I couldn’t let this day pass without mentioning Abraham Lincoln. It was 150 years ago today that the U.S. President was shot in the head by John Wilkes Booth while attending a performance of “Our American Cousin” at Ford’s Theatre in Washington, DC. He died the next morning on April 15, but today marks the beginning of his death.
A lot of books (some estimate as many as 15,000) have been written about who many consider America’s most admired president. People in many countries around the world know more about him than any other American, save Martin Luther King, Jr. or Taylor Swift.
Lincoln’s steadfast efforts to maintain the union during a bloody civil war, his rejection of slavery and his foundational faith that formed his opinions, are all parts of a complicated man with a complicated story. Looking at his pre-presidential life, his family and his inner torment make Lincoln a fascinating figure to study.
I won’t pretend to be an expert on Abraham Lincoln. You can read a myriad of books, watch a variety of movies (forget the “vampire hunter” one) about his life and visit numerous historical sites connected to him to study his 4+ years as president in detail to make your own observations.
There are four lessons from his life and times that can be useful for writers. (Hoping I am not working too hard to make these connections.)
Lesson #1 – Perspective comes as time passes: Lincoln is more revered today than 150 years ago. A person or event can seem important at the moment and forgotten a short time later. Very few things maintain their initial significance. Writing about something too soon after it happens can miss the true legacy of an event. Write the parenting book when your kids are grown.
Lesson #2 – A few well-chosen words can be powerful: Verbose he was not. The Emancipation Proclamation and the Gettysburg Address combined contain less than 1,000 words.
Lesson #3 – Failure does not make you a failure: It is how you finish and the sum total of a life that matters, not one event or one day. What you do with disappointment (because it most assuredly will happen) is how you will be remembered and affect others. The fruit of the spirit are present in spite of circumstances.
Lesson #4 – Greatness is bestowed, not created: Lincoln was a humble man who never gave up on his principles and died for them. In reality, you can’t manufacture a successful author platform in social media. Do what you can, but your readers will bestow notoriety. Know where you end and your readers begin.
In conclusion, a quote from Lincoln, “Give me six hours to chop down a tree and I will spend the first four sharpening the axe.”
You can make any direct applications for your writing, author platforms and life.