Charles Soule: On Finding The Joy

And now, a post from Charles Soule — a man who has already conquered comics and now has come for our prose, the bastard, with his most excellent novel, The Oracle Year.

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I’m going to write a little bit about writing here, as from what I understand that’s part of the stock-in-trade of this particular website. More specifically, a part of the process that I think is utterly crucial but little-discussed – and also part of the truth of any creative living (or endeavor, whether you’re paid for it or not): the joy of it.

I get to make my living by writing a lot of awesome things. I am incredibly fortunate, and I know it. As I type this, I’m staffed as the current writer of Darth Vader, Poe Dameron, Astonishing X-Men and Daredevil, and I’m also masterminding the return of Wolverine to life – all that’s for Marvel. I also write my own series Curse Words for Image Comics (co-created with the amazing Ryan Browne) and I just released my first novel The Oracle Year (which includes a kind, wonderful blurb from the occasionally benevolent overlord of this very site.) That is a lot, and while each project is cooler than the last, any single one of them literally a dream come true – I will not lie. Some days… I don’t feel like doing it. I don’t have the ideas, I just finished something else and I feel like I need to rest, something dispiriting happened in my non-writing life, or I’m just sick to death of my keyboard, my screen, my office.

The work becomes a job I have to do as opposed to a job I get to do.

But on those days, I do it anyway. I sit down and force my hands to the keyboard, my pencil to the page, for in my field the deadlines do not sleep. They creep toward you on their strange, serrated legs, ripping away days, hours, minutes, seconds until they’re right on top of you – and the only way to fight them off is to keep moving, keep moving, always forward, always ahead. (I, uh, saw The Quiet Place yesterday. Real fun time at the movies. But I digress.)

I do this because I love my job and don’t want to let down the many other people who rely on me doing it timely and well (collaborators, readers, editors, publishers, retailers, etc.) However, I was also doing it before I had any of those things. I was doing it from the very beginning of my grownup career, while I was working as a junior attorney pulling 60-80 hour work weeks, late at night, early in the morning, while getting married and starting a family, for years and years. During that time I was the only person who cared about what I was writing. Certainly, people who loved me cared that I was writing, because it made me happy – but the specifics of it? Not really. Getting people to care is a ladder, every rung a good opinion you earn with your stories. It’s not all an endless slog, though – eventually, that ladder becomes a staircase, and then a home, and then, perhaps, a palace. But it ain’t quick.

Making a career in creativity is itself a hugely creative act. It doesn’t just spontaneously happen. You have to build it, step by step, just as you do the individual creations themselves. It’s time plus dedication plus skill – whether innate or cultivated, ideally both.

So… how? Who the hell would put themselves through something like that? More particularly, why, when there are easier ways to make a living, with more guarantees.

Because of the joy of it.

It doesn’t matter how exhausted I am, how idea-dead, how burned out I might be on the very idea of writing one more word – the cure is almost always one thing: writing one more word (or a thousand.) When I start creating, I feel a surge of uplift deep inside. Sometimes it’s a whisper, sometimes it’s a roar, but it’s always there, and it’s always been there, even during the years when no one cared.

I know many people come to this site for thoughts on how to become professional writers, and I think that’s one of my biggest pieces of advice. Listen to yourself, find the joy in just, simply… making things up. Now, if you can’t hear it, ever… well, I think that’s telling, and you should listen to that too. But if the joy is there, you should find ways to cultivate it, to access it when you need it, because it’ll be there for you when nothing else is. A life in creativity all begins there, to my mind – not a desire for money or fame (fleeting if they happen at all.) Joy is a reward in and of itself, and if you find it, you don’t need anything else.

Creativity is a fire that feeds itself. The output is incidental; the smoke from that fire.

Why do you sit by a fire? Not because of the smoke.

I hope this made some sense, and was possibly even helpful in some small way. I’ll tell you what – I had one hell of a fun time writing it.

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Based in Brooklyn, New York, New York Times bestselling author Charles Soule is a writer of novels (graphic and otherwise), comics, screenplays and stories of all types. He plays the guitar fairly well and speaks at least one language.

Born in the Midwest, he spent his early years in Michigan before moving to Asia, where he spent time living in Hong Kong, Manila and Singapore. Stints on the East Coast followed, before settling in New York (apparently) for the long haul.

He is the author of the novel THE ORACLE YEAR, published in April 2018 by HarperCollins’ Harper Perennial imprint, as well as many titles for Marvel, DC, Image and other comics publishers, including Death of Wolverine, She-Hulk, Darth Vader, Lando, Curse Words, Letter 44 and long runs on Daredevil, Swamp Thing and Inhuman.

Charles Soule: Website | Twitter

The Oracle Year: Indiebound | Amazon | B&N

Knowledge is power. So when an unassuming Manhattan bassist named Will Dando awakens from a dream one morning with 108 predictions about the future in his head, he rapidly finds himself the most powerful man in the world. Protecting his anonymity by calling himself the Oracle, he sets up a heavily guarded Web site with the help of his friend Hamza to selectively announce his revelations. In no time, global corporations are offering him millions for exclusive access, eager to profit from his prophecies.

He’s also making a lot of high-powered enemies, from the President of the United States and a nationally prominent televangelist to a warlord with a nuclear missile and an assassin grandmother. Legions of cyber spies are unleashed to hack the Site—as it’s come to be called—and the best manhunters money can buy are deployed not only to unmask the Oracle but to take him out of the game entirely. With only a handful of people he can trust—including a beautiful journalist—it’s all Will can do to simply survive, elude exposure, and protect those he loves long enough to use his knowledge to save the world.

6 comments

  • Very timely words. When you have rough days and the only desire is to crawl back under the covers and hide from the world, it helps to remember that I actually like writing and creating. It is the sword that beats back the darkness that threatens. (I’m melodramatic before I’ve had my second cup of tea. My apologies.)

    Thank you for sharing your process and your works. I predict good things for your Oracle Year.

  • Thank you for writing this and sharing it with us. It reminds me of what Stephen King says in “On Writing,” how he’d peck at away a keyboard – any keyboard – regardless the promise of a paycheck.

    And, yes, checks are nice. So far, I have two whole rungs for my ladder. Of course, I’d love a house but that’s not why I continue to write. It’s hard to explain to others how (for some of us) writing is being. It is breath, it is food, it is life. It truly is joy.

    It’s humbling when someone connects with the words you share; that has yet to become lost on me.

    That and a really good editor.

  • I’ve been forcing myself, lately, to write. I do a lot of procrastinating, but whenever I actually sit down to write I find joy in it, even if half the words I write are bullshit and only read by a select few. Thanks for this reminder. I hope to one day spend all my time writing and creating too!

  • “Making a career in creativity is itself a hugely creative act. It doesn’t just spontaneously happen. You have to build it, step by step” – such good advice, thanks Charles Soule. With 90 books published I’m a few rungs up but always a breath away from wondering why I keep doing this. You’ve just answered the question. I’ve shared this link on Twitter and can’t wait to read your new book.

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