Over Half-Way to My First Million–The Charles Dickens Way

Would you believe I did NOT know it was Dickens’ 200th birthday last week? Yes, the very day I blogged on books and reading, with a picture of me wearing a Dickens shirt! What a wasted opportunity to make myself look good.

I also discovered this week that I am NOT alone in my addiction to reading. Dozens of you book junkies confessed your reading habit this week. Your emails were variations of a Readers Anonymous greeting, “Hi, my name is Bill, and I’m a bookaholic.”

Many of you living in book-packed homes said your spouse shared your reading addiction. Not surprising. Readers tend to get married to each other. A young woman once told me, “Of course we talk about books on dates! How would I know who to fall in love with unless I know what he reads?”

I remember Jo and me talking about Leon Uris’ Exodus shortly after it was published. That was when I learned something about Jo’s passion for standing up for the underdog. No wonder I married her a few years later.

Some of you sent me lists of your favorites or the books you are currently reading. Thank you. I’ve already added some to my Books To Read list.

Sir Francis Bacon famously wrote, “Reading maketh a full man, conference a ready man, and writing an exact man.” In other words, reading gives us a good grasp of facts, ideas and insights, discussing them with others helps us express and refine our thoughts, and writing keeps us from forgetting the details.

Quite a few of you self confessed reading addicts also admitted to the urge to write. For starters, you all wrote me an email. Some told about keeping a record of books you read and how you felt about them. Others recommended books giving me a mini-review. And some of you, like me, are bloggers and authors. Avid readers often turn to writing. We write prayers and diaries to discover ourselves. We write blogs to enter into discussion with others. And we write memoirs so we won’t forget details. Remember the post about  writing God-Stories?

The Joy of Writing

I’ve written a weekly blog since 1995, many years before the term “blog” was invented. I sent them out as emails to a list of friends. When I publicly committed myself to write weekly I had no idea of the benefits I would reap. I learned some self-discipline. I enjoyed turning the steady flow of ideas into columns that provoked positive responses from readers. And I wrote well over half a million words, a third of which are now enjoyed by a much wider readership through my three books of collected columns.

I’m one of those writers who blogged his way into print, like Charles Dickens, the patron saint of committed bloggers. Dickens’ weekly output was prodigious! He wrote sections of five novels as serials for weekly magazines and ten novels in monthly magazines. He often worked on two monthly serial novels at once. Pickwick Papers overlapped Oliver Twist, which overlapped Nicholas Nickleby which overlapped the weekly serial The Old Curiosity Shop! In his spare time, he also wrote five short novels and fifty plays, poems and short stories.

Few of us reader/writers can match that kind of production! I certainly can’t. But when we commit to writing much more both we and our readers benefit.

Here’s how I start myself thinking about things worth writing about. I ask myself, “Jack, you are sitting at your computer knowing you have only 15 minutes left to live. What important things in your life do you feel deeply about? Write about these for your family and friends to read.”

Try it. You’ll be amazed at how the ideas and words flow when you begin to write. Then commit to write again next week, and the next.

If Francis Bacon were here today, I would expect to read this on his blog, “Read books, periodicals, and blogs to feed your mind. Blog your thoughts and ideas and discuss them with your readers to refine your thinking. Write your memoirs to preserve the details.”