Monday, December 23, 2013

Charles Dickens: "Ready made to the point of the pen"

While this Monday space is normally reserved for words of wisdom from present-day writers, I thought I'd take a week's break from the My First Time series and go farther into the past for some inspirational quotes from Mr. Charles Dickens.  I maintain a document on my computer hard drive full of snippets like this--aphorisms on the writing life, stanzas from poems, crystal-beautiful passages from novels and short stories, and so forth.  As anyone who knows about my obsessions with All Things Dickens can probably guess, a good percentage of that "quotes" document is taken up with words by and about "the Inimitable Boz."  Here are a few related to writing...

      He corresponded with the young and aspiring George Henry Lewes, telling him that “I suppose like most authors I look over what I write with exceeding pleasure,” that he felt each passage strongly while he wrote it, but that he had no idea how his ideas came to him—they came “ready made to the point of the pen.”
from Charles Dickens: a Life by Claire Tomalin

      Prowling about the rooms, sitting down, getting up, stirring the fire, looking out the window, teasing my hair, sitting down to write, writing nothing, writing something and tearing it up.
from a Feb. 19, 1856 letter
to Angela Burdett Coutts while working on Little Dorrit

      I didn’t stir out yesterday, but sat and thought all day; not writing a line; not so much as the cross of a t or the dot of an i. I imaged forth a good deal of Barnaby by keeping my mind steadily upon him; and am happy to say I have gone to work this morning in good twig, strong hope and cheerful spirits. Last night I was unutterably and impossible-to-form-an-idea-of-ably miserable.
from a Jan. 29, 1841 letter
to John Forster, lamenting writer’s block on Barnaby Rudge

      I need not tell you who are so well acquainted with “Art” in all its forms, that in the description of such scenes, a broad, bold, hurried effect must be produced, or the reader instead of being forced and driven along by imaginary crowds will find himself dawdling very uncomfortably through the town, and greatly wondering what may be the matter. In this kind of work the object is—not to tell everything, but to select the striking points and beat them into the page with a sledgehammer.
from a Nov. 5, 1841 letter
to John Landseer

No comments:

Post a Comment