The Ghost of an Idea

In Stave One of Charles Dickens’ novella “A Christmas Carol” the author goes through great lengths to establish the fact that Jacob Marley (Scrooges ex-business partner) was dead. Specifically he writes:

Old Marley was as dead as a door-nail.

Mind!  I don’t mean to say that I know, of my own knowledge, what there is particularly dead about a door-nail.  I might have been inclined, myself, to regard a coffin-nail as the deadest piece of ironmongery in the trade.  But the wisdom of our ancestors is in the simile; and my unhallowed hands shall not disturb it, or the Country’s done for.  You will therefore permit me to repeat, emphatically, that Marley was as dead as a door-nail.

I have often wondered in my capacity as a reader why Mr. Dickens thought it was necessary to expend the sheer number of words to articulate this fact that Jacob Marley was in fact dead. I suspect the phrase, “Old Marley was as dead as a door-nail” was a phrase that popped into his head and became the starting point from which the story was created.

This is the way it often goes with the creative process. There is one initial nugget such as the line about Old Marley. From this nugget comes forth a deluge of ideas that does not cause water damage Utah but rather begins to coalesce into a story.

Another way to look at the creative process (particularly with writing) is to see the story as already existing. In this way it is the job of the author or content creator to uncover the story. In other words the story reveals itself to the author as he or she writes it. In this way the initial nugget about Old Marley does not so much cause a deluge of ideas (not causing water damage Utah) but rather it is the initial outcropping that the author then proceeds to excavate.