Nancy: Joie D’Ecriture – January Edition

Happy-New-Year-2016Last month, I told you about my goals – small, attainable goals – to recapture joy of writing, story, and life. So with one month down, it’s time for me to report on my progress.

Learn something new everyday and make connections to story. When I started on my path to joie d’ecriture, I’d tried to spend some time at the end of each week remembering what I’d learned. As it turned out, I was typically too mentally exhausted to actually come up with anything. So I started using the notebook I always have with me (you know writers and notebooks) to jot down something I learned every day. I’m not going to lie – some days I’m really wracking my brain for something useful it has absorbed. But I’m getting better at recognizing little things I either didn’t know or didn’t notice before. And I find I’m focusing most on human behavior, on the ways different people react to certain situations. I’m hoping at the end of my experiment, I’ll be a better writer of human nature. At the very least, I’m keeping track of some interesting details that are bound to attach themselves to some of my characters.

Make social connections. I had a suspicion I’d enjoy myself if I just put on put on pants and went out into the world on occasion to attend events and enjoy human company. To test this theory, in January I went with a wonderful group of people to see a production of Bizet’s opera Le PĂȘcheurs de Perles, which has some really well-known music but, weirdly, had not been performed by any of the major opera companies for a hundred years. I’ve been waiting to see this opera on stage since I fell in love with the recording of Jussi Bjorling and Robert Merrill singing Au Fond du Temple Saint decades ago, so this was a special treat for me. And my suspicion was confirmed – I did enjoy myself!

Drink good wine. January’s special wine was a 2013 Caymus Cabernet Sauvignon, enjoyed with my husband and a few family members. I don’t know how to apply the 100-point wine rating system, so I’ll just give this one two thumbs up!

Enjoy story. Well, Blacklist is back from winter hiatus, so we’re watching that each week. And we are totally enamored with a sitcom starring Rob Lowe (I’m a child of the ’80’s; I’m legally obligated to have a slight crush on Rob Lowe). The show is called Grinder, and Lowe plays a famous TV actor who has retired but just can’t quite bring himself to quit his long-time TV show character. When I watch a show and find myself saying, “Those writers are just having too damn much fun,” it helps me remember that story, and yes, writing, can be fun! As for books, I’ve been re-reading some Barbara Kingsolver books. Don’t know why, just got struck with a nostalgic need to re-read Pigs in Heaven and The Bean Trees. Next on my list is The Poisonwood Bible, which I loved so hard when I read it years ago! I hope it holds up.

That’s what I love about attainable goals – I can actually attain them! Now the plan is to keep this up for the next 11 months, whether or not I’m able to work on my writing. And I have to say, it feels like my approach to joie d’ecriture is already paying off.

Some part of my brain continues to cogitate on story. I’ve unraveled a few plot tangles. Characters in multiple stories are revealing their secrets to me, and I use my handy-dandy notebook handy to capture what they’re telling me. And one night last week, I woke up with a song in my head (Linda Rondstadt’s Long, Long Time) and felt the melancholy and angst it represents for one of my characters. I’m not yet sure what all the character’s issues are, but I’ve added the song to my playlist for that story and have faith that she (and the Girls) will tell me what it means in good time.

What have you been doing lately to fill your creative well? And more just as importantly, do you have any wine recommendations for me for next month?



4 thoughts on “Nancy: Joie D’Ecriture – January Edition

  1. Nancy, congratulations on what sounds like a successful January. You may not have been able to get a lot of words on the page, but it’s great that you’re able to keep your story active in your mind.

    One thing I’ve done to fill the creative well recently is to watch Lucifer. I had read a few posts that were kind of critical of the show (okay, very critical of the show) and I wanted to see for myself what all the fuss was about. There have only been two episodes so far (another tomorrow, I think), but I am watching, not just because I’ve liked the show so far, but also because I’m trying to understand what others have disliked about it. The discussions I’ve read have been very insightful about character development and motivation and the like. I’m learning a lot, and not just that everyone has their own likes and dislikes.

    As for the wine, I wish I could give you a recommendation, but I’m clueless in that area, despite being within a stone’s throw of wine country. When left to my own devices, I tend to pick the labels that catch my eye – kind of like picking a book solely by its cover. I think my recent pick had “cupcake” in the name 🙂

  2. (-: Filling the creative well, exercising the whimsy muscles! All good stuff.

    I am hopeless at wine. I tend to use it in cooking, but that’s all. Can I recommend a hearty beef stew made with some really good wine? As far as I can see, the main secret is to cook gently and slowly, but for hours and hours. Perfect for a snow day (-:.

  3. Good plan, good execution, Nancy! I’ll be topping up my creative well this week with a trip to the Menier Chocolate Factory (excellent small theatre) to see Sheridan Smith in Funny Girl. Apparently she stands comparison with Streisand, the show is already signed to transfer to the West End and might transfer to Broadway. Later in the month I’m going to Chris Wheeldon’s new ballet Strapless, based on the true-life story behind John Singer Sargent’s sexy, scandalous portrait of Madame X (

    Caymus – excellent choice! I have a few ideas for your wine list. Today’s suggestion – any wine you can lay your hands on made by cult winemaker Maggie Harrison. Read the story of her life-changing ‘inspired moment’ here: She’s based in Willamette Valley, Oregon, makes stunning pinot noirs and roses there for Antica Terra, and equally gorgeous syrahs plus some cabernet, roussanne and rose at Lillian winery in California. I love them all!

    Fingers crossed for lots more joie d’ecriture in February!!

  4. Wine recommendations: I was 100% behind Jilly’s “any wine you can lay your hands on” until I saw that that wasn’t the end of the sentence!

    I am really in awe of what you’re doing to keep your creative juices flowing, Nancy! It seems in general such a mindful, purposeful way to live. And everything you note, remember, see, recognize, and appreciate will help you when you do have more time to get words on the page. I love The Grinder, too, btw, although I just found it, and now I think I have to watch something called You, Me, and the Apocalypse (or something like that), also with Rob Lowe. Evidently he filmed that between Grinder seasons.

    I could do with more wine, friends, and outings, too. I think I’ll start scheduling those in more frequently.

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