One of the best things about the holiday season is the Christmas spirit. But just because Christmas has passed doesn’t mean you need to give up that joy. To get yourself back into the spirit – and to find some always-needed motivation – check out The Man Who Invented Christmas: How Charles Dickens’s A Christmas Carol Rescued His Career and Revived Our Holiday Spirits by Les Standiford.
The book is a good read (Les Standiford is a very good writer) and its subject – how Charles Dickens came to write A Christmas Carol – will inspire you. Here are some key points I took away from it:
• By writing about poor and powerless people triumphing over adversity, Dickens became hugely popular. (One-third of England’s reading public bought The Old Curiosity Shop.)
• Like all people of great accomplishment, success for Dickens did not come easy. He worked like a horse throughout his career. While writing The Pickwick Papers, for example, he was also writing new material for the second edition of Sketches by Boz, editing a literary magazine, and working on Gabriel Vardon, the Locksmith of London.
• After a run of amazing success, Dickens went to America and then wrote two books bashing Americans. Neither was popular. Lesson: When you have a working formula, stick with it.
• Depressed by his recent failures, he conceived of A Christmas Carol as a way to get himself back on top. And it did. Lesson: Don’t give up.
• Because of his previous run of bad sales, he had to joint-venture with a book publisher, Chapman and Hall, for A Christmas Carol. Dickens took on risk and responsibility in the venture. And although he didn’t make much money for his efforts (because he overspent on the book cover, among other things), he learned about the business side of publishing novels, which he used to his advantage for the rest of his career.
• He had been thinking about the story for many years – but he wrote the book, while editing the color plates and working on the cover, in six weeks!
• A Christmas Carol promotes Dickens’s enduring themes: “the deleterious effects of ignorance and want, the necessity for charity, the benefits of goodwill, family unity, and the need for celebration of the life force, including the pleasures of good food and drink and good company.”
• The book changed the bird we traditionally eat on Christmas from goose to turkey.[Ed. Note: Mark Morgan Ford was the creator of Early To Rise. In 2011, Mark retired from ETR and now writes the Palm Beach Letter. His advice, in our opinion, continues to get better and better with every essay, particularly in the controversial ones we have shared today. We encourage you to read everything you can that has been written by Mark.]