Friday, March 18, 2011

Happy Writers Society: Allow Yourself to be a Happy Writer

Today Teralyn Rose Pilgrim will be leading Happy Writers Society, and I'm so happy because vacation fatigue is still getting me. I absolutely love how any time I have no post for HWS, some lovely person decides to send me one (And you can send me one too if you want. Did you know that? HWS is totally guest friendly). My readers are so freaking awesome. So thank you, Teralyn, for saving the day!

Let's Get Some Writer's Optimism

Writers complain about everything under the sun. They can’t think of any ideas, the story doesn’t develop the way they want, it’s too hard to revise, they can’t get published, their book doesn’t sell. People call writing a hell, an uphill battle where every step along the way is agonizing.

I ask them: then why do you do it?

They always answer proudly. “Because I must.”

I ask them why they “must.” It’s not like they have a boss who will fire them if they stop writing. It’s not like their family will disown them. God didn’t forbid you from ceasing to write and you won't go to hell. There is no greater force that compels a person to write.

“It’s in the core of my being,” writers insist. “I can’t stop writing any more than I can stop breathing, no matter how hard it gets.”

As far as I know, only people with obsessive-compulsive disorder must do things whether they want to or not.

You can put down your pen right now. You can stare at an empty page, and you don’t have to fill it.

But you will fill that page. You will pick up that pen, and you will use it to create something beautiful.

Why? Because you have to? Or maybe – and I’m just throwing this idea out there – because you want to?

Is there a chance you actually enjoy writing?

If writing is the core of your being, doing it will be the greatest of pleasures. Sometimes when I get going, I feel intoxicated by the power of what I write and how much it resonates with me. I want to throw my arms in the air and shout to the world, “I am a writer! I love every minute of it, and I don’t regret a single word!”

Please, please don’t get discouraged if writing causes you pain or if it seems like more of a wicked compulsion than the joy I just described. I’m not saying you have an inadequate core. The fact of the matter is, we’ve heard artists act like martyrs for so long that it can become ingrained in us. Tapping into optimism might be difficult, at first. But it’s there for the taking.

Think of it like forbidden fruit. You see juicy, red, luscious fruit hanging from a tree. This is the ability to feel nothing but pure happiness that you have the gift of writing. This is the satisfaction of knowing that what you write is a part of you, is infinitely meaningful to you, and even when it’s hard, you can enjoy every step of the process. You can even enjoy revising.

You want to eat this fruit, but other writers are watching you. They starve themselves because they pretend like writing isn’t the most wonderful thing in the world. They self-inflict misery to make themselves feel important and to give their life meaning.

As you reach out your hand for the fruit, what do you see the writers saying to you? What are the words that go through your mind when you dare to be optimistic about what you write?

These are some of the things I hear: “If you aren’t challenged to the point of pain, you’re not working hard enough. You’re just fiddling with pretty words. We are better than you because we actually challenge ourselves. Real writers have a difficult time. Real writers suffer.”

Pluck that fruit. Take a huge bite – as much as will fit in your mouth. Feel the juice run down your chin. You can be a happy writer.


  1. Awesome post. You hit the epitome of what this group is supposed to be. Happy Writing!

  2. It's the same when I hear people say "I didn't choose writing (art/acting/etc), writing chose me."

    I may have a drive to write but it is still a choice. I make that choice every day when I sit in front of the computer and open my word processor. I choose it because I love it.

  3. I really enjoyed this post, and it reminded me of a section from Viktor Frankl's Man's Search for Meaning:

    "I only insist meaning is available in spite of--nay, even through suffering, provided . . . that the suffering is unavoidable. If it is avoidable, the meaningful thing to do is to remove its cause, for unnecessary suffering is masochistic rather than heroic."

    Avoid the suffering, avoid being a masochist. Be happy and fruitful! Your work will still be meaningful! :)

  4. “I am a writer! I love every minute of it, and I don’t regret a single word!”

    HEE! I love that. And I absolutely feel that way, although I'm not sure when I finally allowed myself to start saying it.

    Thanks for reminding us about the fruit, and telling us to eat it! Not so forbidden anymore. ;)

  5. Terrific post!

    I write, therefore I am.

  6. IF writers didn't complain about how anguishing writing was, everyone would realize how much fun we have and get all jealous. ;)

  7. Great post! I know some writers are genuinely tormented by writing (as opposed to being tormented by rewrites, querying, finding publishers, etc), but surely most writers love and enjoy writing.

  8. Awesome post. I write because it makes me happy, if I felt it was tortuous I wouldn't do it. I mean, I even like revising. Yay for happy writers!

  9. Cheers to Happy (Healthy) Writers! This reminds me of Liz Gilbert's speech on Ted Talks.(Disturbing) writing habits truly exists,and we should really help one another.

  10. OMNOMNOM, this fruit is delicious. Seriously, I love this post. And the line "I am a writer! I love every minute of it, and I don’t regret a single word!" -- yep, that's what I wanted to shout last night. And now, I'm off to write.

  11. Yeah - That's what I love to hear! I laugh at pain from writing - I actually got tennis elbow - from too much writing! aaahhhhaaa - never got it from a sport but....the do What factor, on my face must have been a good one because everyone laughed at me.
    I have found my writerly pain and now expect to letter in this sport soon! Any day now - yeppers just waitin on that call...alone with my suffering....yawn....zzzzz.

  12. writing is exhausting, but fulfilling. If your writing with your whole heart then you feel what they feel, hear what they hear, see what they see. Its like that dream you wake up from and cant shake.
    But, what a great life to live what you control!

  13. I'm with you! And I'm with Anita--I like revising, too!

    It's one of the most exciting things I get to do. I hope this weekend to finish my house so that I can do it, too!

  14. I define a writer as a person whose natural response to life is to write about it. Sometimes that is harder than others but pain is unnatural. If anything writing is pain relief. I think a lot of times we get this back to front, we feel that the pain is a part of the process. Pain may be very well be the catalyst, and it often is and I acknowledge that my best work usually comes as a result of negative emotions, but I’m also savvy enough to realise that one can’t artificially create these situation; we simply have to capitalise on them.

  15. Happy Writer? Yes! The starving, tortured writer/artist persona doesn't have to be. And now I'm oddly hungry for some sweet fruit.

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  17. That line is going on the board over my computer so it will be right there in my face as a reminder!!

    Thanks for this Happy Writers Society post!!

  18. Great post and a much needed reminder to be happy while I write! My dance teacher is always telling me to smile.

  19. just want to say that i really like your blog so clean and beautiful.

    Shop Towel

  20. Eudora Welty said that writing was her favorite part of the day, that she thoroughly enjoyed writing and didn't understand why some people seemed to always be suffering over it.

    William Faulkner said he couldn't wait to get up each morning and "see what his characters were going to do that day."

    These guys were towering geniuses and they enjoyed their writing, each and every day.

  21. Thanks for this post... it makes me feel better. Because I haven't been writing ENOUGH lately, and it hurts. I'm having a difficult time. I'm suffering... but at least I know it's normal.