Lessons from the Spirit of Christmas

This week, we’ve explored several stories of writers who influenced Christmas traditions—from creating Rudolph and re-writing lyrics to building magical Christmas worlds and naming the reindeer.

But what about the writer who’s often credited with “inventing modern Christmas,” Mr. Charles Dickens himself?

You’ve probably seen at least one production of A Christmas Carol in your life. Scrooge, Tiny Tim, Fezziwig, and all the Ghosts are ingrained in the modern consciousness, along with Dickens’ key message of Christmas giving. Whether as a book, a play, a TV special, or even a Muppet musical, A Christmas Carol is one of the best-known Christmas stories of all time.

However, Dickens’ publishers didn’t see the promise of future fame in his original draft. They rejected his story, believing it would be a flop.

Now, this was a story born in desperation. At the time Dickens wrote A Christmas Carol, he was broke and debating whether or not to give up fiction writing altogether. But after attending a conference in Manchester, he had the idea for a new holiday novel.

He finished the story in six weeks, wrapping up at the end of November, 1843. He needed to make money on the book to pay his debts and restore his professional reputation after a series of less-than-stellar pieces.

So—despite friends who were horrified—Dickens decided to self-publish his story.

It was a gamble for him. The copies that went on the shelves on December 17, 1843, could have languished there unwanted. But Dickens had a hit on his hands, and the whole print run sold out in just a few days.

Not only did the book restore Dickens’ own personal fortunes, but it also dramatically changed how British people celebrated Christmas. It became a holiday focused on doing nice things for the less fortunate, remembering old friends, and personal redemption.

The traditions and practices celebrated in Dickens’ story grew stronger over the years. He started doing public readings of the story and built on its success with annual Christmas publications. He published books and magazine stories for the rest of his active writing life, and did his last live reading of A Christmas Carol for a sold-out crowd just three months before his death.

What can you learn from Dickens’ story? First, fill your life with positive, supportive people. Dickens credited his inspiration for A Christmas Carol to being at a conference with like-minded people. You may also find great inspiration from surrounding yourself with other writers at AWAI’s live events.

Next, believe in your ideas. As a writer, you’re in control of your future. So, whatever you believe, you can acquire the skills to achieve.

Finally, always try to find a way. If your first course of action doesn’t quite work as expected, know that there are many ways to be successful and build a great writer’s life. I like writing sales copy, but I’ve also found success with content marketing. What’s your “second way” to success? Let me know in the comments section.

Remember, Dickens didn’t let a rough patch of road derail his career. In fact, he enjoyed his greatest fame only after the success of A Christmas Carol … a story that might not have made it at all if he’d listened to the negative voices around him and given in to self-doubt.

Instead, Dickens was inspired to find another way to succeed. And that might be the biggest writer’s takeaway of all this week … you can make your own way as a writer, and you’re in control of where the next year takes you.

Make it a great one!

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Published: December 27, 2013

3 Responses to “Lessons from the Spirit of Christmas”

  1. Jen, this is one of the most well-written and meaningful articles I've seen here yet. Nice work, and thanks for sharing these insights. I too am seeing more potential in content writing this past year.

    Jerry BuresDecember 27, 2013 at 2:37 pm

  2. Dear Jen, Do you always make your reader cry. With hope.You did this time. Thank you. :)

    Guest (rod)December 28, 2013 at 12:47 am

  3. Wow! Bravo! What a wonderful job you did with this week's articles Jen. Thank you!

    Guest (Jeff Soufal)December 28, 2013 at 12:14 pm


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