Sunday, July 01, 2007

No Joy?

Writing, like life, comes complete with "issues." Some large, some small. Some good, some bad. The one thing they have in common is that they disrupt your schedule, confuse your brain, and generally make you turn things upside down and look at the seamy underbelly of what you're doing.
So, when a friend commented that she had "lost the joy" in writing, I found myself pondering the implications of that statement.
Somewhere along the line, if you want to make writing your career, it becomes A Job. Now, if you want to make a living at writing, this is a good thing. Writing is your job, and you have to be disciplined and dedicated, and willing to devote the time and attention any career deserves.
But there is something else buried in the subconscious of many of us, probably the residue of a blue-collar work ethic, that says "Job" is not equal to "Joy."
For many of us, no one ever said, "Find something you love, and do it for the rest of your life." Instead, they told us to find something we were good at, something stable, with a good future. What you're good at, though, isn't always something you truly love.
Of course, the current Dilbert strips illustrate the downside of "do what you love," what with the guy who wants to be a billionaire, but doesn't want to actually do anything for it, and similar characters. But, if you go from the premise that you need to produce income to put food on the table, working at something you truly love is the optimum solution.
But we can take something we love, turn it into A Job, and suddenly our brains tell us that it is Work, it's drudgery, it's what we have to do, not what we want to do. And that's when the joy goes away.
There are a lot of business aspects to a writing career. You are essentially running a small - or not so small - business, with all the record-keeping, marketing, promotion, financial management, and long-term planning that every business needs to succeed. Those things are necessary if you are going to be successful at your business.
But I think we do ourselves a disservice when we let those things intrude into our basic attitude toward writing; when we make writing A Job, and allow those voices in our head to tell us it can't be fun, because it is Work.
It's a difficult problem, and one that requires a writer to develop two personalities - the writer, and the businessman. I know many writers who don't consider business issues when they write. They don't try to fit their work into a particular niche, or force a story to a specific length, or deliberately censor their themes and vocabulary. But in general, they talk about those considerations stifling their creativity.
For me, joy is a different animal. Joy comes in the rush you get when you create a scene, put dialog in the mouths of your characters, choreograph a tricky bit of action, or evoke a strong emotion just with your words. Joy is the pleasure that comes from bringing the pictures in your brain to life on the page.
I am working on keeping that joy in my writing. I don't always succeed, but when I do, I think the results are stronger and truer, and ultimately more successful.

I hope you can all find your joy.

1 comment:

Genene said...

Chris,

What a timely blog for me to read! I'm working on an an article/ presentation about balancing all of the pieces of my life and this is perfect.

The way we think about our work does indeed determine whether we keep the Joy in A Job. (The words Job and Joy are darn near spelled the same, aren't they?)

I may contact you later to see if I can quote you. :)