Have You Lost the Joy?

This reflection will speak to writers out there, but other creatives, I think it will work for you too!  I recent attended the Romance Writers of America (RWA) National Conference, and it kicked my creative mode back in to gear.  Don’t just tie up in port – sail away on your creative voyage!

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Remember when you captured your first story?  The adrenalin rush of words, evolution of characters, arc of the plot, sheer exhilaration in writing THE END!  Nothing else like it in the world, right?

And then, somewhere amid deadlines and edits and staring with increasing panic at a blank page, you lost it.  The joy of writing <<POOF>> gone.  Or if not gone, misplaced often enough to make you question this as a career choice.

RWA National helped me reboot my JOY factor!  In the rush of edits and rapid production releases and promotions, I wondered if I even had the time to attend anything.  The workshops and general sessions compelled me to participate, though.  So many great topics, so many terrific speakers, so many wonderful friends and new acquaintances to talk with – and suddenly so little time seemed not so important!

I’m not sure exactly when the bulb lit up.  Perhaps it was during the PAN retreat – loved to find an advanced program with topics that met my needs.  Or maybe it was during the workshops focusing on the business side of being a writer, a place I’m waist-deep in at the moment.  Or was it talking to the wonderful writers I met, some successful and others starting out with their first manuscript clutched in sweaty palms?  Every one of them said something I needed to hear in that precise moment.  The switch flipped, and I realized the reason things were feeling like a drudge recently is because I forgot to enjoy what I am doing.

Here are high points that inspired me:

  • The indie book signing event. Two women approached my table dragging overloaded black plastic egg crates on wheelies.  Paperbacks threatened to cascade over the sides with each new title they collected.  They bundle the books and distribute them to hospitals, women’s shelters and other places where people need an uplift but might not have easy access to reading.  They reminded me WHO I write for, other than myself.
  • Friday’s featured speaker, Dr. Valerie Young, on imposter syndrome. My ah-ha moment came when I realized the message I tell myself about focusing on the business side because that’s what I’m ‘good’ at needing to be done before ‘allowing’ myself the fun of writing is a boatload of hooey.  Write first!  Putting up that social media blurb can happen after my characters have exhausted me for the day.  This emphasized the need to focus on the part I can control, the WHAT, the quality of work I produce – and not the external stuff that may or may not have an impact.  And my writing is not hooey!
  • Anyone who presented data. I found it reassuring to verify pricing choices, distribution channels, promotional possibilities and the like, and to define new strategies and methods.  Without data, we take a scatter-gunned approach wasting time and energy, things none of us have enough of when we’re trying to write.  WHEN I make a business decision, it is with data on my side instead of conjecture.  Save the fiction for the story!
  • Every session that focused on productivity. I remembered HOW I worked when I write 50K words in a month without breaking a sweat.  All of the tools I’ve tried, some with success and some I set aside, flooded back into the void my loss of joy presented.  I picked up some new tricks too!  The days since the conference have been filled with positive activity instead of spinning my wheels in a muddy mess.

And that brings me back to the big WHY.  Why do I write?  I write for the happiness in sharing stories about characters who (admittedly) have become very real in my head as they make the jump from mind to fingers to page.  I write because someone picks up one of my books and escapes whatever is happening in their lives for a time, things they’d rather not think about.  I write to remind people who have lost their belief in love that it is not a chimera but something possible, even for them.

Have you lost the joy in your writing life?  Ask yourself these questions.  Who do I write for?  What will I do to make each story better than the one before?  When I make choices, are they based on fact or fiction?  How can I be most productive in a way that meets my lifestyle needs?  With those answers, you’ll be well on your way to finding the why once more in your writing life, and I’m betting the answer you return to is – JOY!

Creatives, how do YOU reboot your JOY?  Please share your ideas, methods and inspirations!

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