Nancy: Joy + Hard Work


This past weekend, I got to do one of my favorite things, which is visiting my daughter. One of the things we do when we visit is attend classes at the excellent yoga studio near her apartment. While attending a class Saturday morning, the yoga teacher gave us one of his many definitions of yoga, which is joy plus hard work. Because he told us this more than an hour into a very intense practice in an 85° F room, at a point where our muscles felt like spaghetti and some of us were questioning the wisdom of the way we’d chosen to spend our Saturday morning, it was easy to understand the part about hard work. The joy, that wasn’t quite so obvious at the time. And that’s the way it sometimes is with something else that can be defined as joy plus hard work: writing.

Writing is hard work, and some days are harder than others. On those days, we might see the joy after the writing is done, just as it can be easier to see the joy of having survived yoga class hour after class is over. One of the goals in yoga is to find the joy within the hard work itself, but on the days that doesn’t happen, that’s okay. Yoga is practice. It’s a process. It’s a journey, not a destination unto itself.

When it comes to writing, we often don’t cut ourselves the same slack. We tend to focus on the end product – the finished draft, the publishing contract, the book we can hold in our hands. It’s important to have those goals, and having a tough day (or week, or month) of writing feels like it stands in the way of those goals. But sometimes in writing, like in yoga, when the going gets tough, it can be helpful to take our eyes off the horizon and focus on what is right in front of us. Write one good scene, one decent page, a really excellent paragraph. Some days that’s the most we can do, and at the end of the day, we need to find the joy in these small accomplishments.

I’ve had many, many days when the writing is a hard slog, and sometimes I’ve even questioned the wisdom of how I’ve chosen to spend my time, just like a did for at least a few minutes (okay, the whole final half hour) of that Saturday morning yoga class. One thing I’ve learned over the years of writing, though, is that there will be days when I’ll write multiple scenes and pages upon pages, when the words will just flow from my fingertips and I’ll feel joy in the very act of writing. I had one of those days last week. I wrote three new scenes, including one that is a lynchpin I’ve needed for the first act. It was wonderful to feel joy in the hard work as I did it.

Some days we experience joy in the hard work of writing itself. Other days, we have to find the joy in having written, and that really can be enough if we just cut ourselves some slack and remember that it’s not just the end product that matters. The process, the practice, is a goal unto itself, and as long as we keep coming back to write down more words, it’s a goal we will accomplish.

Where have you found your writing joy lately?

5 thoughts on “Nancy: Joy + Hard Work

  1. It can be really hard to command joy, but I’ve decided that this is the week: I’m going to write on my Djinn story, and I’m going to treat it like a first draft and just write and see where it goes — write for the joy. I’ve been hibernating for awhile, and reading and getting my reservoirs filled up. One thing that is going on my list of things to remember: WORKING TOGETHER RULES! (That’s from a chat Jenny and Lucy March had here: And the other thing is: Discovery Is Fun!

    I’ve got too many expectations for what I think I’m supposed to be doing. I need to let go and write for now. Later will be the time for the hard work. Joy and labor, linked together.

    • Sounds like a good writing plan for the week :-). Because I identified several new scenes I need to write, I feel like I’m still in the first draft as well, and I’m letting myself just through all the scenes. Hopefully sometime this summer I’ll get into true revision mode,

  2. After two years of getting nowhere with my WIP, the decision to start over has brought me back to the joy of writing. Part of it is that I connect so much more with this protagonist, but part of it is that I’m giving myself space to do discovery writing again. It doesn’t feel effortless, but it’s far less of an uphill slog than it was.

  3. That’s great to hear, Jeanne! It sounds like your Girls are happy you decided to work with the new protagonist.

  4. Well, I gotta say, the thought of doing yoga at 85F for 90 or 120 minutes on a Saturday morning makes working on my WIP look like a fresh spring breeze. Let me at that ms! (And, of course, you go! Whatever winds your clock, that’s my motto.)

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