to learn I’m a published author and wants to glean information from me. He knows nothing about the publishing world, but is eager to learn. He’d love to see his stories in print, and spend time writing more of them.
Remember when writing itself—the act of it, not the “having done”—was one of your greatest joys?
From what I’ve experienced, and from what I’ve heard from other career writers, we too often let the joy of writing slip away over the years of our careers. Career writers often advise newly published authors and aspiring writers to treat writing as “a job.” While this mindset has obvious advantages, too often the job becomes a chore.
I decided I wanted the joy back. I began looking for a path to that joy.
We all know the ego-boosters that put us on cloud nine: fan letters, signing writing contracts, nice advances and royalty checks, editors saying they love your latest manuscript, holding your first copy of your latest release. These are wonderful, but we can’t conjure them up any time we choose. We can’t count on them to bring us happiness as a writer for the everyday or the long-term.
If we want to retain or recover joy in our writing, we must learn how to develop it for ourselves. Here are some of the things that became part of my path.
Following Victoria Principal’s example, I remind myself how lucky I am to be a multi-published author, to have current contracts, and—in these days of indie publishing—that there are readers who already know my name and can be expected to seek out my books.
Another form of gratitude I practice is for the people who have helped me, and continue to help me, along this path. When I sit down to write I ask a blessing on the editor who has contracted the piece. If the piece isn’t contracted, I ask a blessing on editors who have contracted my writing in the past, and the readers who have expressed—in words or purchases or both—that they like my stories.
Writing by hand.
There does seem, for me, to be a benefit to writing by hand. For so many years I’ve told myself and others that I must write by computer to write fast enough to make a living. That’s still so. However, writing even a short summary of what I plan to do in the next scene or chapter, or writing a short scene or the beginning of a new one, not only appears to allow the words and ideas to come more quickly and with less effort, but has, in some mysterious manner, increased my joy in writing. Until my recent attempt to rediscover joy, I didn’t allow myself the “luxury” of writing scenes by hand. I’ve found this isn’t the luxury I thought, but a lovely way to encourage story and tempt words onto the paper.
I’ve often heard that if one writes in the same location every day, the writer’s subconscious learns to associate that location with writing. Sit down in front of the computer at the same desk in the same room in the same chair every day and your mind begins to think in terms of story as soon as you sit down. I may even have suggested this to other writers. I do think this is good advice.
However, if you’re in an unhappy place with your writing, the subconscious might relate the usual writing spot with drudgery, lack of joy, a sense of impossibility, or even failure. Sitting there may make you feel you want to run away. A new location—even if only a comfortable chair on the other side of the room—may make you feel you’ve done just that: run away and escaped. Your imagination may reward you with an easy flow of ideas and more joy in putting them on paper.
Like any other career writer, I am capable of writing anywhere with any type of supplies and equipment.
But since I’m allowing myself to write by hand, even if it’s only a five-minute summary of a scene, I also allow myself to write in notebooks that appeal to me or on lavender-lined paper. I use only my favorite pens, which include a purple pen with purple ink, as well as a plain pen with black ink. Yes, I know it might appear unprofessional and even silly, but it adds a little more joy to my writing process, and that’s what I’m after.
Along with my enjoyment of using pretty paper, I’ve started hand-writing notes to friends and relatives again. Not every day, but occasionally. It gives me a wonderful excuse to explore stationary when I’m out, and to write on beautiful paper. The notes feel more personal than the emails and texts which are my normal forms of communication, and it’s nice to communicate without using the laptop I associate with work.