Before watching the film Becoming Jane, I didn’t know much about Austen‘s life. Today, I’m still nowhere near an expert on the real author. Nonetheless, the film itself always inspires me to write. While not entirely autobiographical, it is a fan fiction version of her life, as well as the brief romantic relationship she had with the real Tom Lefroy.
If you have not seen the film but are all too familiar with the need to write out of nowhere, before the idea escapes your mind, while others give you a bewildered look, you may enjoy seeing it performed comically on screen.
Waking up with Ideas
Becoming Jane opens with Austen writing first thing in the morning. The creativity fills her so intensely that she plays the piano loudly enough to wake everyone in the house.
Desire to write comes at the most inconvenient times. We’re open to sudden new ideas when our minds are elsewhere. When we’re excited about those ideas, we often share them. A side-effect is exhausting others with our enthusiasm.
Replacing Sleep with Writing
The night before Tom speaks with his uncle, Lord Chief Judge Langlois of London (Ian Richardson), Jane cannot sleep. Words for a novel effortlessly come to her. She writes all night, using her fresh feelings of love for Tom to compose a fictionalized version of what is going on. In real life, First Impressions was the original title of Pride and Prejudice.
You know that you’re a writer when you would rather write than do anything else; even sleep. The next thing you know, you’re beginning a long written work, or perhaps several shorter pieces, and you’re wondering where the time has gone.
Writing as a Career
In the film, almost everyone criticizes Jane for wanting to write instead of marry. One of her greatest critics is her own mother, Mrs. Austen (Julie Walters). Her mother encourages her daughter to do what is expected of her; however, it is gradually revealed that her mother’s intentions are not as cold as they seem. Jane’s mother does not live an easy life, and it’s because she married for love. She finds herself disappointed by her husband’s financial limitations:
Affection is desirable. Money is absolutely indispensable.
Writers without fame are viewed as pathetic or detached from reality; however, we writers already know what a struggle it can be. What judgmental outsiders do not understand is that we refuse to see this as cause not to do as we’re driven. Had Jane married for money, her love of writing probably would have continued.
Having a Different Perspective
After meeting Tom’s uncle, Jane’s wit comes without apology; unfortunately, the judge doesn’t appreciate her humor. He thinks that she is making fun of him rather than an idea. If that doesn’t spoil her attempts to make a good first impression, he cannot believe that she is a writer. He assumes that she is another poor woman searching for a wealthy husband to support her, rather than a free-thinking woman with values for love over finance.
Any writer must face that some readers will never understand them, no matter how hard they try. How many of us receive negative comments by people who simply did not comprehend our work? If you’re like me, you want to rewrite it as soon as you realize that someone doesn’t get it. We have to learn to love ourselves for the talented writers we are and accept that the problem may not be our writing, but their lack of knowledge.
No matter Jane’s passion or knowledge, she feels unable to compete with Tom’s level of education. He is equally as enthusiastic about writing, but criticizes her work. She doesn’t realize that he admires her work, and that his words are meant to help rather than insult; therefore, believing that Tom thinks she is inferior, she feels offended. He guides her to read the work of authors she is unfamiliar with in order to expand her experience:
If you wish to practice the art of fiction, to be the equal of a masculine author, experience is vital.
Tom is comparable to the English teachers who tell us that we’re not good enough, no matter how much we try to do as they instruct. Sometimes, those teachers actually believe in us more than they express. The constant criticism may be an attempt to increase our talent rather than to destroy us, even when it seems like they want us to fail.
Idolizing Other Writers
Jane visits Mrs. Anne Radcliffe (Helen McCrory), an author with a husband. Jane believes that it must be a perfect life to make a successful career out of writing while also having a family. In reality, Mrs. Radcliffe is isolated because people look down on her profession. In addition, her husband’s reputation is threatened as a result. Furthermore, Radcliffe’s brilliant work that’s full of adventure is the complete opposite of her real life:
Everything my life is not.
We all have favorite authors who use techniques that we have never considered. We become jealous of their talent, and we question our capabilities; however, we must remember that there is always time to perfect our craft and spread our message across the world in a way that is uniquely our own. Sometimes, we’re so envious of others that we forget our own unique strengths, which even they do not have.
Note: This article was originally published by this author on HubPages in 2015.