August 28, 2009

All Who Do Brain Work

"Far away there in the sunshine are my highest aspirations. I may not reach them, but I can look up and see their beauty, believe in them, and try to follow where they lead." Louisa May Alcott
I just watched the Hallmark adaptation of Louisa May Alcott's The Inheritance and came across an article at The Writing Spirit blog.
To read about writing methods of classic authors in their time (this article was written only five years after Alcott's passing and just at the invention of the typewriter) is amazing, and to connect with those methods is pretty cool. Little Women was the first "big book" I ever read. I still remember sitting on my bedroom floor in front of my open closet, running my hands over the green linen cover, feeling its weight, then opening it up and plunging in, quickly carried away to a different time and place in the language. Love it when that happens. You know those kids whose mothers yell, "Get outside and enjoy the summer!" I was that kid, because I was inside, lying on my back on the floor, my knees up and bent over the bed, my ankles crossed on top of my quilt, reading about Jo and Laurie and another world I wanted to be a part of.
The Writing Method of Louisa May Alcott
(by Dr. H. Erichsen, “Methods of Writers,” The Writer Magazine, June 1893)
Louisa_May_Alcott_headshot The method of Louisa May Alcott was a very simple one. She never had a study; and an old atlas on her knee was all the desk she cared for. Any pen, any paper, any ink, and any quiet place contented her.
Years ago, when necessity drove her hard, she used to sit for fourteen hours at her work, doing about thirty pages a day, and scarcely tasting food until her daily task was done. She never copied. When the idea was in her head, it flowed into words faster than she could write them down, and she seldom altered a line. She had the wonderful power of carrying a dozen plots for months in her mind, thinking them over whenever she was in the mood, to be developed at the proper time. Sometimes she carried a plan thus for years.
Often, in the dead of the night, she lay awake and planned whole chapters, word for word, and when daylight came she had only to write them down. She never composed in the evening. She maintained that work in the early hours gives morning freshness to both brain and pen, and that rest at night is a necessity for all who do brain work.
She never used stimulants of any kind. She ate sparingly when writing, and only the simplest food, holding that one cannot preach temperance if one does not practice it. Miss Alcott affirmed that the quality of an author’s work depends much on his habits, and that sane, wholesome, happy, and wise books must come from clean lives, well-balanced minds, spiritual insight, and a desire to do good.
Very few of the stories of the author of “Little Women” were written in Concord, her home. This peaceful, pleasant place, the fields of which are classic ground, utterly lacked inspiration for Miss Alcott. She called it “this dull town,” and when she had a story to write she went to Boston, where she shut herself up in a room, and emerged only when she could show a completed work.
What are your writing methods?
  • Do you prefer writing in the sunshine, or by artificial light?
  • Do you use a lead pencil or a fountain pen?
  • Do you create a skeleton first?
  • Do you use any stimulants to spur the creative process?
  • Do you compose the sentences and stories to completion in your mind before committing them to paper, or let your ideas flow out as they may?

1 comment:

Shelli said...

That is interesting about her temperance when writing. I like that she says "sane, wholesome, happy, and wise books must come from clean lives..."
Okay, I don't write much, but when I do, I love writing with sunshine...I use a computer or a pen with nice clean lined a desk. If I have a whole awesome thought in my head, I don't do a skeleton, it just flows. But sometimes I reread and edit, edit, edit...that is when my writing is more forced. Sometimes a really good line comes to my mind and I know I have to use it as is. Other times, I try to compose a good one to get my thoughts down perfectly.
There you go. Some of my way awesome writing methods. I use them so often. Mostly to blog. How pitiful...:)

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