“I’ll be rich and famous and happy before I die, see if I won’t.”
~Louisa May Alcott
Keep at it.
That’s the lesson from Louisa May Alcott. At one time, she was earning the equivalent of $2 million dollars per year from Little Women. But it wasn’t always like that.
Alcott grew up in brutal poverty. Her father could not keep a job or run a school, was constantly out of work. As a Transcendentalist whose well known friends such as Ralph Emerson and Henry Thoreau, he struggle to earn a living wage as a writer and philosopher. His wife and four children suffered by facing mounting debt and moving 12 times before Louisa was seven-years-old.
Years of near-starving made Alcott vow for a better live. At sixteen, she wrote in her journal that “I will do something, by and by. Don’t care what, teach, sew, act, write, anything to help the family; and I’ll be rich and famous and happy before I die, see if I won’t.”
She tried them all: sewing, teaching, acting, and writing. Anything to make money and to help her family out of the mounting debt accumulated over the years. In one of her moves to Boston, she sold her writing, worked part-time as a governess, and took in sewing.
“I took my little talent in my hand and faced the world again, braver than before and wiser for my failures.”
“Stick to your teaching; you can’t write,” advised the publisher of the Atlantic Monthly married to Alcott’s distant cousin. He even offered her an unsolicited load of $40 to set up her schoolroom.
Her reply was “I won’t teach. I can write, and I’ll prove it.”
She continued to practice by selling short stories to other publishers and was able to increase her rates. She worked at other jobs to make money, taking work offered by her richer, higher status cousins as a poor relation. She must have felt ashamed.
Little Women’s popularity wasn’t entirely a fluke. One of her publishers suggested that she write it for the growing market of children’s books.
In the end, she had redemption. A care game called “Authors” includes Mark Twain, Charles Dickens, and William Shakespeare. The only woman included is Louisa May Alcott.
Source: Harriet Reisen, Louisa May Alcott: the woman behind Little Women (2009)