Lessons from Artists: Agatha Christie Mallowan

What she teaches us about writing, life, and learning

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I enjoyed reading Agatha Christie’s archaeological memoir, Come, Tell Me How You Live, because it was informative, instructive, and dry. I was pleased that such a great writer could put together a work that was simply a compilation of her life’s journals. The memoir isn’t terribly exciting or life changing, but in it we can still learn a few lessons making the book worth your time.

A lesson for writers.

Christie teaches us how to describe everything. Christie notes that the book is a compilation of every day happenings and she uses her power of description to tell us about the adventure of traveling with her husband to Syria and observing and participating in his archeological digs. If one were to read this book they would be equipped to better describe everything. Christie teaches us something about tempo. This book runs slow like the train she rode to her far away destination. It is steady and strong, but it takes its time getting through each scene of her adventure. She gives us permission to write a story that reads like a slow steady drip.

Agatha started the book, but then put it aside for four years until the war was over. This demonstrates the amount of a time even a simple work can take. In this she approves of starting and stopping and demonstrates how often real-life interrupts important work. Christie clearly shows readers where the material for her mysteries came from. She pulls from real life and incorporates that into her imagination. She lets life feed her characters.

A lesson for life.

Agatha shows us how to live. She was a mother and celebrated author when she went with her husband on his digs, yet she embraced the adventure and learned from it. Her life was enriched by dropping everything and uprooting her life for a while. She left her daughter behind while she concentrated on her husband and his famous work. She was not bound by a norm that told her to stay and take care of things. She shows us how to embrace possibilities and run with it.

Agatha shows us how to appreciate different cultures and geographical areas. She constantly encountered different social norms and practices, but learned to appreciate her new foreign friends and integrated them into her life. She also learned how to integrate herself into a harsh climate and shows us perseverance in her ability to overcome set backs on her journey.

Agatha shows us how to love and support. There is a persistent message of love and support for her husband in this book. Where some of us might hesitate to uproot our lives for our spouse she embraces it and writes a book about it. Though her home was still waiting for her when she got back to England she didn’t hesitate to embrace life abroad as they traveled and her husband performed his archaeological work. If we are afraid of making a big change we might want to acquaint ourselves with this story. Agatha left everything and embraced the life that came her way as a result of marrying a famous archeologist.

A lesson for learners.

Life long learners and lovers of new experiences will enjoy Christie’s ability to embrace multi-cultures. We can pick up how she viewed life and pulled new ideas into her world. Her ability to value indifference and use it in her work provides insight into how to do the same in our world. Agatha embraced new people and new climates, but maintained her identity as a woman and writer and I find that lesson the most valuable. We often believe that embracing new things means we get rid of our identity somehow, but Agatha shows us something different. She loves and appreciates those around her without changing who she is. She grows from interactions with others, but doesn’t change her foundation.

Agatha shows us how to plan ahead. She had every intention of completing her writing while traveling abroad and she did, but there were challenges and limitations. It is sadly fascinating to consider how she would write her books in a tent in the desert or in her temporary abode and with no consideration of keeping her Instagram feed going or updating Facebook. She simply lived life, wrote when she could, and never considered ensuring that fans were kept up to date of her every move. In that is a lesson to be learned.

Agatha shows us the importance of a good education and strong background. Her understanding of cultures, language, and life helped her travel with ease. She had a foundation that was not swayed and this helped her embrace and overcome challenges. She was constantly feeding off of and observing life and for that we are forever thankful. She sought out experiences and used them to feed her work. Had she been a fool or ignorant of the ways of the world she would have observed nothing. She would have been afraid and shun what life threw her way.

In a world of over stimulation and dependence on the phone I appreciate stories of life where we simply go out and live. We don’t capture every picture and worry about our next update. We live and experience and pour what we have learned into our work. Which reminds me we need a work. We need something to pour ourselves into that isn’t related to social media and constant updates. We need the quietness of the desert and the calm of the night and we need to just work. As Agatha shows us there will be time later for publishers and marketing. Right now, we absorb and regurgitate life into our art.

Living, learning, and messing the whole thing up,

Marcy Pedersen

Originally published at https://aprolificanthology.com on June 2, 2019.

Writer, analyst, life-long learner, and obsessed about improving life and work processes. Connect at marcypedersen@icloud.com

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