Little Women’s Jo Falls Into a NaNoWriMo-like Vortex

Little Women was written in 1868, and the chapter I read yesterday helped me conclude that the only difference between writers then and now are the tools.

Below is an excerpt that I couldn’t help but compare to what I’m sure many NaNoWriMo households will live out next month.

From Chapter 27: Literary Lessons

Every few weeks she would shut herself up in her room, put on her scribbling suit, and ‘fall into a vortex’, as she expressed it, writing away at her novel with all her heart and soul, for till that was finished she could find no peace. Her ‘scribbling suit’ consisted of a black woolen pinafore on which she could wipe her pen at will, and a cap of the same material, adorned with a cheerful red bow, into which she bundled her hair when the decks were cleared for action. This cap was a beacon to the inquiring eyes of her family, who during these periods kept their distance, merely popping in their heads semi-occasionally to ask, with interest, “Does genius burn, Jo?”

They did not always venture even to ask this question, but took an
observation of the cap, and judged accordingly. If this expressive article of dress was drawn low upon the forehead, it was a sign that hard work was going on, in exciting moments it was pushed rakishly askew, and when despair seized the author it was plucked wholly off, and cast upon the floor. At such times the intruder silently withdrew, and not until the red bow was seen gaily erect upon the gifted brow, did anyone dare address Jo.

Love that!

The chapter ends with a lively discussion Jo has with her family as she shares her agony over the edits her publisher demands.

Click here to read the rest of this chapter (at, “Great Books Online”) and find out if Jo’s novel fares well with the publisher. It’s an interesting and entertaining passage. The 145-year-old truths and lessons will touch both readers and writers of today.

Have you ever read Little Women?

Darla McDavid

I'm Darla, a writer of stories about family, friends, goodness, and God. I love cats, coffee, gardening, and tall stacks of books. Click here to subscribe to my blog. You can also find me on Facebook and Instagram. In my other life, I'm an administrative professional and a Sunday School teacher for preschoolers.

4 Comments Write a comment

  1. Thanks for reminding me that Jo’s “cap” was more than adornment, more than affectation…
    I need to find my own thinking cap, the mark of my serious endeavor and time commitment…
    even if it isn’t actually a cap.
    Thanks, Darla.


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