The Bible still holds the record for the most books sold at 5 billion copies. Next, Quotations from Chairman Mao (1.1 billion copies), the Quran (800 million copies), Don Quixote (500 million copies), followed by Tale of Two Cities by Charles Dickens (200 million copies), and The Lord of the Rings (155 million copies). The Harry Potter books, 7 in all, have sold more than 500 million copies.
The Complete Poems of Emily Dickinson is considered one of the best-selling and most revered poetry books of all time, alongside the nonfiction book On Walden Pond by Henry David Thoreau. Interestingly, Henry David Thoreau was little appreciated for his philosophical writings during his lifetime and the prolific writer Emily Dickinson was not recognized for any of her work until after she died in 1886. Her first book was published posthumously in 1890.
I imagine Emily Dickinson writing away at her desk without thinking about publishing or any of those things modern authors have to consider: posting on social media platforms, speaking at a local library or conference, advertising, legal issues, a well-designed book cover, awards, blogging or building a website to name a few. Maybe she just wrote for the joy of writing. Admiring the view from her window, the scarlet maple in fall, summer’s purple clover, or the pristine white of winter, jotting down her thoughts, content and at peace.
It’s a lovely image. I don’t know if any of my visualizations are true, but I can’t help but reflect that perhaps it might be wise to take a break from the pressures of modern authorship and mull over just writing. Look out my window and appreciate the mist rising from the melting snow, ghostlike shapes meandering through the tall cedars and bare larches. Turn off the notifications on my phone. Postpone my next publishing obligation. Slip on my jammies. Sip a hot cup of tea. Pretend I am back in the 1880s and just write.
“To live is so startling it leaves little time for anything else.” Emily Dickinson
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