We all know of Scrooge from Dickens’ ghost story, A Christmas Carol, but how many of you have actually read it? If nothing, you’ve heard it retold, but I want you to write like Scrooge, not a scrooge.
A scrooge is stingy. He sits on piles of wealth, but exercises thrift in handing it out, even when he knows the dire circumstances of those around him. In the story, even Scrooge lives a modest life in spite of his wealth. He doesn’t live like Scrooge McDuck. At all.
Unlike the retellings, Scrooge has depth. There are clear reasons why he’s afraid to invest in people: an abusive father, a lonely childhood, the rejection of a woman who could have been his wife, the loss of his beloved sister, and the loss of his business partner. These things would make it easy to harden yourself, especially at Christmas when people act like all the bad has gone away. Scrooge cannot forget the bad. This hardness leaves him unable to empathize with Bob, as well as the poor of the city. So yeah, write like that.
But hey, we all have two things in common with Scrooge when it comes to writing:
1. We have past failures that threaten to shape our presents and our futures.
2. We have a pile of riches for the spending.
When people say someone is a scrooge, they’re referring to Scrooge before his epiphany. At the end of the story, he’s the most generous person alive, and he exudes joy. In terms of writing, he embodies Annie Dillard’s advice:
One of the things I know about writing is this: spend it all, shoot it, play it, lose it, all, right away, every time. Do not hoard what seems good for a later place in the book or for another book; give it, give it all, give it now. The impulse to save something good for a better place later is the signal to spend it now. Something more will arise for later, something better. These things fill from behind, from beneath, like well water. Similarly, the impulse to keep to yourself what you have learned is not only shameful, it is destructive. Anything you do not give freely and abundantly becomes lost to you. You open your safe and find ashes.
Let’s testify! When have you followed this advice and reaped the benefit?