Life Advice from Agatha Christie, In Her Own Words
Tuesday September 11, 2018

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My curiosity for Agatha Christie continues to grow, and it was reading her autobiography, which was published posthumously in 1977, a couple years after her death at the age of 85, that offered intriguing insight into how her mind worked. 

Some critics have criticized the book for talking too much about her craft and not enough about her family life, and while she doesn’t talk much about her personal life after the end of her first marriage, she takes great pride in detailing her childhood which is lovely to learn. 

Her publishing of 66 detective novels and 16 short story collections epitomizes the definition of prolific, and I quickly learned, while she loved to write, it took her an incredibly long time to describe herself as an author. 

Today I wanted to share with you eight quotes from the book that offer a glimpse into her philosophy of living. Expressing earnestly that she lived a good life, full of love and being fostered by a blessed childhood, while living through both World Wars and a first marriage which ended in his falling in love with another woman, she exudes the strength, curiosity and intelligence of someone who followed her own path, listened to her instincts and did what she found she did well and loved doing. 

Always have a notebook handy for the ideas that present themselves

“I usually have about half a dozen [exercise books – i.e. small notebooks] on hand, and I used to make notes in them of ideas that had struck me, or about some poison or drug, or a clever little bit of swindling that I had read about in the paper . . . it is a pleasure sometimes, when looking vaguely through a pile of old note-books, to find something scribbled down . . . it often stimulates me, if not to write that identical plot, at least to write something else.”

Find your own space to create and let your mind run free

“I wanted somewhere where I would not be disturbed. There would not be a telephone in the room. I was going to have a grand piano; large, firm table; a comfortable sofa or divan; a hard upright chair for typing; and one armchair to recline in, and there was to be nothing else. I bought myself a Steinway grand, and I enjoyed ‘my room’ enormously . . . For once, I had a place of my own, and I continued to enjoy it for the five or six years until the house was bombed in [WWII].”

The Awesomeness of Appreciating the Simple Things 

“I have always loved things like seashells or little bits of coloured rock – all the odd treasures one picks up as a child. A bright bird’s feather, a variegated leaf — these things, sometimes feel, are the true treasures of life, and one enjoys them better than topazes, emeralds, or expenseive little boxes by Fabergé.”

Appreciate the talent of others and revel and invest in what you love doing and do well

“I have learnt that I am me, that I can do the things that, as one might put it, me can do, but I cannot do the things that me would like to do . . . I have had a few tries at this and that, mind you, but I have never stuck to trying to do things which I do badly, and for which I do not have a natural aptitude.”

Give yourself the greatest gift – just be yourself

“As life goes on . . . it becomes tiring to keep up the character you invented for yourself, and so you relapse into individuality and become more like yourself every day. This is sometimes disconcerting for those around you, but a great relief to the person concerned.”

Be willing to take risks for what you love

Upon responding to her second and lifelong husband Max asking her to marry him (14 years her junior) and hesitant that she was too old for him. Max responds to her statement that it is a ‘terrible risk’ for him to marry her due to the age difference. She at the time was 40, “It’s not a risk for me. You may think it a risk for you. But does it matter taking risks? Does one get anywhere if one doesn’t take risks?” Agatha writes, ‘To that I agreed. I have never refrained from doing anything on the grounds of security. I was happier after that. I felt, “Well, it is my risk, but I believe it is worth taking a risk to find a person with whom you are happy. I shall be sorry if it goes wrong for him, but after all that is his risk, and he is regarding it quite sensibly.”

Attaining a deep joy asks of our entire energy, time and devotion

About her writing of Absent in the Spring, one of her six novels written under the pen name Mary Westmacott, “It is an odd feeling to have a book growing inside you, for perhaps six or seven years knowing that one day you will write it, knowing that it is building up, all the time, to what it already is. Yes, it is there already —it just has to come more clearly out of the mist . . . and then suddenly, one gets a clear and sudden command: Now! Now is when you are ready. Now, you know all about it. Oh, the blessing that for once one is able to do it then and there, that now really is now. I was so frightened of interruptions, of anything breaking the flow of continuity, that after I had written the first chapter in a white heat, I proceeded to write the last chapter, because I knew so clearly where I was going that I felt I must get it down on paper. Otherwise I did not have to interrupt anything — I went straight through. I don’t think I have every been so tired. When I finished, when I had seen that the chapter I had written earlier needed not a word changed, I fell on my bed, and as far as I remember slept more or less for twenty-four hours straight through. Then I got up and had an enormous dinner . . . it was written with integrity, with sincerity, it was written as I meant to write it, and that is the proudest joy an author can have.”

Life really does have the potential to become richer with each passing year

“I have enjoyed greatly the second blooming that comes when you finish the life of the emotions and of personal relations; and suddenly find — at the age of fifty, say — that a whole new life has opened before you, filled with things you can think about, study, or read about . . . you can enjoy leisure; you can enjoy things . . . it is as if a fresh sap of ideas and thoughts was rising in you . . . one’s thankfulness for the gift of life is, I think, stronger and more vital during those years than it ever has been before. It has some of the reality and intensity of dreams — and I still enjoy dreaming enormously.” Christie at the age of 75. 

~Check out Agatha Christie: An Autobiography

~This is the first post in TSLL’s new category British Inspired. I look forward to sharing from time to time more posts that speak to readers’ (and my) Anglophile predilections. Thanks for stopping by and have a wonderful Wednesday!

6 thoughts on “Life Advice from Agatha Christie, In Her Own Words

  1. Thank you so much Shannon?
    Wow! This is sharing gold , thank you Shannon! Life after fifty really is great☀️
    The podcast of Monday is also indeed profound! As a very intense introvert and private person, I felt this podcast was written for me personally
    As many changes are happening in my life all at once, life can be a real challenge especially being very much an introvert
    But fear cannot be allowed to control us , so onward we stride with courage
    ?☀️Life is beautiful ☀️?

  2. Great piece Shannon. I am a great fan of her and read the autobiography many times and the novels but ‘Absent In the spring’is the only novel I missed out. So will be on the hunt for it now. I think she had a great mind. You have to have to write something ĺike Mousetrap which ran and ran. Dare I say some of the quotes could gave been written by you!Maybe you have a lot in common with her?

    1. Kameela, you are very kind. 🙂 Yes, the longevity of Mousetrap is impressive and speaks to her many creative talents. When she speaks about deciding to be the playwright of her own plays and why, it is quite fascinating.

  3. I view Agatha Christie in much the same way I view Wagner – a great talent but an ethical failure. She was a racist (the original title of TEN LITTLE INDIANS was TEN LITTLE N…..S, and she was also a homophobe. See THE MOVING FINGER where a gay character is referred to as a “plump, ladylike man.”

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