Megan Oteri

                                                                Informal Essay


The Polish of Success: the Making of a $68 Million Dollar Man


Charles Dickens Twitter biography would read, “12 year old boy destined for greatness working in shoe polish factory to pay off my father’s debts. Mark my tweets: I will be wealthy beyond compare.” His handle would be @Boztheboss.

        A twelve year old Dickens would talk the shoe polish factory boss into letting him tweet for the company, having come up with several clever marketing tweets before hand to pitch to the boss. The boss would allow Dickens to tweet and he would use this time to tweet for the factory as well as his own Twitter account. He would choose Twitter primarily as his main social media account because he would have researched that Twitter as the most effective social media tool for a business.

        His first tweet would be:

        @Boztheboss “My father had nerve 2 say, ‘The sun has set on our house forever. We r                 ruined!’ when the policemen escorted him from our home. #dramaking”        

        When Charles Dickens was twelve years old he had to repay his father’s debts by working in a shoe polish factory. It was probably here where he metaphorically polished the idea that he himself would never ever be poor or have to pay off someone else’s debt ever again. As he labeled shoe polish jars, he was labeling the things in his life he wanted to change: poverty, irresponsibility, and debt. In his mind, he labeled his goals: wealth, success, and security. It was the need for security that drove him and made him wealthy and successful as writer and business man by age 24. Did this experience as a twelve year old boy being responsible for his father’s debts and family’s well being help create a $68 million dollar writing career?

        Twelve years old is an important developmental age for young boys.  I saw a group of boys this age at the YMCA pool recently.  I watched my four year old splash in the water with his arm floaties while these boys were taking their swim test. The boys called out to their mamas with pride and joy when they passed their swim test— smiling toothy grins as they held up their orange shoestring necklaces, signifying their ability to swim in the deep end.

        A boy is a boy.  And most boys that age want to hunt, fish and run wild with their friends. Dickens did not get to be a boy. He had to immediately jump into the arms of adulthood. Without a splash, Dickens dove into the deep end of adulthood, skipping swim lessons and CPR instruction. There was no splash like the boys at the YMCA; Dickens jumped into adulthood with a thud. He rented a room and worked.  He was more or less pushed into the arms of adulthood, no life preserver to be seen. Yet, it was this moment where he decided to become the businessman that he did.

        Dickens chose a life of literary success that seemed to be programmed from the start. In today’s modern times Dickens would be very successful, using the same formula that earned him success in the 19th century. He would take advantage of social media the way he took advantage of people in the 19th century — using a savvy business minded strategy. He would not a need literary agent because he would be his own literary agent with the marketing plan already in place and have a blog that his hired assistant would post the basic information marketing current and previous publications available for purchase. Dickens may be the only author that sold the same book three times to the same people. He was a genius at the business of writing and marketing!

        Even though he was a genius at business, it was his drive that made him so successful. He wrote on a rigorous schedule and rarely gave in to Writer’s Block. I don’t think he would spend his time frivolously on the internet with social media. I think he would have a disciplined plan in place that targeted his potential readers.  Most likely, he would have hired an assistant to handle the social media aspects so he could dedicate more time to writing. If he did tweet, he would do it in a way that would deliver the most effective outcome. I find myself tweeting a lot without a focus. In fact, I do a lot of social media without a precise target or focus on a business level. I am trying to build a platform for myself as a writer, but I am all over the place.  To illustrate how effective Dickens would be using Twitter, he may use the hashtag #jiltedbrides to draw in readers to Great Expectations. He may have used #evilbosses to promote Ebenezer Scrooge. He would use a technology tool where one had to pay a subscription fee to see his writing. Needless to say, he would have used the tools available to him to promote himself.

        Some of the other social media and technology tools Dickens would have used are the sites where you can post one thing and it goes to all your accounts making his productivity more efficient.

        Dickens always had the end in sight before he started projects, so he knew where he was headed with his plan.  I enjoyed hearing the story of how he excused himself from publisher Chapman and Hall when solicited to write the captions for Robert Seymour’s illustrations. Dickens thought on his feet and had a natural ability to think like a business man.  He certainly began working at an early enough age in the shoe polish factory to develop this skill. It would be interesting to discover whether Dickens’ kept journals while he was at the show polish factory.  He had an enormous weight cast upon him as the sole family member responsible for paying off his father’s debts and to support the family.

        Writers are interesting people. A powerful force drives their words — their need to be heard. Dickens’ drive was not to be heard, but to be paid. He chased the dragon of poverty away from his heels his entire life because he was burned from the dragon’s fire of poverty, but more precisely, Dickens was cut from the claws of responsibility; these were the scars that burned deepest within him. He held the family’s future on his shoulders and to a twelve year old boy that is like having to carry the world on your shoulders. He not only carried that burden, he used it as fuel to drive him to #success.