For all of you who loved Little Women, there’s a new book out by one of Louisa May Alcott’s descendants. While most of us have heard about the influence Alcott’s father, Bronson, had on her life, Eve LaPlante, in Marmee & Louisa, focuses on how close Louisa was with her mother, Abigail (the real life Marmee in Little Women). It was Abigail who really encouraged her daughter to write.

As I was reading about the two women’s relationships, I thought about a comment Natalie Goldberg, author of several books on writing, including Writing Down the Bones, once said. She noted that for most of us writers (the same can be said about most creative people), there is no one on the sidelines cheering us on to spend our time writing poetry or short stories or novels. No one is telling us we should give up our day jobs to devote ourselves to writing full time. Nor are there benefactors who are so enamored with our talent that they want to financially support us.

Ben Fountain, a former attorney turned fiction writer (Brief Encounters with Che Guevara: Stories (P.S.) and Billy Lynn's Long Halftime Walk: A Novel), spoke at a dinner I attended about how when he faced his in-laws the first Christmas after he had left legal practice to write, he was asked how his writing was going. He told them he had written two really great sentences. To say the least, his in-laws’ reaction was not encouraging – afterall, his wife was still practicing law and they had children. By the next year, he had finished a story, but there were no monetary rewards pouring in to justify the amount of time he spent writing.

Goldberg reminds us we have to believe in ourselves – if we can’t do that, why should be expect anyone else to? This doesn’t mean all of us are ready to give up the day job, but it does mean that if we are committed to becoming writers, we need to give it the effort it deserves. No one becomes adept at any endeavor unless he or she is willing to put the time into it. Again, Goldberg provides us with an apt comparison: You can’t expect to become a marathon runner if you don’t run each day. She also reminds us while there are some days your feet and knees hurt, some days you can’t catch your breath, there are those days when you almost float through your run and know you are become a better runner capable of finishing the marathon. It’s the same with writing. All those lousy days when a great sentence doesn’t come, when everything you write does belong in the trash can – all of them are the compost that leads you to the days where great writing flows through your fingers onto the page.

New Year’s will be here before you know it. Find a way to commit to your progress as a writer. Make it personal, but make it meaningful as well.

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