Today, a collection of T.S. Eliot’s letters and a copy of The Waste Land sold in an auction for about $438,000. Say it with me, boys and girls: Damn, I really need to write more letters!
This got me to thinking about things like being a writer and correspondence. Though I doubt I’ll ever write anything that will turn me into college English class fodder like Eliot, I had to think it would be kind of strange to have my e-mails auctioned off for hundreds of thousands of dollars after I die. (Especially since the world of my e-mail is a very strange place that even I don’t want to be associated with half of the time.)
As writers, we write. Some of that is meant to be seen by others and some of it, well, isn’t. Yet, if we become a part of the public consciousness (or, perhaps, even if we don’t), there are still people out there who could possibly be interested in our ephemera — the letters, the notes, the journals, the files of pieces never finished — and I’m curious as to whether you ever think about this possibility. Even though you’d be dead, how would you feel about someone auctioning off your correspondence 40 years after you shuffled off this mortal coil? Publishing your journal? Collecting your unpolished, unfinished work and selling it as a set of your B-sides?
Do you think about it? Do you want your stuff burned after your death? Do you plan to burn it before your death? Just because you’re an artist, do other people have a right to the thoughts you don’t want them to see?
Or do you secretly want others to see these things? Do you ever write your so-called private stuff with an imagined audience in mind?