In today’s society, people are rewarded for becoming stars in whatever their field, but what happens when someone doesn’t live to see the fruits of his labors?  I think it’s a natural human emotions to want to be recognized. 

I remember vividly 1982 as the year that Henry Fonda won the Best Actor Academy Award for his role in “On Golden Pond.”  The year before he had received  a lifetime achievement award from the Academy for his work spanning his entire career.  I don’t think the Academy could have predicted that the very next year he would earn the Best Actor Oscar.  He was in the hospital during the award ceremony so his daughter Jane Fonda accepted the award on his behalf, but at least he lived long enough to see his efforts rewarded even late in life.  He died August 12th that year.

Other creative artists have not been so lucky.

The most obvious recent example is Heath Ledger who died from “an accidental overdose of prescription drugs” during the editing process of the film “The Dark Knight.” Later that year he won the Oscar for Best Supporting Academy Award as the Joker but was unable to collect his award so his family accepted it on his behalf.  Rumors persist that he suffered an overwhelming sense of depression which manifested itself during the filming of “The Dark Knight.”

I’m also thinking of John Kennedy Toole who wrote “A Confederacy of Dunces” then committed suicide in 1969 at the age of thirty-two over his plight as an unrecognized artist.  His mother schlepped his manuscipt from agent to agent until his novel was published in 1980.  It went on to win the Pulitzer Prize, something most writers only dream of.

Jonathon Larson created “Rent” the musical, but died the very day of its off-broadway premiere of an aortic dissection.  He had been complaining of chest pains but the doctors misdiagnosed his condition as the flu.  His show later won the Pulitzer and Tony for Best Musical.

Last, Stieg Larrson (no relation to Jonathon Larson) wrote three novels, “The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo,” “The Girl Who Played With Fire,” and “”The Girl Who Kicked the Hornet’s Nest,” all of which remained unpublished at the time of his death.  Now, of course, they have all become runaway bestsellers and his first novel has already been turned into a film.

Call me greedy!  I want to live to see the fruits of my labors.  I guess the point, as a writer, is to write faster, write every day, make writing my primary focus.  Don’t worry quite so much about accolades, but don’t give up in despair over what I want to accomplish.  Writers write one page at a time, one day at a time.  The beauty is in the effort, not the end result.

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