It’s the most haunting scene in Charles Dicken’s A Christmas Carol. I particularly like the 1984 made-for-television version of the story starring the late, redoubtable George C. Scott, who plays Ebenezer Scrooge. When his dead business partner, Jacob Marley, hauls his chain-bound carcass through the bedroom door and begins to bemoan his eternal fate, it gives the skeptical Ebenezer a moments pause. He doubts his own senses because small things affect them, like a bit of underdone potato. His musings are interrupted by a terrifying roar from Marley that takes Scrooge to the floor all a-tremble. Okay, now he’s listening.
Dicken’s genius here is that he taps into a fear that eventually haunts every human heart. Fellow writers will understand when I say that Marley comes to remind us of all that distracts. Kids fighting over a television program. Hungry husbands and snarly day job bosses. A long winded friend on the phone. Or in Scrooge’s case – business. But, “The world was my business!” Marley sobs. The essential thing he should have done while alive was to take care of what God had given him – his fellow man.
Is that what you’re doing with your writing? Taking care of the gift you have to affect others? Do you inform, enlighten, entertain with the gift of words you were given? Know this. We all get distracted from our true calling. Right now I’m sitting in my pj’s hitting the occasional wrong key because I’m eager to get into the shower, get dressed, go to the grocery, the bank etc. I have small children coming for a cookie decorating party tomorrow and I don’t have time right for this writing thing.
But I hear howling and clanging and I’m scared witless that Marley is on the other side of the door waiting to rattle his chains in my direction. He could be in the form of my encouraging best friend, my sister or one of my Twitter followers. He or she will warn me that I’m forging my own chain of half written works that I’ll drag around eternally if I don’t pay heed. So, as the year 2011 draws to a close I have a question to put to you.
Who’s your Marley?