Monday, January 26, 2009

The Sweetest Fruit

I am today continuing to draw nuggets of wisdom from Thomas Carlyle’s 31 March 1829 letter to Henry Inglis. I wish we had Inglis’ letter to Carlyle that spawned this letter, but we have only Carlyle’s response. Inglis must have asked for some advice on writing, for Carlyle responded:

As to writing, for the present, I will neither advise nor dissuade you. If you have any heartfelt interest in any literary matter; any idea that gives you no rest till it be uttered, commit it to paper, and if circumstances favour, to the Press, the sooner the better. Only if you have no such interest, no such idea, do not in any wise regard it as a misfortune (most probably it is a blessing, for the sweetest fruit is longest in ripening) but simply as a sign that your vocation as yet is not to impart but to acquire. Meanwhile tell me always what you project and accomplish in the way of study and reading; and for your own private use, keep plentiful Notebooks, on which let your pen be often occupied.

Ah, Thomas, you write to me! You say you don’t provide any advice, at least you will not “advise nor dissuade” in the matter whether to pursue writing. But you say to commit to paper any idea which seems good to my mind as a potential writing topic. Good, this accords with what I am doing. Just this morning I made a list of the Bible study/small group study guides that have been rolling around in my mind. I have most of these on a capture sheet, somewhere (probably in a certain, unlabeled notebook on my closet shelf; I can picture where that is.

You also say “commit…if circumstances favour, to the Press”, i.e. seek to have that idea published. That’s exactly where I am, writing but not seeking publication. Perhaps this effort in this time will result in sweeter fruit. If not, it should result in my sweeter disposition.

Meanwhile, Thomas, for my own private use, I am keeping plentiful notebooks, on which my pen is frequently occupied.


Anonymous said...

Thomas’s words encouraged me today through you, Dave. Another who cannot and will not ever let her pen cease to move across the page. I have tried. It seems a common affliction to those of us who feel that we have something to say and want others to read it. I thought I would rest after Whales in the Pond… but another story keeps skipping through my mind. I have a feeling that these characters, once birthed by our pen in hand, have a right to look to us to keep them alive. I find this morning that writing is like finding a baby bird that has fallen from the nest and I am the one who stumbled upon it. What do I do? It’s fallen to me now to see that it lives, or at least give it a chance. So, my dear Cuz….

Write ON…

David A. Todd said...

Write on, Cuz,