Kat: Recapturing the Joy

iStock_000022363503SmallIt’s been awhile since I felt true joy when writing. That lose-myself-in-the-story kind of feeling that happens when the words shoot like water from some hidden spring and flow to the page. That’s not to say I’m not pushing forward with my WIP or that I don’t have days when I jump up from the keyboard and congratulate myself on writing “a damn fine scene.” I am; I do.

And I still love writing, maybe more now then ever. When I’m not writing, I’m thinking about my story, or talking about it, or storyboarding different components.

Right now the writing force is with me.

Still, writing feels a little different these days. The joyous moments are getting farther apart and happening less frequently since McD ended. There’s more pressure now (all self-imposed) and I’m beginning to wonder why I feel the need to make arbitrary deadlines and then stress about hitting them? I have a day job so I’m not being pushed by money (nor do I think I’ll get rich writing) and I don’t answer to an agent or editor (yet). So what’s up?

I think whatever it is started when I began to refer to my WIP as “the damn book”. As in, I need to finish the “damn book”. Yes, we use that term tongue-in-cheek here and it’s not really our stories we’re cursing, but our own inability to make progress on them. Still, cursing our WIP is sort of like laughingly calling ourselves fat or ugly or stupid. That kind of negative self-talk is counter-productive.

Now don’t get me wrong. I don’t want to be working on this book in ten years. On the other hand, in some ways I feel like I’ve just started. What I’m writing now isn’t the same story I began a year and half ago when I started McD, and it’s only recently that I’ve begun to apply the writing tools necessary to write a good story. So why am I kicking myself because I’m not finished with my draft?

At McD we had a forum called “The Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to the Girls”. It was a place to pump up the girls (and ourselves) by being positive about our writing skills. I’m thinking of starting something similar for my WIP. I think I need to nurture my characters and my story a little more instead of treating it (and talking about it) like it’s something I can’t wait to get rid of.

I think it’s important that we set goals and push ourselves to meet them or to compete in contests or to pitch for practice at conferences. I’ve found these things to be great motivational tools that used judiciously can keep me moving in the right direction. But they can also become burdensome and stressful if the timing isn’t right.

Next week I’m leaving for AZ (Jeanne E will be subbing for me next Friday, so look for her here!) and I can’t tell you how much I’m looking forward to this trip. I can’t wait to travel roads unknown, to let each day unfold with the joy of possibilities without deadlines.  I want to do the same with my writing and make keeping the writing joy alive my priority. Heaping stress on ourselves  kills the joy, and God knows we writers need the joyous moments.

So from now on, no more cursing my “darling” WIP. It will be finished when it’s finished. Period.

Do you still feel the joy on a regular basis, and if not, what can you do to recapture it?

15 thoughts on “Kat: Recapturing the Joy

  1. Just the other day I was thinking about how it was wrong to think of our WIPs as “the damn book.” If we’re having trouble, it’s not the book’s fault. It’s our fault. The troubles we face are troubles we choose, that all writers choose. The joy comes from doing the best we can to solve our writing challenges. So I’m with you, Kat. Have a great time in Arizona. Feel the joy.

  2. (-: This just cries for a twitter hashtag: praise your writing, and mark it #spgc. Or we could just do it here. “I’m a fabulous writer because . . . .” (-: I really can’t finish that sentence in public today, though. It’s different when we were doing it in class, and everyone could understand our immodesty, and the code words.

    Still, good writing to you, and safe travels!

    • I’m not a twitter fan so I’d vote to do it here (in a separate thread?), but maybe instead of just focusing on our skills as writers, make it specific to our WIP. As in: “The joy with was me this week because… (I just found the perfect ending, I wrote 250 new words this week…etc.).

  3. I adore writing, and like you I think about it constantly if I’m not doing it. Yet, on the one I am doing right now, it’s longer than I expected and sometimes it feels like there is no end in sight 😀 So I’m going scene by scene, and immersing myself into those moments individually rather than getting overwhelmed by the whole thing.

    • I think that’s a good plan. That’s generally what I do as well. I usually sit back and let the girls go where they will, but when I hit Act III the girls took off and went out for drinks without me (or something :-). They’re back now (thank goodness), but I had to do some prodding.

  4. The goals can be stressful if the timing isn’t right- yes!!!

    I shouldn’t even be here reading, much less commenting. I have piles upon piles of real life stuff to do and I have to be out the door in half an hour.

    But this post is central to the life questions I am facing right now. The writing goals are taking the joy out of the writing for me. The way things are now I don’t have time to write consistently. I’m going to have to decide, once and for all, if writing gets real priority, in which case I will have to reorganize my entire life and priorities in order to write regularly, or if it’s just for fun in which case I’ve got to let the goals go.

    Having goals but not permitting myself time to meet them is just setting myself up for failure of the worst kind- disappointing myself. So something has to go- either my current priorities or the writing goals. It’s time to stop waffling.

    Free choice is highly overrated.

    • I think we can all relate, Jennifer (and welcome). Too much stuff to do, too little time. Setting priorities is a good place to start. I’ve let some things go to make room for my writing. Obviously writing is important to you or you wouldn’t have taken the time to stop here today to read the posts and make one of your own.

      One of the things we did while attending McD was to shoot for ten new pages every two weeks. That’s one scene (on average). It didn’t seem like much at the time, but it kept us writing and we made progress. Maybe you could look at doing something like that?

  5. I hope you have a wonderful trip, Kat, and that you find much joy in Arizona.

    I hear what you say about Finish The Damn Book, ladies. I think I may have started that habit (sorry!). I’ve been thinking about it since yesterday and have to say I don’t plan to stop – but I promise I won’t use it here any more (and if I do, please call me on it). Maybe it’s a Brit thing, but for me it’s a tongue-in-cheek but serious reminder to me and my girls that we’ve made good progress, but now it’s time to step up. I don’t feel as though I’m putting myself or the book down, but I am making a statement that finishing this book is my writing goal for the year and if I’m making excuses to myself at Christmas they’d better be good ones. I don’t always put pressure on myself – last year I had so many other things to deal with that I didn’t push myself at all – but right now the time is right.

    I won’t let it take the joy out of the experience, though 🙂

    • You saying it isn’t an issue for me, Jilly, and I didn’t mean to imply that it was. I think it’s awesome that you’ve found something that motivates you.

      My post is about what I think and feel about my own WIP and what does (and doesn’t) motivate me. One size doesn’t fit all, nor should it.

      Keep doing whatever motivates you, here and everywhere!

      • No, no, you didn’t – but if you, and Kay, and Jeanne all feel the same way then that’s something to respect 🙂

        • I think the difference is the capitalization. You say The Damn Book (and it seems quite respectful that way, using initial caps)…we just say the damn book, and it carries all this negativity. It doesn’t bother me either way, but I respect your desire to be respectful. 🙂

          I love the idea of #spcg! Michaeline, get tweeting! I will, too!

        • I think it’s sort of the case that complaining about The Damn Book also makes us feel like real writers. Don’t you get a pleasing little frisson when you do it, that, “Hey, I am a writer! I have a Book! And it is giving me Trouble, so it’s not a fluffy little book!”

          I know if I used the phrase, that’s how I’d feel. But I’m still scattering bread crumbs in front of the computer and saying, “Here, bookie, bookie, bookie! Come out, come out, little bookie!”

          God, I love writing. Not sure I love books.

          But anyway, as long as you realize that you ARE a real writer, even without the trappings of cursing, drinking and living in a garret, you are OK. These mannerisms are just frosting on the cake, as long as you don’t take the trappings too seriously, if you know what I mean.

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