Agatha Said, pt. 12

Happy February! I started this series of Agatha Christie quotes with the intention of sharing one on the first Wednesday of each month. However, the world keeps imploding on the first Wednesday of each month—election results, insurrections. And out of respect, I have been skipping those days. But thankfully, the world seems stable today (fingers crossed!), so I’m back to it!

Agatha Said:

“The trouble is that it is awfully hard for an author to put things in words when you have to do it in the course of conversation. You can do it with a pencil in your hand, or sitting in front of your typewriter — then the thing comes out already formed as it should come out — but you can’t describe things that you are only going to write; or at least I can’t. I learnt in the end never to say anything about a book before it was written. Criticism after you have written it is helpful. You can argue the point, or you can give in, but at least you know how it has struck one reader. Your own description of what you are going to write, however, sounds so futile, that to be told kindly that it won’t do meets with your instant agreement.” 

The Context: Agatha opens this section by talking about how she would sometimes run book ideas by her first husband. She admits that even to her own ears, one of her attempts at explaining her story idea sounded “extraordinarily banal, futile, and a great many other adjectives which I will not particularize.” But in later years, that very same idea came to life again, and this time, in the absence of criticism or judgement, it blossomed and became one of her best books. That leads into this quote.

Why I Chose It: I think most creative people understand how difficult and fraught it is to describe your idea to someone else. They may offer exactly the encouragement and perspective you need. Or their feedback, well-intentioned though it may be, could squash the budding idea, crushing the delicate sprout back into the soil. It’s easy to hear someone offer what is probably constructive criticism and jump right to thinking it’s a terrible idea, especially if you weren’t sure it was particularly good to start with! Knowing that even a literary legend struggled with having confidence in her ideas is remarkably encouraging.

Creative ideas are so small and often amorphous; they grow and strengthen and develop more concrete form as we work on them. So describing them at the start can be difficult. Not to mention, capturing an idea in brief and direct terms is tricky (ask any writer who’s had to face down a synopsis!). We have to be gentle with our ideas. We have to protect and nurture them so they can grow. It’s only by allowing them space to mature and deepen that we discover what those budding ideas can become.

Agatha Said, pt. 7

Happy Agatha Day! It feels a little like we’re in a strange, alternate world right now, doesn’t it? I hope you’re all hanging in there and treating yourselves well. This month’s Agatha quote feels especially appropriate for this time.

Agatha Said:

“Life is really like a ship — the interior of a ship, that is. It has watertight compartments. You emerge from one, seal and bolt the doors, and find yourself in another. My life from the day we left Southampton to the day we returned to England was one such compartment. Ever since that I have felt the same about travel. You step from one life into another. You are yourself, but a different self.”

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Agatha Said, pt. 4

Happy February! As this is the month in which we celebrate Valentine’s Day, I thought it would be especially appropriate if I shared an Agatha Christie quote about her husband. (Her second husband. The good one.)

Agatha Said:

“I thought then, and indeed have thought ever since, what a wonderful person Max is. He is so quiet, so sparing with words of commiseration. He does things. He does just the things you want done and that consoles you more than anything else could.”

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