Wednesday, January 13, 2010

Writer's Cure-All for Joylessness

Many thanks to Ariel for her guest blog on Monday. She captured the longing of all writers, especially this one, to enter into the joy of writing and creating. From Ariel's own admission and the comments of our readers, this is easier said than done.

I confess to being a writing curmudgeon from time to time. It’s easy to blame the obvious culprits: deadlines, reviews, disappointing covers, distractions of any kind, or cranky fan letters. Every writer faces these challenges. Not all writers lose their joy. Reading Ariel’s post made me dig

deeper for broader themes related to malaise among writers with the intention of coming up with a Writer’s Cure-All for Joylessness.

Here are my offerings:

1. Stay connected with the Creator.

The beginning point of all creativity is Jesus (even for those who don’t give Him credit, but this is a question for another blog). My joy and creativity are directly tied to my relationship with Him. If I settle for a cursory prayer and a day of sing-along-with-the-radio worship, my soul is diminished, my creativity constipated. Our creativity dance requires a partner, and we are blessed beyond counting that Jesus has tapped us on the shoulder. Always say yes to Him. Enter the dance.

2. Stay connected with people outside the writing world.

Cuddle up to the folks who care about things besides plot points and character development. This will keep your life in perspective, and your feet will stay warm. Join them in doing things that have absolutely nothing to do with writing. Hike a trail. Take a class. Cook a meal. Skip stones. Count the stars. Jane Hamilton once told an interviewer that unless she putters in the garden or rides her horse every day, she has nothing to write worth reading. Get out there and live—with nice people!

3. Stay connected with other writers.

This sounds like contradiction, but it’s not. You need like-minded people who are truthful and generous. For me, this is my critique group, the lovely ladies of NovelMatters, a church-based small group for writers, and several online writing chums. I could not write without these people. These relationships are a two-way street. We love one another enough to “speak the truth in love.” These folks don’t let me get away with extraneous words or sloppy metaphors, and I love them in kind. And we are generous with one another—promoting, teaching, and soothing. There is no room for competition or high school gossip. The groups of writers I associate with come closest to what I imagine the Body of Christ to be like. Don’t miss out!

4. Pace yourself.

Pick a deadline (self-imposed) for your manuscript that allows for sick days, holidays, a mission trip, etc. And give yourself plenty of time prior to your publisher-induced deadline for self-editing. Count the days between now and your deadline. Get out your writer’s calculator with the big numbers. Divide the target word count by the number of days. You should come up with a reasonable daily word count. I go through this bit of calendar gymnastics to avoid panic. I don’t write well with a gun pointed at my head, metaphorically speaking or otherwise!

5. Don’t compare.

Lap up masterful writing. Savor it. Celebrate it. But do not compare your writing to anyone else’s. God made you a one-of-a-kind writer. And as many writers as there are, there are ways to compare yourself to others…How fast they can write. What their marketing department does to promote their books. Their place on the best-sellers list. Their web site. Their opportunities to self-promote. Their erudite blog entries. How do they do it all? Be you. Enjoy God’s hand on your unique and valued life.

6. Avoid vanity searches!!!

I can’t say this strongly enough. As it is, writing requires a level of benign madness. You don’t need more voices in your head, especially unkind voices. Skipping around the Internet to read reviews opens doors to the two-headed, four-tailed, slobbering, sneering Self-Doubt monster. Yes, reviews can be encouraging. Let your editor send those to you. The best, most successful writers I know don’t read their own reviews. Reviews don’t teach you anything you don’t already know. And trust me; the bad reviews repeat themselves over and over in your head. And thus, creativity is stymied; joy is squelched.

I keep a Frederick Buecher quote on my desk:
"The place where God calls you is the place where your deep gladness and the world's deep hunger meet."
How do you foster joy in your calling as a writer or creative person in any area?


Unknown said...

Interesting advice about not looking around for reviews, Patti.

I may be the only writer around here who, when my name is called out in a crowded room, hides to see who wants to know. (smile)

Your exuberance and maturity in the Lord are an inspiration to me, Patti. Thank you so much!

Eileen Astels Watson said...

Don't compare is a huge one for me. It's usually sure to depress me as we all know those who are so much better than ourselves.

Violet N. said...

Great advice - and I'm going to steal your quote for my desk too!

Anonymous said...

How could you have cranky fans?! What could they possible have to be cranky about?!

Kathleen Popa said...

I agree, Lynn - cranky fan letters to Patti Hill? How could it happen?

Such good advice here. When he asks you to dance, say yes.