On Writing: Some Words from Dickens

In a March 1836 letter to Catherine Hogarth, the woman who would later become his wife, Charles Dickens wrote, “I like the matter of what I’ve done to-day, very much, but the quantity is not sufficient to justify my coming out to-night.” Dickens was referring to his work on Pickwick Papers.

Among other books, I am reading The Selected Letters of Charles Dickens, edited by Frederick W. Dupee, published in 1960. Like the glorious collection of John Steinbeck letters, Steinbeck: A Life in Letters, edited by Elaine Steinbeck and Robert Wallsten, this collection of Dickens’ letters brings me deliciously close to the writer himself. And oh my, what I would give to be in a conversation with Dickens and Steinbeck, Tolstoy and Gabriel Garcia Marquez and believe me, many more.

But this sentence by Dickens, “I like the matter of what I’ve done to-day, very much, but the quantity is not sufficient to justify my coming out to-night” deeply resonated with me. As a writer I know I am not alone when I say that some who knows us react with a kind of deer-in-the-headlights look when I explain that I didn’t answer the phone because I was writing, or I need to get home or can’t come out because I am writing.

My closest friend in the world, Michael Sulsona, is, without question, one of the best playwrights and screenwriters in the country. And when I say one of the best, I really mean, one of the very best. He’s received many awards yet no producers (yet) have cleared their dust-filled heads long enough to realize they have a great American writer on their hands.

Michael wrote a play many years ago called, The Greatest Play Ever Written. It was performed on off-off Broadway. It is a comedy and is so damned funny when you would leave the theater you know you can forgo sit-ups for several months because you’re now the proud owner of six-pack abs.

 
Anyway, the play involves a struggling playwright who finds himself confronted by a brother-in-law who is entirely incapable of understanding that writing is hard work. In a moment of exasperation the playwright says, “I’ve got the weight of the world on my shoulders and my knees are buckling.” I know the feeling.

What is this essay all about? Not sure. Other than to say to anyone who is a writer or wants to be a writer, write. And if people don’t get it or don’t understand, the hell with them. Write anyway.

I’d like to talk to you some more but I’ve got to get back to my – wait for it – writing.

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One thought on “On Writing: Some Words from Dickens

  1. Hello Peter….Sunday ~ always a gift…a day to catch up on the gentler things… a cup of joe and e-mails gone unseen during the busy week, for hours outside cleaning the garden and playing at length with the dog… and rocking on the porch, thinking, thinking, thinking!!Now I can’t get the thought of the word ‘kneebuckling’ out of my head, as you have referenced it in a few blogs recently. These thoughts are so funny to me as there is no such word, yet it has a certain paradoxical humor to it, since the experience of having your knees buckle is so real…as in the way you feel when suddenly someone you meet takes your breath away; as in the over-load on your knee joints when the ‘weight of the world is on your shoulders’; or as in the reality of the effect on my now arthritic knees, from years of working in horticulture!But then it is of life and living with all of the joy and pain that we get to have ~ all in the gift!Best to you, and Michael too! ~Donnap.s. Don’t get me started on the word elbow!

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