Monday, December 21, 2009

For Those About to Write ...

"But words are things, and a small drop of ink,
Falling, like dew, upon a thought, produces
That which makes thousands, perhaps millions, think"


"Deliver me from writers who say the way they live doesn't matter. I'm not sure a bad person can write a good book. If art doesn't make us better, then what on earth is it for"

"One ought only to write when one leaves a piece of one's own flesh in the inkpot, each time one dips one's pen"

Pretend, for a moment, that you - yes, you- are a writer.

As a writer, you will never create things made of steel, wood and plastic.

Nor will your stuff make all of the Silicon Valley suits spill their lattes and jump with iPod joy over a high-tech widget, designed to make stock markets soar.

What you create is much more elusive, valued and ultimately cherished.



The occasional contradictory viewpoint.

Refreshing perspective on the complexities and challenges of the human condition.

Great writers help us rediscover eternal truths while showing us new roads to travel. They make us laugh, weep, frown and marvel over the inner strength we all possess and actually display once in a while.

And sometimes they rock the entire planet with the sheer force of their words.

Here is how one such writer, accomplished exactly that.

Charlie was, without question, the most famous novelist of his day. His books were released three chapters at a time in pamphlets that could later be bound together as complete books. As the chapter triplets were published, crowds would gather to buy the next installments, no different than line ups we see today for major sporting events, rock concerts and a "Harry Potter" release. More creative bookstore owners would hire barkers with loud voices to read the new chapters outside their doors, generating buzz, creating an audience. In America, when the new chapters arrived by boat, crowds would literally riot at the dock to get their hands on the novels.

But, in the fall of 1843, Charlie needed cash.

And he needed it quick.

While his prodigious talents produced a hefty income, Charlie had a large social appetite and six mouths to feed. Maintaining that status was as hard then as it is today. Facing a pending lull in his publishing income, Charlie took one of the taller stories he told his kids around the fireplace and turned it into a short story that would bring a speedy infusion of quid. Since it was fall, he focused on a tale for the upcoming Christmas season.

It may seem shocking to us now, but in 1843, Christmas was a small, insignificant holiday in jolly old England and working on Christmas Day was part of the routine.

But Charlie had different ideas. He believed Christmas should be a big holiday – a time of charity, of giving, of family and of celebration. He thought this was how Christmas “should be done”. And, sitting down with pen to paper, Charlie finished his latest project and changed the world, in six short weeks.

Charlie didn’t rip this idea off from someone else. He invented it with words tumbling from his imagination, capturing his thoughts and ideas in a slim little book called, “A Christmas Carol”, published in 1843.

The book was an instant smash, selling out one edition after another and Charlie was a smash on the speaking circuit as people requested he come to their town to read the story aloud. It wasn’t long before the book found its way across the Atlantic and became a sensation in America as well.

People, who were enthralled with this story, fell in love with this new vision of Christmas and started modeling their holidays after the one at the end of “A Christmas Carol”. And they embraced the values that Charlie put forward – that Christmas should be a time of charity, of giving and of celebrating family.

And that's how Christmas as we know it, came to be.

An entire planet forever changed and inspired by one man – a writer – who singlehandedly created the magic of Christmas.

Not a corporation, doctor, scientist or politician.

Not a rock star, athlete or actor.

It took a writer to pull this one off.

Like other great writers past and present, Charles Dickens possessed the power to create beauty, humor and new realities. The best writers have the ability to lift the morale of entire communities and companies or the spirit of a single person. Words that flow from a pen or splash onto a keyboard can create much more change than many of the people in our society who are actually paid to do so.

Before he sat down to write, Charles Dickens knew what he stood for.

Now let's talk about where you and your brand fit in.

OK, so maybe you are not a writer, but if your business has a story worth telling, how much thought, time and energy are you giving to the crafting of the actual words you will use? Is your writer capable of weaving a phrase that pays? Or do your ads, websites and marketing brochures spew the same cliches as everyone else, promising quality, service, selection and those unbeatable low prices with friendly and knowledgeable staff?

If this subject holds even the slightest interest for you and your brand in the year and decade ahead, few gifts will ever yield a return like an opportunity to hang out and learn from some of the best business writers on the planet.

Since it 'tis the season, one might say, three wise men are waiting patiently for you to discover them.

"Words - so innocent and powerless as they are, as standing in a dictionary, how potent for good and evil they become in the hands of one who knows how to combine them" NATHANIEL HAWTHORNE

p.s.... Want to know more about how Charles Dickens invented Christmas? This pretty well captures it in about ten minutes.

p.p.s... Ted Geisel was a pretty nifty writer in his day. Ted liked to play a lot of make-believe with his audience of millions and in his own way became a Doctor of Wordology. He actually dubbed himself the title of "Dr.", added the word "Seuss" and once performed an interesting piece of surgery on the Scrooge character from "A Chrismas Carol".

"The most essential gift for a good writer is a built-in, shockproof shit detector. This is the writer's radar and all great writers have had it"

"Words, once they are printed, have a life of their own"

"No man should ever publish a book until he has first read it to a woman"

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