live my life so when I do, I have no regrets.

Have you ever thought about …

 … what your legacy to your kids will be?

 … how you want your extended family to remember you?

 … what your colleagues will say about you after you're gone? Or if they'll even be talking about you two years later?

 … who's going to speak at your funeral? And what they're going to say? (As a writer, don't you want to make sure it sounds good and write it out for them ahead of time?!)

 … how to build your legacy while you're still alive?

I know, I know. A little deep and a tad bit morbid.

But I really think we owe it to ourselves and our loved ones to put some serious thought and planning into this. The more we plan our legacy, the richer our lives will be while we're still alive. We'll make a difference, we'll have a greater impact, and we'll probably make a better living in the process.

Benjamin Franklin said it well: "If you would not be forgotten as soon as you are dead, either write something worth reading or do something worth writing."

Since I became a writer three years ago, I've given Franklin's quote a lot of thought.

Do you realize that we writers have even more of an opportunity to leave a legacy?

Think about it.

Aside from leaving behind your wealth, like Andrew Carnegie, most legacies consist of intangible things. Your reputation, your life story, the lessons you taught your children.

In fact, the website tagline at Legacy.com is "Where life stories live on." Most of this legacy stuff doesn't happen until we're dead!

It doesn't have to be that way.

Writers can leave the written word behind in the form of articles, books, or website content, maybe even a screenplay.

Do you want to go beyond the Legacy.com version of being remembered?

Are you open to some offbeat suggestions for leaving a legacy?

Here are some ideas:

1. Use your copywriting skills to build a business. You can make a great income writing copy for others, but at some point, consider using your talents to create and build a business of your own. Or help a friend or family member build their business by writing great copy for them.

One of my ongoing side projects is helping my wife build her mural-painting business. She started on a shoestring budget, and all her business has come from word of mouth, direct-response print letters, and email marketing. Even if I never used my copywriting to help other clients, seeing her business grow is a rewarding payoff.

Plus, your skills can also be handed down. I'm actually teaching my 15-year-old son and my 11-year-old daughter (who both have some aptitude for writing) some basic principles of writing copy. Who knows? Maybe they'll take over the family businesses someday or start their own. That's a rewarding thought.

2. Become a mentor to other copywriters. I've been blessed with some great copywriters who have helped me the past couple of years. I'm amazed at how generous people are with their time and advice. Whether it's a quick conversation after hours at Bootcamp, an email response from someone I've never met, or ongoing structured lessons to guide me along, I wouldn't be where I am without mentors.

Someday, I hope to return the favor to new writers. Once you've established yourself as an expert in your area, you can give back, too.

3. Write your memoirs. Sure, it's usually reserved either for old people or famous people, but who cares? How cool would it be to answer, "I'm writing my memoirs," the next time someone asks what you've been up to lately?

You don't have to write them to get published either. Write for fun and to pass along to someone in your family. I'm using two books, A Father's Legacy and The 3 Word Journal, to start chronicling key life events. I'll let you know when the official memoirs come out.

4. Write a book about someone in your family. People are generally remembered for three generations at best. In other words, you don't have any memories past your great-grandparents. And if you're blessed to have great-grandchildren someday, nobody beyond them will remember you. This is a way to possibly extend that out another generation or more.

I was inspired to do this at my grandma's 95th birthday celebration two weeks ago. My plan is to write a book about her before her 100th birthday. Somewhere down the road, maybe one of my grandkids will do the same for me.

5. On a lighter note, build a money-making website. What better way to convey to the world what you were passionate about in life? Whether it's a site about urban rooftop gardening, surfing hot spots of the world, or European theater, you can start building a legacy around your passion now. If you build it right, it will be an income-generating asset that your heirs will fight over.

The quickest way to do it is to follow Nick Usborne's How to Write Your Own Money-Making Websites program to the letter.

6. Plan a trip of a lifetime and write about it. When I was in college, an elderly landlord of mine showed me a leather notebook he had written back in 1931. It contained travel stories from the summer before he entered college when he and a friend traveled all over Europe by themselves. It inspired me to travel and to write, and today I have a couple of dozen travel notebooks full of stories.

I don't know if my heirs will fight over those like my other assets, but it's definitely part of my legacy.

7. The big one: write a book. Everyone suggests writing a book, don't they? Well, it does have permanency. You get that ISBN, and you're added to the collection of the Library of Congress (the largest library in the world by shelf space and number of books, and one of the greatest places in the United States). Talk about legacy! You don't have to be published by a major publisher these days either. Self-publishing (a topic for another article) is easier than ever.

More important to me, though, is the ability to utter those three magic words, "I'm an author," when people ask me what I do. And somewhere ages and ages hence, a young man will be able to say, "My great-great-grandfather Steve wrote that book."

Choose the writer's life, my friend, and your legacy and your writer's legacy will be forever intertwined.

And don't worry about how future generations will find all your stuff. The QR code on your tombstone (and all the books you wrote) will lead them right to it.

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Published: May 17, 2012

7 Responses to “What Will Your Writer's Legacy Be?”

  1. Awesome, Steve! Love how you think! :)

    Michele PetersonMay 17, 2012 at 9:16 am

  2. Great article Steve. I confess to think about the concept a bit myself. Was always going to write my mother's biography but sadly left it too late. No excuses she lived 93 years!

    Gavin MMay 18, 2012 at 2:34 am

  3. There are a lot of people out there who are concerned about leaving a legacy.

    Thus, you have captured the essence of what people are going through these days.

    After achieving worldly success and wealth, such people are concerned about how they will be remembered when their time is up.

    A lot of these people rely on PR agencies to divvy up their image.

    When a reporter writes an article about you--and you receive media ink--well, it captures the attention of the public.

    That's good news.

    Archan MehtaMay 18, 2012 at 6:44 pm

  4. Awesome idea to put a QR Code on the headstone...what a great way to fill in the "dash" for future generations should they visit! Super article Steve. Some really great suggestions for leaving a lasting footprint.

    Alan SteacyFebruary 15, 2014 at 1:53 pm

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