There is something to be said for the concept of having a tangible, physical representation of your “body of work”.
Take J.K. Rowling. Her entire fortune and career have been built upon 4,175 pages – each of which started out completely blank and that she filled with ideas – spanning seven books. It has been estimated her works have sold more than 300 million copies and have been turned into eight movies. There is a theme park, licensed merchandise, soundtracks, and a host of other products associated with her characters. It has been estimated that the Harry Potter brand is worth £7 billion, or $15 billion in the United States.
Rowling herself is thought to be worth $1 billion or so. Forbes said Rowling is the first person to become a billionaire in United States currency solely from writing books. She is the 1,062nd richest person in the world and the second-richest female entertainer. She is the 144th richest person in Great Britain. The author denies the wealth estimates but I think it is probably somewhat accurate given that Forbes would find it necessary to capitalist her expected future royalties and arrive at a valuation. Even if she had not a penny in the bank, her legal ownership of the Harry Potter series would nevertheless make her obscenely wealthy because of the stream of cash it would bring into her personal treasury each year.
But what I like most about her story is that her entire body of work can be contained in a trunk. It is a masterpiece, the source of her fortune, and she can physically look at it on the shelf. It is proof that she lived, thought, and acted. It consists of 4,175 pages that took 17 years to write, including the preparation time for the first book, or 10 years covering the first to the final book in the series.
The question that you, and I, and the rest of the world needs to ask is:
When you stand at the end of your life, what will your body of work look like?
Is it something that you will be proud of having written, or composed, or done?
Is it truly worthy of carrying the imprimatur of your name?
Because the reality is, you paid for it with your life. Long after you are gone, it is all that will remain.