Before the end of the year I decided to take a break from my edits and step away from the story for a bit. I resorted to what I always do when I need to refuel my writing: reading.
Despite the reusable bag full of to-be-read books next to my nightstand, and the endless piles in my office, I went for an old favorite.
You could say, the old favorite.
Like many writers, reading Little Women as a child had an immeasurable influence on me. I wanted to be Jo, with her ink-stained hands and big dreams. I wanted to be the rebel storyteller. I never, ever forgave Amy for burning Jo’s manuscript (I suspect this is also why I can’t stand the sight of Kirsten Dunst) and I begrudged the passage of time, the inevitable growing up that came with it.
Re-reading Little Women was my equivalent of curling up under a warm blanket and pulling it over my head. It was me shutting out the rest of the world. It was me looking for comfort, not craft (though it’s certainly there), in the pages. All I intended to do was fall in love with story again.
The last the time I read Little Women, publishing a book was nowhere near a reality for me. Who we are inevitably changes how we read the books we love: suddenly I was catching bits of Louisa May Alcott’s feminism I hadn’t noticed as a young reader, and I found myself chuckling at her jabs at the publishing industry. In a scene where Jo submits her manuscript to an editor, Alcott writes he said “We’ll take this.” Then she adds: “(editors never say ‘I’)”.
Though I didn’t highlight or take notes, I dog-eared several passages. Then this morning, before I got back to work on my manuscript, I revisited the book and found this:
In her first post of 2016, Lindsey Mead writes about how, instead of resolutions, she chooses a word of the year (or rather, the word chooses her). I’d hoped one would choose me as well, then promptly forgot about it until I re-opened my copy of Little Women.
So, yes, they’re more like eight words, but they speak to me.
They are exactly how I want to live and write this year.