Are You Writing With Joy?

It’s interesting to look back through time at the ranks of famous authors and realize how many of them have experienced less than fulfilling lives and even tragic ends. Writing ain’t for sissies. To be worth its salt, writing has to be a lifestyle (note that lifestyle and vocation aren’t necessarily the same thing), and as a lifestyle it is often a wild ride of super highs and extreme lows and a lot of mixed-up stuff in between. Unfortunately, it too often becomes our habit to direct too much of our focus to the negative side of the coin.

Why Writing Can Be Depressing

I consider myself a generally optimistic person, but even optimism gives way to plunging depression in the face of criticism and self-doubt. Good reviews don’t stay with me anywhere near as long as the bad reviews, or even the constructive criticism. I may need a minute or two to shrink my head back to size after a compliment, but it can take me weeks to scrape my annihilated ego up off the floor after a less-than-favorable comment. The good days—the days where everything I write seems gilded—become almost nonexistent during those days when I find myself slogging through a sea of two-dimensional characters, flat dialogue, choppy subplots, and that ever-blinking cursor.

Sometimes even finding the time to look at that blinking cursor can be a herculean challenge. Few of us have the luxury of writing full time, and even those who do must fight the pressures of family, friends, and outside interests. Non-writers often don’t comprehend our needs and our dreams. They simplify our endeavors or brush them off. We don’t always get the support we think we need, and our lone-wolf mentalities can often make us feel like freaks and outsiders. In our frustration, it’s easy pull the plug on the computer, to blame others for our lack of progress, or to simply feel sorry for ourselves when our writing consistently ends up at the lonely tail end of our to-do list.

Anybody depressed yet? If you are, may I recommend throwing up your hands and giving up completely? After all, with all these odds stacked against us, why bother? A lifestyle with so many things to complain about really isn’t worth pursuing. Maybe we should just all go on strike.

Writing With Joy: A Challenge

Or maybe not.

Maybe it’s time to embrace the ecstasy of writing and remember what’s it like to write with joy. After all, it isn’t like anyone is forcing us into this lifestyle. We don’t have to write; we get to write. It’s a privilege, an honor, a gift. Sometimes it’s too easy to forget that. Most of us write because we have some indefinable something running inside of us, demanding it be allowed to express itself. But don’t we also write because we love it? Because when we hit those high moments—when we’re sailing along with our characters on the peaks of emotion, hammering down perfect one-liners and nailing plot points—it’s all worth it?

Those low moments certainly have their place in the artistic experience (can there even be a high without a low?), but it’s important to spend as much time as we can celebrating our writing. Some days sitting at the computer may be nothing but drudgery, but it beats digging fence posts and doing dishes. As much as possible, we need to abandon the fear and the frustration, the depression and the doubt. Banish all those little demons to the back closet and lock the door on them. Don’t complain about the hardships of the writing life—rejoice in the challenges.

Embrace the Ecstasy–or Move On

The day you can’t find anything to rejoice about is probably the day you should burn your manuscripts and move on to selling vacuum cleaners. The world isn’t going to implode if we stop writing. In fact, it might be better off without the work of a writer who is no longer in love with his writing.

Teach yourself to focus on writing with joy. Focus on the thrill of discovering the germ of a new story idea. Bask in the energy of characters who live and breathe on the page. Throw yourself a major party on the completion of every novel. Let yourself believe every word you write is perfect (for a few minutes anyway). The bad days will come. They always do. And, granted, sometimes it seems like they will never leave. But we cannot allow the bad days to rob us of the gift we have been given.

We are writers. We are allowed to see the world in a way few others do. Fulfillment is ours for the taking, if only we can disperse the joy-killing demons that lurk beneath our desks. This week, try focusing on the positive. Delight in every minuscule detail, from the click of the keys beneath your fingers to the sharp, clean smell of that new ream of paper you’ve just broken out. Write with joy.

Tell me your opinion: Are you writing with joy? If not, what are you struggling with?

Are You Writing With Joy?

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About K.M. Weiland | @KMWeiland

K.M. Weiland is the award-winning and internationally-published author of the acclaimed writing guides Outlining Your Novel, Structuring Your Novel, and Creating Character Arcs. A native of western Nebraska, she writes historical and fantasy novels and mentors authors on her award-winning website Helping Writers Become Authors.

Comments

  1. No way. The writer’s block hasn’t been born that can’t be beaten! You gotta keep telling yourself that anyway…

  2. Okay, we can clink our glasses of sparkling grapejuice and prepare to face the keyboard with joy and anticipation that all our words will be golden.

    I’ll stuff that job application for Hoover in a drawer and give this gift one more week before I throw up my hands and burn my manuscripts.

    I’m beginning to believe it’ll take a sledge hammer to bust this writer’s block.

    • Is it writer’s block or are you just stuck? I’m coming to believe that complete writer’s block does not exist though there are those that disagree (silly non-writers). Frankly, I get stuck all the time. I’ve even tossed stuff out because I couldn’t figure out a way to make it work.

      Instead of a sledge hammer, did you think of using WD-40? LOL

  3. Uh-huh, yeah. *Fingers to temples* I can beat this. I can beat this. I can beat this . . .

  4. Thanks. I thought the picture was just too pretty to pass up!

  5. Belle Lynn says

    Wonderful post! These sentences are so inspiring:

    Quote: But we cannot allow the bad days to rob us of the gift we have been given.

    Don’t complain about the hardships of the writing life—rejoice in the challenges.

    I’m going to have to write those down to help me along life’s road – because they apply to so much more than just the writer’s life. Loved the picture BTW.

  6. Lorna G. Poston says

    I’m going to have to save this one to reread frequently and keep myself on track. A reminder why I’m doing this.

  7. It is easy to forget, isn’t it?

  8. Lorna G. Poston says

    YES! Especially lately.

  9. It is my belief that writers have a need within themselves to write, and that they do it to satisfy this need. It is just like when you get a craving for strawberry ice cream in the middle of winter; you just have to have it. Well, writer’s just have to write. What they write may not be that important, but it somehow satisfies their need.
    I speak from experience here. I often get the urge to write. I enjoy how it feels to put pen to paper, literally. Since acquiring a computer, I am now finding that I enjoy writing via typing into my computer just as much. I have even tried using my laptop using voice recognition. I do not like to write this way, for several reasons, one being that I do not get the same inner satisfaction. Another is that I equate speaking with talking to someONE, not someTHING. I also get a feeling of accomplishment when I see words typed correctly on the computer screen. I often have to backspace and correct my errors as I make them, for I am a bit of a perfectionist and do not like making mistakes. I get a better sense of satisfaction when what I type is entered into the keyboard properly from the get-go, as well. Does anyone else feel this way, or am I the only one?

  10. You’re not the only one! I love the physical act of both writing and typing. I have an old typewriter that no longer works. Every time I walk past it, I still have to stop and type a few keys such to hear the sound they make. Same with the scratch of pen on paper.

  11. Anonymous says

    What if you’re just a very, very mellow person who likes their writing but doesn’t get ‘jumping out of your seat’ excited for it?

  12. Then you’re probably phlegmatic. It’s valuable to understand your personality type and its unique strengths and weaknesses. Being mellow about your writing can actually be a huge benefit, since you’re not as likely to slump into depressions when your work isn’t going well.

  13. Anonymous says

    Awesome, because I was freaking out (as much as a mellow person can) that I wasn’t excited enough about my writing and therefore it wouldn’t turn out that well.

  14. The most important thing to keep in mind as you’re reading writing how-to is that there’s no one right way. I, and other how-to authors, are sharing what’s worked and has been true for us. You then have to find what’s true for you. If it feels right, if it helps you be productive, and if you enjoy it, those are all good signs you’re on the right path with your writing process.

  15. Anonymous says

    I just found this website yesterday, and I’ve already bookmarked this article so that I can read it every time I need encouragement. Thanks for the inspiration!

  16. Glad you enjoyed it!

  17. Just what I needed to hear this week! I’ve been having some writing time difficulties, and I’m in the nitty-gritty editing draft. Both challenging. But time to focus on joy and trust God for the rest. Thanks, Ms. Weiland!

    ~Schuyler
    http://www.ladybibliophile.blogspot.com

    • K.M. Weiland | @KMWeiland says

      That’s the spirit! Writing definitely isn’t always easy, but it always offers opportunities for thankfulness.

  18. Great article K.M.! I think writing with joy has a lot to do with overcoming perfectionism. A lot of those demons you refer to get their power from a writer’s unrealistic expectations of themselves. You have to be compassionate with yourself and give yourself permission to write, good or bad, just like you would anyone else.

    • K.M. Weiland | @KMWeiland says

      I would definitely agree with that. Most of the un-joy that comes from writing is the result of feeling like a failure – which is usually the result of measuring ourselves by unrealistic or even downright wrong yardsticks.

  19. Just beautiful. Thank you so much!
    I’m dealing with such demons this week….
    We need all the reminders we can find to kick them to the curb!

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