The Curious Case of the Neglected Novel (Encouragement for Creators)

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She loved apples, playing the piano, and a good game of golf. Mostly, however, she loved writing. She wrote in the bathtub, on the washstand, at the dining room table — and when she spent time in the Middle East, she wrote on a makeshift table of boards and packing crates. For decades she averaged two novels a year, writing them longhand at first, but eventually using a typewriter. She’s the greatest mystery writer of all time, producing 78 detective novels, over 100 short stories, and 19 plays, including Mousetrap — the world’s longest-running play, which opened in London’s West End in 1952 and is still running today after more than 25,000 performances. Most of her books and short stories have been adapted for television and feature films. According to the Guinness Book of World Records, she’s the best-selling novelist of all time. Her work has been translated into over a hundred languages, making her the single most-translated author; and her books have sold over two billion copies. Only the Bible and Shakespeare have outsold her.

— All these accomplishments because Agatha Christie persevered. She refused to take “no” for an answer.

Dame Agatha Christie was born in 1890, in the Devon coast town of Torquay. She grew up with a passion for detective novels. She devoured the Sherlock Holmes stories of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, and such novels as Wilkie Collins’ The Woman in White and The Moonstone. One day, Agatha’s sister challenged her to write a mystery novel of her own. Agatha produced her first detective novel, The Mysterious Affair at Styles.

Over the next four years Agatha tried repeatedly to find a home for her book. Not one publisher took even the slightest interest in her manuscript. One account states the author received close to 500 rejections during this time. The mystery novelist was about to forever change the rules of detective fiction — it’s just that no one realized it at the time.

In 1920, the publishing company Bodley Head showed genuine interest in Agatha’s novel. The editor John Lane eventually offered the young writer a contract, after procrastinating for close to a year. He asked Agatha to change the ending — which she promptly did — and then paid her a mere £25. So, five years after Agatha finished The Mysterious Affair at Styles, the novel that launched the career of the brilliant Belgian detective Hercule Poirot finally saw print.

“My little grey cells do not stop at NO.”

Agatha Christie was on her way. A few years later she published And Then There Were None, also known as Ten Little Indians, and the basis for several movies and TV shows. To date, the book has sold over 100 million copies, making it the world’s best-selling mystery — ever!

Don’t stop at “No”! Keep trying. Rejection is one of life’s great mysteries. We may not always understand it, but we all have to endure it.

“Trust in the Lord and do good…. Take delight in the Lord, and he will give you the desires of your heart. Commit your way to the Lord; trust in him and he will do this…. Be still before the Lord and wait patiently for him….” (Psalm 37:3-7 NIV)

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The Perilous P-Word! (Diet for Dreamers)

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We seldom consider all of its potential consequences, and yet, it’s a bad habit that frequently results in loss and regret. In certain areas of life it’s considered socially unacceptable behavior. The Bible admonishes us to avoid it, because it has the ability to ruin relationships, destroy career opportunities, and rob us of success. In fact, it’s the silent killer of dreams. Were the Surgeon General to issue a statement regarding this habit, it would read “Warning: _________ may be hazardous to your goals.”

What are we hinting at? Something we intended to discuss before, but which, for various reasons (excuses?), we put on a back burner. Shall we explore this bad habit now … or perhaps wait for a better time? Later? Or now? Or should we just think about it for awhile? Maybe even sleep on it.

We won’t make you wait. The horrible habit we’re alluding to, the thief of dreams, is … and we can hardly bring ourselves to type it … the ugly P-word … PRocRAsTiNAtIOn!!

In his novel David Copperfield, Charles Dickens wrote, “Procrastination is the thief of time, collar him.” But the habit of procrastinating can rob us of far more than our time. True, when we put things off, we’re gambling with life’s greatest commodity, time — the “currency of dreams” — but the worst aspect of procrastination is often the unforeseen consequences of our actions … er, inactions.

When we have lots to accomplish or deadlines to meet, putting things off till tomorrow can result in last minute mad dashes to finish projects, needless stress, poor quality in our work, and sometimes the complete failure to get the job done. In Strategies for Success in Career Development (2007), Karen Lamb writes, “A year from now you may wish you had started today.”

People procrastinate for a variety of reasons: to indulge in laziness; to avoid a difficult task; or simply because they’re counting on having more time. Regarding the last reason, time has an uncanny way of running out on us, and “life” often interferes with our best laid plans. You’d think we’d have learned our lesson in high school. Remember those late Sunday nights spent cramming for an exam? Nevertheless, people have a natural tendency to postpone — even the inevitable. Some even joke, “Never do today what you can put off till tomorrow.”

Scooby Doo: “Mystery? Ret’s rolve it rater.”

Tomorrow, by its very definition, never comes. To quote song lyrics from the Musical Annie, it’s “always a day away.” At some point, though, we do reach the end of the line. We look back on the goals we failed to achieve, the unfulfilled dreams, the still broken relationships we intended to mend. We say things like: “I was planning to visit…”; or “I was going to make more time for….”; or “I intended to take care of that….” But planning and intending to do something only count as excuses. We’ve all heard the expression, “The road to hell is paved with good intentions.”

Like any bad habit, putting things off only leads to further procrastination. And, like any bad habit, procrastination can destroy relationships. That’s why God admonishes us NOT to put off resolving disagreements or making restitution. Ephesians 4:26 states, “Don’t let the sun go down while you are still angry….” (NLT)  In other words, don’t put off addressing an issue or repairing a relationship until tomorrow, because tomorrow might never come.

Abraham Lincoln wrote, “You cannot escape the responsibility of tomorrow by evading it today.” Do you have a goal to achieve, a task to perform, a relationship to mend, or a problem to address? Start now. Do you want to pursue a dream? Start today. Don’t let the bad habit of procrastination steal your time and opportunities. Your future — and all your tomorrows — begin today. So don’t  delay.

“Indeed, the ‘right time’ is now. Today is the day of salvation.” (2 Corinthians 6:2 NLT)

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