Monday, April 20, 2020

When Writing Loses Its Joy

I have been very fortunate of late. Not just in terms of health and friends, but as a writer as well. Over the past month, I have had the opportunity to edit and review several books, each with its own unique style and wildly varied content. To a writer, few things can provide more creative nourishment than poring over other peoples' words and discussing what they are bringing to life. It's very satisfying to engage with the creative process from all these different angles. It's also exciting, it's engaging, it pays well, and it is definitely a helpful diversion from current events.

And it can absolutely crush the creative process.

Thank you, Marie Kondo
When I say that engaging in other peoples' works is creative nourishment, I meant it. Outside thoughts and ideas are the vitamins and nutrients for any writer. However, eat too much healthy food and you still get sick. Too much nourishment means some is wasted or turns into fat. (Fun fact: Too much Vitamin A will kill you.) And in this regard, I have kind of overdone it with the creative engagement. We all do this sometimes - we treat our passion like a Thanksgiving dinner, piling up all the words and ideas we can find in a feast of literary consumption, then an hour later we are lying on the couch, groaning away at even the thought even even hearing a poem. We refuse to read anything else, and regret the day we took up writing.

We all do this now and then - this is not my first time gorging until I burst - and in a way it can be healthy. The only question is, how do we get out of these ruts when we have overindulged and can't face another word? I have two manuscripts I am writing, and even the thought of jumping back into one of those is exhausting. I am still contracted for another manuscript to edit and design for publication, so how do I address my own needs as a writer? How do I get back to the writing I love to do when the outside world has taken the joy away from what I love?

Organizational guru Marie Kondo made herself a pretty nice media career by asking one little question: "Does it spark joy?" Now, she believes in removing clutter by asking if a particular item "sparks joy" within you. This obviously has boundaries - my electric bill has never sparked joy with me, but throwing it away only creates more problems. Furthermore, overindulgence takes away that sense of joy, so we are kinda stuck.

Rather, we have to ask ourselves a simple question: "What inspired me to write?" Not just an author or a book, but what idea started such a fire that we had to not just consume, but create? As I have mentioned many times before, I needed to tell stories of my life, of experiences, of ideas and concepts, analogies and parables brewing inside that needed to come out. And, in knowing that, I find what "sparks joy" in me as a writer.

Now, that may sound like I am just saying to start writing when you don't feel like writing. Nope - life isn't so easy. I approach that joy-sparking idea from other directions. I tell stories with my friends. I hit up an open mic night. Without writing, I find those things that still appeal to that spark, and I feed that spark until it gets a little brighter, more noticeable, more intense, and eventually feeds my creative beast. At that point, I don't get the urge to write.

At that point, I have to write.

2 comments:

  1. Before I write, I have to "feel" it. If I am writing, just to write, then I am back in school with an assignment. After I joined a writers group, I told myself I would not feel pressured to write. When I feel pressured, I do not buy in to what I am writing, and consequently my writing stinks. For me, it's all about the buy-in.

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    1. It's a good habit to remind yourself of the writing you want to do versus the writing you have to do. Personal investment makes the former grow, but can be a wildcard with the latter.

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