Surprised by Joy
I read a lot of posts and comments – not just on this blog, but on writers’ sites all over the Internet – subscribing to a world view which I would characterize as “Live is real, life is earnest, and everything worth doing is hard.”
Well, yes. Can’t really argue with that. But I sometimes fear that with all the comments like “Writing requires butt in chair and fingers on keys,” and “Just force yourself to do it,” we’re lying by omission – leaving out the most important part of the enterprise, as though it were marked TOP SECRET.
The first part of our dirty little secret: Writing is fun. Writing is joyful. Oh, not all the time. And it’s perfectly true that you can waste your life waiting for that joyous inspiration to strike. Most of the time it works the other way. You carve out a chunk of free time, you persuade your brain to get over its slothful reluctance to turn itself on, you start typing… and then, unasked and unanticipated, comes the joy.
I’m sure just about everyone here has experienced it: that time when you’re flying, when the words come spilling out without editing as you know just what your characters are doing and experiencing, when getting that scene down on paper makes you happy. Yes, you have to get there through hard slog; but shouldn’t we admit that once you get there, the rewards are more addictive than any drug?
Very few of us are in this business to get rich quick – or at all. (And if you’re one who is counting on fame and fortune to make it all worthwhile, do yourself a favor and get into some line of work that’s more reliably financially rewarding, like playing against the house in a Vegas casino.) Most of us aren’t even depending on our writing income to pay the bills. Yes, back when we were paying off the second mortgage on the house and discovering that one of the kids had to be whisked out of the public school system before they damaged her irreparably, those monthly bills were a substantial motivation to get myself up, caffeinated, and at my desk daily. Now, though? Not so much. If it weren’t fun, I wouldn’t do it; not the long-term, everyday slog.
If it’s not paying the bills, and it’s not even fun, why are you doing it?
That’s the second part of our little secret: what really gets us to sit down and start typing is the hope of that unparalleled high.
I’ve been reminded of this quite recently. For several months chronic illness kept me from ever achieving escape velocity on the current book. I’d have a “good” day in which I struggled to remember what was happening in the book and why anybody should care, and if I was lucky, I’d get a couple of thousand words before retreating to bed. Then there’d be a string of “bad” days long enough that when I was next feeling well enough to write, I had to go through the whole tedious process of the mental restart once again.
Then the “bad” days stopped happening. Suddenly I was able to work every day. I didn’t dare count on it at first, but after about ten days of slog, the book took off under my fingers and I was flying. Now, once again, I wake up eager to get to the next scene, hungering for my daily fix of joy.
When we’re giving out advice to neophyte writers, let’s not forget this part, okay?
And speaking of joy — Dragon Scales, Book Two of the Dragon Speech series, is live on Kindle now, and Book One, The Language of the Dragon, is only 99 cents for a short while more. Check them both out!
It’s one thing to meet a dragon in the snowbound mountains of the High Pamirs, but quite another to entertain him when he shows up at your Austin home, together with his sulky and all-too-human teenage girlfriend! Linguist Sienna Brown battles a shapeshifting dragon who helps himself to her clothes and demands enormous quantities of pizza, a teenager whose ignorance of American customs doesn’t prevent her from picking up every man she meets, a nosy neighbor and a group of Russian thugs who are tasked with acquiring the dragon for their own country. In addition, her boyfriend is terrified that the dragon’s presence will tempt her to use its magical but brain-injuring native language. And he’s not entirely wrong about that.
(Image cropped from Houston Physicist [CC BY-SA 4.0 (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/4.0)%5D)