The importance of writing with joy

I’ve been thinking a lot about where I’m going with my writing of late. Thinking, not doing. There have been no new words on my WIP for over three weeks now. It was a conscious decision to stop. I wasn’t happy with anything coming out, had been writing every scene twice, and finally reached the conclusion that something was wrong.

When I realised what it was I despaired a bit, and that was when I decided maybe I should just give the whole thing up to take a break.

Holly Lisle‘s mantra is “Write with joy” and every time I read that, something deep inside me kindles. Yes! Although I am a rather slow and methodical writer, I do love those moments when the words flow at a steady rate and combine to achieve — or perhaps even exceed — my original vision.

And those marvellous moments when a kernel of something new and unplanned manifests and the unlooked-for idea is good. At such times, writing is a joyous process, and my dream and ambition are huge.

But, before I fool myself into believing that such ideal conditions are mandatory for writing, I must remind myself that writers write, no matter how little they feel like it, and experts will tell me it’s rare that professional writers can tell, later, what their state of mind was when they wrote something.

“Write with joy” must have a broader meaning then — excitement about your project, love for your characters, passion for the story you’re trying to tell. Even if you’re having an off day, those things remain the foundations of your WIP and will ensure the joy shines through.

It was when I realised the joy of my current WIP had left me that I decided to take a break.

Being on hiatus has given me time to ponder. Maybe I should write a short story and attempt publication? A small taste of success in that field could rekindle the self-confidence if nothing else. Or maybe I should stop thinking about writing a middle-grade story for my nieces and nephews to enjoy and actually do it.  Why not? What’s stopping me?

Or maybe I should just rediscover the love for my current WIP — spend the time isolating what it was that inspired and excited me in the first place, work on the characters (where the main problem lies I think), and push gently ahead.

A couple of blog posts that present interesting — and fabulous — perspectives on the creativity process came to my attention today. One is Writers going boldly, by James Scott Bell, which presents the late Ray Bradbury’s example of writing with joy by allowing himself the freedom of simply following his imagination every day.

The second is Playmore Fearless, by Erik Wahl, which talks about the unpredictability of the creative process, about how art needs time and space to just ‘be’, with reference to Van Gogh’s Irises, which was only ever intended to be a study.

Both these posts have reminded me that I need to give my own creative process some time and space, to take the pressure off myself. Instead of writing to meet a whole lot of worthy criteria, I need to have fun.

Dammit, I’m gonna get me some FUN!

What about you? Anyone else  in need of a little more fun in their process?

9 thoughts on “The importance of writing with joy

  1. I read that Wahl article and thought he was right on with his comments. VanGogh’s Irises was only a study, but it turned out to be a masterpiece and a favorite of many. We never know how our words will fill someone else’s need…or which part of our words it will be. Our responsibility is to keep trying, keep writing. Rest for reflection is also necessary. Creativity can’t be forced, but it will come out of a rested mind and body. Best wishes for you and your writing.


  2. Have you ever tried the exercises in Natalie Goldberg’s book, WRITING DOWN THE BONES? She emphasizes free writing as the only way to get the stuff out of your head that you are going to later organize into something that makes sense. She talks about the monkey mind which is always correcting, judging, stopping you from enjoying the process that ultimately creates good work. I found her philosophy really free-ing and helpful to me, since I am always critiquing my work before it’s time.


  3. I could use a little more fun in my process. I finished my first ever first draft of a novel about a year ago and I’ve been slowly taking it through Holly Lisle’s How to Revise Your Novel course. It’s an extremely meticulous and thorough process that has been taking me a very long time to work through.

    I’m currently on Lesson 7 and wondering if a different approach would work better for me, especially now that I’m in school again and have less time for writing than I did before. I admire Holly’s process and think something similar would be a great fit for me, but the thought of it taking another year or two to get through my first revision is sometimes discouraging.

    But on the other hand, if working through this course helps me create a first novel that’s worth reading, I’d think it was time well-spent. Especially if what I hear is true that the HTRYN process goes much faster after doing it a couple times.

    For now, sometimes I feel like I’m in a long slog where I’m not sure I’m going to get something good by the time I’ve done. I’ve never written a book before, so it’s impossible to know.


    1. I think judging your own work is absolutely the hardest thing. I thought my first novel was OK until I got some feedback. (Actually, it is OK, it’s just not wonderful — lol.) And that was after two drafts. I made the decision to park it and start something else — and that’s what I’m working on now. And this, I suspect, is part of my current problem. I poured everything into the first novel, and I’m struggling to recapture the same level of passion for the new one. But this is a journey I must take if I’m to ever make it as a novelist. (I suspect I like revising too much — doggedly revising until I realise the vision. I’m something of a perfectionist.)

      Good luck with your novel revision. I can imagine it’s frustrating, but I’m sure it’s a worthwhile process. And then one day you may just decide to start something new instead. You gotta go with your gut and your passion.


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