Recently, I took a trip to the Boston area. I’m not an expert on the city but I love Boston for many things. The writer in me loves it for its rich literary history.
Louisa May Alcott’s house (in nearby Concord) is wonderful. When visiting, I was struck by the fact she wrote part one (the original published version) of Little Women on a tiny tab of a desk her father built between her two bedroom windows. The surface is about the size of a one-armed school desk. She wrote her book by hand with a pen and an inkwell. And still did all of the work required of women in the nineteenth century, while wearing a long dress and a corset.
By the time she lived in this house, her father had moved the family 22 times over the course of 30 years. They were struggling financially. Their father, though a great mind of Transcendentalism, was not so concerned with the more mundane aspects of life.
While in Boston, I also saw the building that once housed the top publisher, Tichnor and Fields. Louisa approached Tichnor and Fields to publish her work, but Mr. Fields advised her to give up writing and concentrate on teaching. However, he was kind enough to lend her $40 to help her with the kindergarten she’d established in Boston to support herself while writing. Louisa didn’t listen.
She once said, “I will make a battering-ram of my head and make my way through this rough and tumble world.” The battering-ram didn’t give up – she found another publisher. And later she repaid Mr. Fields’ loan with a note thanking him for his help.
I’ve struggled with finding a balance between all of the things that I have to do and my writing. It’s all about making choices and being smart with your time. It’s also about letting go of things that don’t matter. I’m not just talking about cutting into your TV time. I’m talking about shutting out everything else and getting your mind in a place to be able to create.
Now, if Louisa, a Victorian woman, can sit down at a crude tongue-shaped desk with a messy inkwell and in two months produce a book still beloved today, then who’s to say that we can’t overcome our own obstacles to writing and publishing? Oh, yes, I forgot – in a long dress and corset.
What are some of the ways that you’ve found to make writing a priority? Or, for those of you who are published, what efforts did you make to get your first book published?
PS – Mr. Fields gladly acknowledged his mistaken advice and later accepted four of Louisa’s manuscripts for “The Atlantic.”