view of Shenandoah Mountain

Shenandoah Mountain


The most piercing thought any of us have is that some day we won’t be here.

Some day, instead of sitting here looking out at the Shenandoah Mountain, I will be gone from this earth. Someone else will be looking through this window.

In the words of poet Jane Kenyon, “all morning I did/the work I love,” but one day “it will be otherwise.”

What will my life add up to? What will be my legacy? My greatest gift to the world?

And you? What will yours be?

Dan Blank

Dan Blank

Today I am sending you a blog post written by one of my young mentors: Dan Blank.

I subscribe to Dan’s free weekly newsletter. I highly recommend that you do the same — even if you aren’t a writer.

Dan’s newsletter is one of the few that I savor every week from beginning to end. His interests range widely, and he always makes me think, laugh, and sometimes even wipe a tear.

As I got to know Dan through these weekly letters to his readers, I took the next step, signing up for his six-week course called Build Your Author Platform. I learned a lot and met some other wonderful writers.

Dan’s most recent blog post, about legacy, touched me in a special way. I hope you enjoy his ideas about legacy as much as I did, and I hope you leave a comment either on his blog or this one (or both!).

Your Legacy is Written in the Thoughts, Attitudes, and Actions of Others

Posted on November 30, 2012 by Dan Blank

What was, is. But is not as it was.

I think a lot about the past. About what came before.

What is left.

What holds on.

What we can hold in our hands, still, after decades. And what we cannot.

About what these things represent. And that which is gone, which still lives in our minds and actions.

As I work with writers, I am reminded. That your platform is what exists in people’s minds. Not just in the manifestations of what you create: a twitter feed; a blog; or even (dare I say) a book.

When you strip a person of everything they own. Everything they are. Everyone they know. Everywhere that is comfortable. What is left is what is in their mind/heart/soul, and what they choose to do with it. (hat tip: Victor Frankl)

For some reason, we tend to seek immediate popularity. Validation. Recognition. And sure, that is interesting. Merely interesting.

But what lasts is what is intriguing to me. What lives beyond us after we leave a room; after someone puts down your book; after they no longer follow you on Twitter.

What ideas. Inspiration. Information. Character. Which of these stays with them. Morphs. Changes. Effects their actions in small ways, even years later. Decades later. And how do their actions and attitudes affect those around them. From generation to generation.

Your legacy. At once hidden in tiny actions. But profound in how it has shaped people’s lives.

What you are is not what I see. It is what lies below the surface.

I have been obsessed with old Hollywood. How it started. Who started it. Do you remember the Keystone Cops? Charlie Chaplin’s character “the tramp?” These were some of the most popular comedy brands of the silent era of film.

Continue reading Dan’s post to learn how he connects these silent era films with the idea of leaving a legacy in the minds and hearts of others.

Then come back and help me think through these ideas: If our legacy goes beyond any artifact, including any book, how do we live now so that we positively impact the thoughts, attitudes, and actions of others? Whose legacy is living in you now?

Shirley Showalter


  1. Dan Blank on December 3, 2012 at 9:20 am

    Thank you Shirley! This is so generous of you.

  2. shirleyhs on December 3, 2012 at 9:33 am

    You’re very welcome, Dan. Thank you for offering ideas that go beyond writing and marketing to living and giving.

  3. Tina Barbour on December 3, 2012 at 10:26 am

    “Your legacy. At once hidden in tiny actions. But profound in how it has shaped people’s lives.” I love this. If legacy is made up of the tiny actions that we take every day, then that’s another reason that it matters how we live every day. We never know how what we do or say or how we treat someone will affect others.

    • Dan Blank on December 3, 2012 at 2:13 pm

      Tina – So true! Thanks.

  4. shirleyhs on December 3, 2012 at 10:33 am

    So true, Tina. Right now I am living a pretty solitary life, focusing on my deadline. But I still engage with others and think of others and engage in social media. The key to having an impact on others is in taking time to really see and hear them. Even when we ourselves are under stress. Hard to do. That’s why this post struck me like a bell. Thank you.

  5. Joan on December 3, 2012 at 11:11 am

    I’ve been thinking a lot about this myself lately. It’s amazing to me what things i enjoyed so much when I was younger, are now lost to those just making their way into adulthood. At the movies just a few weeks ago, I watched with angst the previews of new films coming out, thinking that this is no longer my world.

    Things are changing so fast, but there is still much beauty and things to grateful for. Like grandkids. I pray they’ll remember how the world was when I was here.


    • shirleyhs on December 3, 2012 at 12:48 pm

      Reply below, Joan. Hit the wrong box. 🙂

    • Dan Blank on December 3, 2012 at 2:15 pm

      It’s interesting how everything is relative. In the 1970s, many folks were bemoaning how things “aren’t like they used to be.” I think that our point of reference helps determine this. Kids growing up today (I have a 2 year old) will look back at 2012, 2014, 2018 as “the olden days where everything was so much better” years later!

  6. Marilyn on December 3, 2012 at 11:43 am

    This is a lovely post, Shirley. I, too, love Dan’s weekly newsletter. My favorite is the weekly picture of Owen. That may be something small, but I enjoy watching him change from week to week. I hope my legacy to those who know me will be empathy, humor and the ability to really see inside others.

    • shirleyhs on December 3, 2012 at 12:51 pm

      Thanks, Marilyn. Since I have a grandson named Owen, I also love all the photos of Dan’s son, who is just a little older than Owen Showalter. As for your legacy, I can testify to it, even though we’ve never met in person. I love that you own your abilities, especially that last one.

    • Dan Blank on December 3, 2012 at 2:16 pm

      Ha! Thank you Marilyn! -Dan

  7. shirleyhs on December 3, 2012 at 12:43 pm

    Joan, you describe so well the fleeting thoughts we grandparents have. All the more reason to share our stories of what we loved. Just came across this statement: “You are not that important. And you are deeply loved.” I think Richard Rohr said that in a speech. We sense our lack of importance as we age. When we can turn our attention to passing on all the love we’ve been given, we are leaving our true legacy. Thanks for your comment.

  8. Kelly DuMar on December 3, 2012 at 1:14 pm

    Shirley, yes, that desire for immortality! Big motivation for me as a diarist, for myself, and for my three children. The diaries I’ve kept for them since before they were born are part of my legacy. I want them to have stories about their lives from before they could remember or even articulate them. I want them to feel remembered even after I’m gone.
    Thanks for sharing Dan’s post!

    • shirleyhs on December 3, 2012 at 1:22 pm

      Kelly, I love that last phrase of yours: “I want them to feel remembered even after I’m gone.” You didn’t say, “I want them to remember me,” which of course they will. You are illustrating Dan’s point beautifully by thinking of your impact on them first and on their feelings of being remembered. Thank you so much for adding your thoughts.

  9. Richard Jeffrey Newman on December 3, 2012 at 10:23 pm

    Dan’s post struck a chord with me as well, Shirley. It is something I have been thinking about a lot lately as my parents age. They are both in their 70s now, long divorced, and while 70 is not “old,” it’s hard not to be conscious that their time here is growing shorter and shorter. I think a lot about the legacy each of them has passed on to me, a mixture of positive and negative, as such things always are, and then I start thinking about what I will pass on, what I pass on now as a teacher; and of course these thoughts almost always devolve onto my son, for reasons that are both obvious to anyone who has children and not to those who don’t know the specifics of my life. (And isn’t that true of all of us?) I hope you won’t think it presumptuous of me to link to a poem I wrote about just this subject–though it may not appear that way until the very end:

    • shirleyhs on December 4, 2012 at 1:02 pm

      Thank you, Richard, for sharing your thoughts about legacy. Far from being presumptuous, your poem fit the theme exactly and in a very powerful way. I hope other readers here will find it in the link above. Not only do we have the opportunity to think about legacy, we also have an obligation. Sometimes our impact on the “thoughts, attitudes, and actions of others” helps to break the chain of violence or the trauma of violence. Your poem does this.

  10. Linda thomas on December 4, 2012 at 12:17 pm

    Dan’s message is one I treasure. He had so many valuable points. And Shirley, I especially appreciate your question: Whose legacy is living in us now? For several years now I’ve focused on carrying out the message in several Bible verses, including Deuteronomy 4:9, which tells us to always remember what we’ve seen God do for us, and to be sure to tell our children and grandchildren. Part of that includes telling them about not just me, but about my ancestors–the legacies they passed on to me and that I need to pass on to my children and grandchildren. Great stuff, Dan and Shirley!

    • shirleyhs on December 4, 2012 at 1:05 pm

      Thank you, Linda. I will revisit Deuteronomy 4:9 and think of you. Yes, memoir not only allows us to name the legacies from our parents and grandparents and on beyond them, it requires us to do so. It’s a wonderful learning opportunity for the writer and, one hopes, will be the same for posterity, at least one’s own. Glad for your contribution here.

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