Jane Austen and Writer’s Block, by Zoe Burton

Jane Austen and Writer’s Block, by Zoe Burton

I finally, after weeks and weeks of barely writing, finished the book I was telling you about last month. Finally! <3 It’s currently being edited; I hope to have it up for sale in a week or so.

My original intention for this month was to give away copies of the new book, but because of the delay, I had to scratch that idea. I’ll do it next month.

Instead, this month, I’ll write about writer’s block, which is sort of what I had. I wondered if Jane Austen had even suffered from an inability to write, so I did a Google search and sure enough, she did!

Back in 1801, when Jane was twenty-six, her father moved her, her older sister, Cassandra, and her mother to Bath. He had retired and it’s speculated he hoped Jane and Cassandra would find husbands in the seaside town. Jane apparently hated Bath. (Remind you of anyone in one of her novels? *coughAnneElliotinPersuasioncough*) That move did a great deal toward stopping her writing.

I can tell you that even when you are happy to be doing so, moving house is more than capable of causing creativity to cease for a time. It happened to me, five years ago.

Not only did Jane and her family move to Bath, they had to move within the town to cheaper accommodations now and then. I’m not sure how many times they moved, but it was at least twice. She may have only just got her feet under her when she had to go through the entire process again, still in a town she disliked very much.

A portion of Royal Crescent in Bath, UK.

I’m certain Jane was very aware of her family’s lack of funds, which was the reason for moving to cheaper places. If things were then as they are now, some of those more inexpensive accommodations might have been in sketchier neighborhoods, which can also be anxiety-producing. First-hand experience tells me that worry stops creativity.

In addition to moving house, there was the social whirl of the town … balls in the Assembly Room, social calls, nights at the theater, dinners, and visits to the modiste. It was probably very hard for Jane to find time to get quiet and write. I can tell you from my own experience, when I have things to do outside of my home, it pulls my attention away from my project. Now, I’m highly adaptable and that’s a large part of the reason for that, but I can’t imagine the amount of time all that social stuff took in the 1800’s even if a body could focus amongst a lot of distractions. I’ve heard of people who can do it, but I have never experienced it myself.

Jane and her family lived in Bath for five years. Her father died when they lived there … and of course, grief is definitely something that will prevent a writer from getting words on a page. From what I gather, that half a decade was the worst of Jane’s life. I feel for her. She was able to use her experiences during that time in her books, of course, once she was able to write again.

Thankfully, my writer’s block didn’t last five years. In the end, the reason for my resistance to this most recent story was that I was trying to make it longer than it needed to be. I had a list of plot points I wanted in the story and was trying to fit them all in, when the story neither needed nor wanted them all. Once I decided to forget about the rest of the stuff, I was able to pound out the end of the story in just a couple hours. I’m very happy with how it came out, and I have learned a valuable lesson: don’t cling to the “outline” so tightly that you can’t write.

Have you ever been stuck in a project? How did you get unstuck?    

Source: https://lithub.com/on-the-years-when-jane-austen-couldnt-write/  




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July 21, 2021 5:54 AM

Congrats on finishing your book and sharing your findings on Jane and her writer’s block.

July 19, 2021 8:14 PM

Zoe, When I get stuck, I focus on something else for a bit. It helps clear my mind.

Jennifer Tedlarczyk
Jennifer Tedlarczyk
July 19, 2021 3:59 PM

I’m so glad you got over your writers block and finished your book. Looking forward to another fun read. Congratulations.

J. W. Garrett
J. W. Garrett
July 19, 2021 12:08 PM

I am happy you were able to complete this WIP. That internal critic can be useful sometimes. When it says ‘enough is enough’ you have to listen. Blessings on the release of this new work. Stay safe and healthy.

Jean Stillman
Jean Stillman
July 19, 2021 11:12 AM

Congrats on finishing your new book! Yay, for you and ultimately for all of us! Enjoy a little celebration before you get back to work on your next project!

cindie snyder
cindie snyder
July 19, 2021 9:30 AM

Glad you got past your “block” I’m sure that is frustrating when that happens! Congrats on the new book!

July 19, 2021 8:50 AM

I hope you are at peace with having gotten over that. May is not come around again. I am not a writer so the closest I came is getting to write the reviews. I am behind on one…but only by 2 days so that is not so bad.

Regina Jeffers
July 19, 2021 6:58 AM

I spent more than a month on research for a new Regency, then abandoned the idea I had because it was simply too complicated to tell the story as it should have been told. All the time, I kept thinking, “I should be writing.”

Sam H.
Sam H.
July 19, 2021 5:04 AM

Glad you got it worked out 😉
Looking forward to the release…

July 19, 2021 1:04 AM

I have heard this theory about Jane’s not writing while she was in Bath. Do we have letters or quotations in memoirs that validate that? My, more cheerful outlook, was that perhaps she was enjoying the social life in Bath. Writers, even those who are introverts, love being where they can observe the human comedy. Moving out of the clergyman’s residence in a village would certainly give her more opportunities. And, not being identified as the daughter of the local clergyman might have allowed her to socialize in ways that would have been unseemly for her at home. I like to think she may have even kicked her heels up a bit and let her acerbic wit flow a bit more than she could have at home.

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