Saturday, March 22, 2014

Keeping the joy alive

For the first time in a long time (like years and years) I don't have anything to work on, writing wise.

It feels strange. But also, nice. I can finally watch "Frozen!" And catch up on all of these books I've been wanting to read. And in April some of my favorite TV shows return for another season. "Game of Thrones." "Mad Men." "Call the Midwife."

Yes, basically, my life is all about stories.

So, how long am I not going to write? I don't know. I recently found the first pages of a story I started a couple of years ago that I really like, and that may be the next thing I work on, but not now. Not for a little while. Not until I get through this busy spring with some travel and appearances and getting stuff done around the house.

I've been thinking about how my writing life has changed from when I first started doing this as basically a hobby (since I had a day job) to now, when writing IS my day job.

Again and again I would write because it was fun. Because I loved making up stories and seeing where the characters took me.

Last year, when I had to write four books back to back, that didn't seem fun. It seemed like work. And, you know, it was work. I had a contract that specified when my drafts were due and I was getting paid to meet those deadlines.

Except for me, I knew the key would be to go back to the basics. Make the books fun. And that's what I did. With each book, I found something that made the book fun and exciting for me. That doesn't mean that it wasn't hard sometimes. Writing is often hard. The key is to write anyway, get through the hard parts, with the characters you love pulling you through.

I get lots of e-mails asking about getting published. Kids or teens wanting to know what it takes to become a published author. There are entire books on the subject, so it's not something I can easily explain in an e-mail. So while I refer them to books on the subject, and point them to helpful forums on the web like SCBWI's or the Absolute Write Water Cooler, I also try to say, in the nicest way possible, to not worry too much about that now. Write because it's fun. Write because you enjoy it and you want to get better at it. Write for yourself, because you love creating stories.

The publishing business can be brutal. There is no guarantee, ever, for any of us. My career could be over tomorrow. Even now, with over a dozen books published, I still have books rejected. I still get discouraged. But what pulls me back again and again is creating a story that makes my heart flutter. That is where the joy is - in the creating. Again and again, I have to remind myself of that. Love of story is what has pulled me back from the edge of "I can't do this anymore" many times.

I also think the pressure of creating and creating more can cause you to start to hate it. That's why I'm taking a break now. I want to be excited about writing when I return, instead of going to the keyboard filled with dread.

I've been writing a very, very long time. Because I love it. Because it's fun and challenging and satisfying and lots of other things. The most important thing I can do for myself as a writer is to not lose the joy that comes from writing.  Like the joy I found when I made this book at the age of seven or eight, that my grandma kept and gave to me when she found out I was having my first book published.

Okay, so it's not a very good story. There's no conflict and nothing much happens, but still. I finished it. I'm pretty sure I enjoyed creating it, even if there were parts that were hard (like drawing a lion when I was probably afraid it would look like a sheep).

And now, more than ever, I understand that joy is one of the most important things we can bring to our writing. And we have to do everything within our power to maintain that sense of wonder and joy.

So in the coming months, I will watch shows I love, read great books, frolic in the tulips, and much, much more.

I will be "not writing" and yet, all of it will eventually help my writing. I am sure of it!


  1. I love how you let us know there could still be a lion out there w/a heart on its back. =) Enjoy your break!

  2. I'm so grateful that you wrote this -- because a lot of times I'm so focused on getting published that writing becomes a job, really.
    Thank you!
    I would've so entered the giveaway, but I couldn't access my computer at the time you were having it. Again, thanks@