Saturday, January 31, 2015

Ghosts of Ourselves

“I will live in the Past, the Present, and the Future. The Spirits of all Three shall strive within me. I will not shut out the lessons that they teach.''
                                             A Christmas Carol by Charles Dickens


During the month of December, bookstores and televisions reminded us that Charles Dickens’s story about Ebenezer Scrooge, a miserly old man who is redeemed, still haunts us 170 years after it was published. There’s something compelling about the idea of ghosts, past, present and future, changing the trajectory of one’s life for the better. For writers, as we embark upon a new year, and time of resolutions, it is useful to think about our past and present in ways that might translate into progress as writers.

Who are the ghosts of our writing past?  Did they encourage or discouraged us? What praise, guidance, and insights were given? Have we acknowledged and utilized the mentoring we’ve received over the years? Or are we weighed down by doubt?  If we were discouraged, have we been carrying those negative thoughts around, allowing them to affect our perceptions of ourselves and our writing? Other people’s pessimism has nothing to do with our writing abilities. Have we let go of other assessments in light of our own, more accurate accounting?

And what are we writing now? Are we writing now? What encourages us to write? What prevents us from writing? Are we writing what we want to write? Or are we allowing circumstances to dictate? There ways we can modify our surroundings, our circumstances, our time, and our income in ways that allow us to work. But are present ghosts keeping us from doing so? What opportunities have we embraced? What have we let slip because of fear or doubt or lack of effort?  What can we change today so we can write?

Finally, what hopes do we hold for our writing? Do we see ourselves continuing to write just for ourselves, or for an audience? Do we imagine our success? What can we do now to accomplish our writing goals?

Interestingly enough, for Scrooge, it’s only when the ghosts of all three – past, present, and future -- are allowed to “strive within” that he becomes a changed man. Writers know all too well that what we write – our characters, our stories, our settings – are affected by who we have been and who we are. As with Scrooge, these ghosts of ourselves can give us new and valuable perspective.  

Paula Castner is a mother of three and a co-founder of Seven Bridge Writers' Collaborative as well as a freelance writer, writing and baking workshop facilitator, and drama director. She receives emails at

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