I was recently in London and spent a few nights in Bloomsbury not far from a house Charles Dickens lived in from 1837 to 1839. It was here where he completed The Pickwick Papers and wrote the complete manuscripts for Oliver Twist and Nicholas Nickelby. His subsequent success allowed him to move on to grander homes in London, but this is the only one still standing and it’s now a museum. The photo here is of Dickens’ desk.
I marvel at Dickens’ creative productivity, his popularity and financial success achieved during his lifetime, and his variety of story subject matter (he was writing about the plight of common and poor people at a time when very few were).
The success or productivity of other writers, past or present, can be a source of inspiration or depression for many aspiring writers. The daunt we might feel when facing our own work or contemplating the achievement of others shouldn’t stop us though. Someone has to write stories. Why not us? We probably can’t expect to be a Dickens, but we can sit down at our desks and apply ourselves to our craft. You won’t know until you try.
Speaking of trying… The trip to England was the first step of a new adventure I’ve embarked on: living abroad for the better part of this year. It has been a long held dream of mine to live in different parts of Europe for short stretches of time and write. This year I have an opportunity to take a leap of faith and turn this dream into reality. I sold my apartment and put everything into storage. And now… Well, to say I feel daunted would be an understatement!
I’m planning to give myself over to the drafts I have in progress and experiment with some new things I want to write. And I’m going to live this story. I’m just at the beginning; I have a few things sketched out for the middle; but I have only the vaguest notion of an ending (no idea really–I’m making up the story as I go along). I’m going to try living this out in the way we often write stories: not knowing if anything will work out but having the faith (and courage) to face the fears (and failures) anyway.
My first stop will be a tiny town in Brittany next to the middle of nowhere. I’m not the first person, nor will I be the last, to fall in love with France. I fell hard almost thirty years ago, so I’m following my heart and starting there.
When we set out to follow our dreams–whether to write, travel or try something new–we can’t predict where these dream-turned-reality paths will take us. We can only find out by following the path one step at a time.