In The Words of Billy Joel…
Sep 18th, 2011 by Brian.
…working too hard can give you a heart attack, ack ack ack ack. You oughta know by now.
And if you follow me on Twitter, then you know that’s what happened to me last Friday. According to my doctor, had I not been in good shape, and had I not swallowed three aspirin before going to the hospital, it would have been much worse.
The aftermath is easy enough to deal with. Medicine, more strenuous exercise, and a stricter diet. Less booze. No more cigars, 24 hour writing marathons or worrying about deadlines. Most importantly, less stress.
As I lay in the hospital, I worried about all kinds of things. If I died, had I told my sons I loved them enough times? Had I told my friends and the rest of my family the same? Did my cat and my hermit crabs have food, or would they starve to death before somebody found them?
The one thing I didn’t worry about was my literary estate, and what would happen to my rights or my work after I was gone. I wrote about this here back in 2008, and linked to this Blog entry by Neil Gaiman. It remains the most vital and important piece of writing advice I know, so I’m linking to it again today. If you are a writer, you need some form of legal document outlining your affairs in the event of your death. It doesn’t matter if you are an unpublished beginner or an old pro with forty mid-list paperback novels to your name. Set up a literary estate today.
It’s very strange. Horror writers (and crime, mystery, thriller and even fantasy and science-fiction writers) spend a lot of time thinking about death, but we rarely think about our own. You never know when it will happen, or how. When I woke up Thursday morning, I certainly wasn’t thinking about it. The only things I was thinking about were playing with my youngest son, finishing John Hornor Jacob’s wonderful debut novel, Southern Gods, and doing some writing that evening. Then… BAM. Luckily, I’m still here. But it could have easily turned out differently, and if that had happened, my estate is in order. I know who the rights and copyrights get assigned to, who oversees the publication of my work and processing of payments, who makes sure that the money goes to my sons, etc. You should too, regardless of where you are at in your career. So, again, read this Blog entry by Neil. Follow the link he posts in it. And take a moment to get your affairs in order.