Friday, November 5, 2010

The Not-Merely-Happy-But-Also-JOYFUL Writers Society!

Today the Happy Writers Society has been hijacked by Kayla Olson. I told her I needed someone to watch the club while I was reading for NaNoReaMo, and she was kind enough to oblige. I never expected her to come in and RENAME us. Lesson learned. Don't worry, though. Me and my ninjas are preparing a plot to recapture HWS any day now...

Welcome, friends, to my quaint (read: tiny!) apartment. Be careful when petting Dexter the Kitty – he might LOOK like a snuggly little fluffball, but really, his beautiful tail is only there to distract you from his teeth. Which are sharp. And attracted to flesh. (Especially
writer flesh.) So, beware.

Now that that's out of the way, feel free to make yourselves comfortable while I whip up some lattes and flourless chocolate cake.

Everyone situated? Okay. Sweet.

Let's begin.

You may have noticed: I'm not Natalie. Natalie doesn't drink lattes. Also, I don't know much about ninjas, and I know even less about Inuyasha. I don't have an agent (yet), and I haven't written zillions of novels (yet). But – before you throw your lattes and cake at me in protest (while shouting, "WE MISS NATALIE! WE WANT HER BACK – NOT SOME UNCULTURED POSER!!!") – know that I heart you. I have nothing but your best in mind. Promise. So, uh, hey! I'm Kayla, Natalie's fill-in for this week's meeting. My areas of expertise include espresso beverages, Patty Griffin songs, Post-Its, and a smattering of other useful (and not-so-useful) things.

I also know a thing or two about being a happy writer.

Did you notice the not-so-subtle change I made to our society's title? Today, we are the Not-Merely-Happy-But-Also-JOYFUL Writers Society. (This makes for a somewhat lame acronym, but whatevs.)

Last night, as I attempted to drift off to sleep, I pondered the difference between being happy and being joyful. At first glance, they seem interchangeable. I propose, though, that there is a subtle (albeit significant) difference between the two. Here's how I see it:

Happiness: A pleasant emotion, inspired by pleasant circumstances. When you don't have to try to smile. When your head isn't weighed down with anxiety or fear and, therefore, you practically float around on clouds and rainbows. When getting caught in a thunderstorm is inspiring – not an inconvenience – because ohmyword it's RAIN and you can FEEL it on your SKIN and you are aliiiiiive! (And you may or may not be singing, too! While surrounded by sparrows who harmonize with you!)

Joy: It's rooted in hope and is unshakeable by circumstances. It can look like happiness, but it doesn't have to. Unlike happiness, joy can still exist even when your present circumstances are unpleasant and undesirable. It's rooted in the hope of big-picture success and does not crumble at the hands of individual failures along the way. Also, where happiness is an instinctive emotion, joy tends to be a choice. It's choosing to view the thunderstorm as an inspiration, a reminder that you're alive and life is AMAZING, even though you're tempted to be annoyed about it. (Note the difference: with joy, you're fighting the temptation to be annoyed. With happiness, being annoyed is nowhere close to on your radar, because everything is lovely – you simply ARE happy, because you can't help it!)

So. I'm sure it won't be too hard to predict where I'm going with this, but I'm going there nonetheless.

Writing comes with a whole slew of things that aren't always pleasant. Are you writing a first draft? You'll hit a roadblock. Revising? You'll hit traffic jams, roadblocks, AND you'll have scary hitchhikers pounding on your window. Polishing your fourteenth draft? Um, hi, it's your fourteenth draft. Writing your query letter? Waiting for a response on that query letter? Waiting for a response on that submission? Writing under a deadline and who-knows-how-much pressure, now that your book is a bestseller?

If you are merely aiming to be a happy writer, this process is likely to smash you up along the way. It's not always fun. It's not always easy. It's not just coffee and inspiration, romanticized handwritten manuscripts, perfection on the first try. It's WORK. It's HARD. You cry. Then, you tell yourself to toughen up because you're not supposed to cry.

Those who are way up ahead of me tell me it's worth it, though. That it's rewarding.

That, my fellow members of the NMHBAJ Writers Society (told you it was a lame acronym), is a hopeful foundation for this process. Focus on hope. On the big picture. On the WHY of what you do. You might hate the waiting, might want to vomit at the thought of another revision – but if you hold on to hope, you'll start to see beautiful stepping stones where you once saw merely jagged stumbling rocks. Even if they cut you along the way, those scars will be beautiful to you, because they'll be worth something.

Take heart, friends. I wish you both happiness AND joy, my society sisters (and the occasional brother).

Oh, by the way, I hope you enjoyed the flourless chocolate cake. I'm sorry to say we've run out. Good news, though – I have the recipe if anyone wants it! And trust me, you do want it. It's as easy to make as it is delicious.


  1. "if you hold on to hope, you'll start to see beautiful stepping stones where you once saw merely jagged stumbling rocks. Even if they cut you along the way, those scars will be beautiful to you, because they'll be worth something."

    Love love love that. I agree, the distinction between being happy and being joyful (or being happy and creating happiness) is so important, especially in a biz like this one. Thanks for the fun and funny reminder!

  2. I loved the invitation into your quaint apartment. Dexter sounds just like a certain cat I know!

  3. Great post, Kayla. Like all of your posts. Thank you for linking me to Natalie's blog! Blessings...

  4. First to you, Natalie - you're as good at finding fantastic guest bloggers as you are at blogging yourself.

    Why am I not surprised?

    And to you, Kayla - great post. Great message to someone mired in the particular heck-ola that is revising.

    And yes, please, post the recipe. :)

  5. I love this post, and I think it's applicable to more than just writing. I think it's what makes the diffference between living life and suffering it.

  6. I agree, we always have to remember the why, escpecially on those days when just 9 to 5ing starts lookin sexy.

  7. Thanks for all of your sweet comments! :) I'm so glad it was helpful/encouraging to you guys! I'll post the cake recipe soon (and will let you know when I do)!

    Happy/joyful writing to y'all—
    Kayla Olson

  8. Just stumbled across this and loved it! I am generally described as a happy person, but being that my name (LaJoie) is French for "The Joy," I like to think of myself as Joyful. :) Life's circumstances can often be unhappy, but that DOESN'T mean life itself has to be joyless! That's why my blog is titled "Thoughts of Joy," and I do my best to live up to my name through my life and my writing! :)

    LaJoie Ward of Thoughts of Joy