No More Excuses: Jane Austen’s Writing Table

What are you waiting for?

That might sound like a rhetorical question, but it is not.

What are you really waiting for before you get serious about your writing? Here are a few answers that come to mind.

We wait because we have young children at home (or teenagers, who can take up just as much emotional energy). I totally get that and remember thinking when our son was young and we were homeschooling that it would be so much easier to write once he was in college.

Yes and no. I certainly have much more control over my time now (he is not only out of college but married, in law school, and living—sigh—half a country away). However, in some ways, it was actually easier to pounce on ideas and focus for sustained but short periods of time then than it is now—I marvel that I was somehow able to write a 400+ page book during a few months at that time. When we are busy, we are in the habit of fitting things in, knowing that we simply don’t have time to spare. Now that I have more time to ponder and think, that’s just what I tend to do, rather than to act.

In any case, if we wait until our children are grown to do anything at all, we lose precious creative years. We can begin the mindset and habits now (baby steps really are the key), knowing that in years to come, we can look forward to building on a foundation already put in place.

We wait for other people to appreciate our passion (or talent). This is a tough one, but I think it is common. We wait for other people to give us permission to take seriously our own desires and needs. We feel our family or friends or even imaginary readers and reviewers are not fully supporting us, are not cheering us on every step of the way, so we wait until they do.

But they have their own lives to pay attention to, their own passions to pursue or internal dialogue to monitor. While it is nice to have others’ support, in the end, we need to rely on our own belief in our creative life. It gets easier with practice, so why not start now?

And what if the people who matter to us really do ignore or even disapprove of our work? We have to decide for ourselves if that is worth our giving up something so very important to us.

We wait for life to be perfect. We need more space, more money, more time, to quit our job, a different job, a newer laptop, the latest app, fewer distractions, better ideas, more ideas, fewer ideas, more energy, a more understanding spouse, a different spouse, a second spouse, a different cat, no cat, a fish, a room of one’s own. Whatever it is, we convince ourselves that we can’t write, not seriously, without it.

All I have to say is this: Jane Austen’s writing table.

Jane Austen's Writing Table

Recently I visited Jane Austen’s home and museum in Chawton, England. There, in the bustle of a parlor room, on a sloped portable desk placed on this little writing table, she wrote Mansfield Park, Emma, and Persuasion and revised Sense and Sensibility and Pride and Prejudice.

Seeing the writing table in person, I was struck by the fact that in her lifetime, while she did enjoy some sales of her books and fans the likes of Sir Walter Scott, she was far from knowing that she would, someday, be the Jane Austen we know today. The icon. The industry. She was just a writer doing whatever she needed to do in order to write.

Her writing table is my current desktop background as a reminder to myself that there really are no good excuses, not when we want to take our creative work seriously.

Today’s question:

What are you waiting for? Make a list. Be brutally honest. See if it tells you anything. See my answer in the comments.

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6 thoughts on “No More Excuses: Jane Austen’s Writing Table

  1. I find it helpful to make a difference between reasons I have for not writing and reasons I have for not taking my writing as seriously as I should, which is what this post is about. An important realization for me, that I’m going to write about in a post before long, is that part of my hesitancy has been a fear of commitment, not all that different from a personal relationship. If I really give writing my all, then I need to commit to it for the long term, “for better or worse.”

    Another reason that doesn’t apply to me now but that I think others might relate to is waiting until finishing college or graduate school before taking non-academic writing seriously. That’s a tough one, but I do think that it’s possible to commit to the writing you want to do, even as a full-time student. Lower your expectations for output, but embrace fully the writer in you, even if it means producing only 500 or 1000 words per week, with a plan for moving forward as you have more control over your time. And it might mean making unpopular choices about how best to spend summers or breaks (or even weekend evenings).

  2. Well, I did 400 words before bed last night, and another 400 this morning. On a story that’s been in my head for years but that I didn’t even mean to work on during this stretch…till I sat down and started writing. It’s surely just word vomit, but, dang, I guess it’s been wanting to come out! 🙂 So happy for the inspiration, Lisa.

    • Deborah, I really believe that blogging can be the path to bigger things (especially voice and clarity of purpose), even if it feels like a bit of a hamster wheel at times.

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