The definition of a genius is “an exceptional natural capacity of intellect, especially as shown in creative and original work in science, art, music, etc.”. Writing would be included in the “etc.”
Jane Austen is a genius. I think everyone would agree on that fact. Yes, her books were groundbreaking at the time. Yes, she is unequivocally accurate in even the tiniest of details in her books. Yes, her characters come alive. You feel like you could sit down and have tea and polite conversation with Lizzie Bennett, Emma Woodhouse, Catherine Morland or any of the other heroines in her books. And what about their male counterparts? Mr. Darcy is still one of the most romantic heroes in literature and who can deny the earnest goodness of Mr. Knightley or the charming sense of humor of Henry Tilney. There’s no denying that for these and many other reasons, Jane Austen is a genius.
But . . . I have come to think of Jane Austen as a genius from a totally different perspective. I finished the first draft of my novel, “Fully Involved!” a couple of weeks ago and now the polishing phase has begun. I’m rereading it and my two expert readers are reading it and passing their thoughts along to incorporate. When you have a Fire Chief and an English professor as your readers, they’re going to find a lot of things to change, but I am not complaining! Their comments have already drastically improved the manuscript. What my mind goes to are those tiny bits of paper Jane Austen wrote her novels on. Have you seen one? They’re not that big, true, but what stands out to me are the revisions – the very few revisions on those pages.
I wrote the draft of my novel on a lap top computer on software designed for writing. If I’d tried to write it by hand onto paper, it would have been totally illegible because of all the changes. I’ve actually rewritten one chapter three times and drastically changed other chapters all while having the ability to easily refer back to a former chapter, character description, photo if needed, etc. That Jane Austen could write the quality of narrative she wrote without access to any of those tools, absolutely blows my mind. She wrote with a quill and ink onto paper that was a precious commodity so she couldn’t be wasteful. To be able to write with that kind of clarity from the very start and write all the way through with so few changes and revisions, to me, is the sign of a true genius.
I’m not a genius – not even close. I just hope the writing I’m pouring my heart and effort into will be found to be compelling.
Thank you, Jane Austen, for once again being an inspiration in a way you would never have dreamed!