Jo March’s Guide to Successful Writing — The Little Women
“Don’t mind me. I’m as happy as a cricket here.” — Jo March from The Little Women
I just watched the movie Little Women a week ago and I found that Jo is teaching us, writers, about successful writing. There is this atmosphere and emotion that the movie managed to imprint on me, making me ponder about my own life.
But the one that stuck with me the most is about Jo and her love of writing. She has this absolutely energetic spirit to go against any challenges that come to her and the family, the love of her life, and then use those as inspirations of her writing ideas. This is something I think we all can relate to.
And it turns out, the author said that Jo March is based on herself. So basically, she is Jo March. So what did she do to become a successful writer? The answer is all from her character Jo.
I broke down points about Jo’s key to successful writing. There is something in her that we, writers (especially in Medium), can relate to and learn from. If you are not a writer, then that’s ok because you can still learn something from her, and it doesn’t even have to involve writing, you can still interpret it with your own life. I will discuss what we can learn from her.
Just a heads up, there will be full spoilers in here, even if it’s subtle. So here goes.
1) Passionate about her hobby
As we progressed throughout the movie, nearly all her scenes were her reading a book or writing about something. She always brought her pen and paper/notebook around, write plays for her siblings, and read a story she wrote to them. If she’s not writing or reading, she always talks about what she truly is interested in such as the books she read and what she will write about.
This is the first thing we saw Jo in the movie, she is passionate about writing and reading. After getting accepted to a job as a writer (thus accomplishing her dream as a writer, which I will discuss later), she rushed home to read some more and get more ideas to write again.
She was so focused on her writings that she didn’t even realize the dress she wore was on fire (until someone told her), that is how powerful your mind is when you are laser-focus on your work, especially when you are passionate about it.
As a result, small talks don’t matter to her anymore. For her, it won’t help her improve. There was a scene where the girls were talking about marriage, but Jo wasn’t interested at all. She was more engaged to talk about plays (Which her sister love), stories, writings, and the future.
Side note for writers as well: this is a good example she has given us. She reads and writes all the time, focusing her time on improving herself, and is always into deep conversations.
All this is to help her improve herself to be the person she wanted to be in the future. After that, she read her work again, read it to her siblings, writes another again, and repeat. In other words, she improves all the time as she continued writing. That was how she was able to build her hobby into a career as she dared to dream big, leading to my next point…..
2) Dare to dream
This is very important. If you don’t dream of how you see yourself in the future (let’s say 10 years from now, how do you see yourself? What do you want to be known as?), then you are heading nowhere in life. It doesn’t matter if your dream seems childish or weird, as long as that’s how you want to see yourself as, make sure you make it happen. That was what Jo did, and she visualizes the dream.
For Jo, she wanted to keep writing, write a novel and help children in her area to have access to better education. She held on to her dream for her entire childhood, though at some point, she thought of giving up due to certain situations and, ultimately, it was her sister’s death, Beth, that became her drive to complete her book. Otherwise, she made sure that she is on track to reaching her dream by putting it into action.
Side note: when you dream about something you want, make sure that it has logical steps to get there. DO NOT FANTASIZE ABOUT IT. Fantasizing and dreaming are two very different things, here is an article I wrote about it so that you won’t fall into the fantasy trap:
How To visualize Your Dream and Avoid Fantasizing About It
A guide to stop fantasizing and ‘just do it’.
Jo managed to avoid fantasizing because she puts her dream into action, due to her passion and excitement to make it happen, she had no fear of accomplishing her goals to get where she is.
3) Puts her dream into action
After she stated that she wanted to be a writer, she made sure she practices all the time by writing nearly every day. This is something that we writers should also take note, no matter how good or bad your writing quality is, make sure you keep writing. Practice makes perfect.
Jo writes ALL THE TIME. She writes for her siblings and herself, she also put reading as part of her interest since reading is a big assist for writing. Then soon, she gave her writings for publishers and finally finished her novel. She didn’t care if it’s bad or not, she made sure her writings were given to the publisher. She didn’t strive for perfection, but she made sure that there is progress to make her dream happen.
While you are progressing to your dream, make sure you practice all the time. For writers, make sure you keep writing. Your writings may fail or not, but it’s better to write than not to write at all. Jo made sure that it happened, she didn’t care what people tell her as long as writing became her career, leading to my next point.
4) Not afraid to be different
Back in those days, women weren’t really expected by workplaces a lot. Society demands her to sit still, be a good lady, and get married to a rich man. This was how most women survive back then, and as Amy said (and I am paraphrasing), it’s the law of economy for females.
But Jo didn’t want that life, she wants to break out of the mainstream. She wanted to be an author, build schools, and have a stable life with her family. Getting married was far from her mind as she was very ambitious to her passion and she didn’t mind at all. She loves how she is and stayed that way. With this in mind, it was how she was able to pursue her dream at the end of the movie.
So it’s alright to be different from the herd. Successful people are always told that they are lunatic but they didn’t care, they just do what they do to make their dream happen. They tolerate themselves for being different, leading to my next point…..
5) Happy as she is
This is also the secret of her success, loving herself no matter the society tells her. When Laurie confessed that he loved her, she couldn’t return his feelings and told him that she doesn’t mind if she will never get married because she loved who she is. Loving yourself is very important, sadly this is not often preached for youngsters and that made self-doubting happen to the point of depression.
The point is love who you are. So what if you are different? There is nothing wrong with you. You have a gift that you just need to discover for yourself, if people hate you for who you are, then leave them alone and do what you want to do to be the person you want to be. Remember, focus on yourself. Jo was not afraid to be different and loved her writings, which was why she felt her as she is already enough.
Do what you do to make you happy, but never boast about them, leading to my final point….
6) Be nice
The most important thing is that, once you reach your dreams or even before you even get there, make sure you keep your ego in check. It’s never cool to boast about your achievement or be selfish, this was what Jo was confused at first.
We were shown that Jo is a loving and caring sister, making sure that she put her family first before herself. She took care of Beth all night long, work for her family, cut her own hair for money even if it will make her look like a boy, and gave all her income for her sister’s medication. Because of that, a Professor from a University, Bhaer, noticed her hardship to support the family and offered to help her writing.
So be nice, be humble, and all good things will happen.
All in all
To summarize everything:
- Passionate about writing
- Dare to dream
- Puts dream into action
- Not afraid to be alone
- Happy as she is
- Be nice
For Jo, she achieved more than she thought she could. Not only did her novel is finally published, but she was able to support her family with her writing career, build a school and got married.
But most of all, as long as you work hard to pursue your dream, it will happen. Just believe in yourself, don’t let others discourage you, work hard, be humble, and the universe will reward you something bigger than you can ever imagine. And that is exactly what Jo did.
I hope you learn something from here.