Writer’s Resolution, 2022: The Necessary Act Of Selfishly Seeking Joy

Last year, my writer’s resolution was about healing and growth.

This year’s will be simpler, more visceral, and dare I say, more selfish.

To preface this, I remind folks who are new here (though is anybody here really new?) that every year I like to do some kind of authorial resolution, and this is more for me than it is for you, but mayyyybe, hey, it’s also for you, too. This resolution, like any piece of writing advice, is intensely personal and is something for you to pick up, hold in your hand, test its weight…

And either put it in your toolbox or chuck it into the dust.

This year, I’m resolving to find the joy in the work, and to embrace that joy the way a person in the ocean would cling to a piece of floating debris.

It’s like this:

I think in the midst of the chaos, which is considerable, I am reminded that nothing is promised, nothing is guaranteed. We are owed nothing but what we owe ourselves, and it is exactly that compact, that contract, that I want to cleave to this year.

Because what I owe myself is to find joy amidst that chaos.

Which for me is about finding the joy in the work.

Perhaps you owe yourself that, too.

I want to be clear: I don’t mean that every moment of writing must be done with a rigor mortis smile staple-gunned to your face. Writing is work. It can be an act of moving earth, sometimes. It can hurt. It be wearying. Joy isn’t on a conveyor belt, fed to you automagically.

I also want to note that joy as a metric is a hard one — you can’t really measure it, and sometimes joy is a giddy, lunatic moment, while other times it’s a slowly-spreading satisfaction. The easy warmth of a nice moment, or the electric thrill of success and surprise.

What it is, is this:

I think we get caught up in the process, in the product, and we forget to identify and embrace those parts of writing that bring us true satisfaction and happiness. We started writing for some reason or another, and it’s easy to lose a hold on that reason. We create content. We get on a treadmill of words. We try to churn out word count, tallying numbers as if the numbers matter in a sense more than just measurement. And I think it’s easy to lose the reason you write in there. I know at certain points I’ve lost the thread, for sure. And maybe you have, too.

Too often too we get caught up in the joy of publication, as if that’s the summary of the work. As if publishing is the reason to write. It’s not. It can’t be. It’s too uncertain, too unstable, to make that the thing that brings us satisfaction. That’s giving the world too much power over you. You’re taking your heart, and ripping it out of your chest, and plopping it bloodily into the hands of, who? A publisher? An audience? A reviewer? Some rando on Twitter? Yes, eventually that’s what happens, I get it — that heart of yours is going to end up out of your chest, served on a plate. It is, perhaps, inevitable. But before you get there, you can take a bloody bite for yourself.

Not just a bite.

The first bite.

In a year — or, hell, years — where things feel uncertain, where the very air around you feels taut like a strangling wire, it’s all the more important to go back to the basics. To seek joy. To just get a goddamn breath. If the chaos ensuing reminds us time to take a moment, to reflect, and to go back to the reasons why we started writing in the first place, then that to me is a considerable win. There is something you love about writing. I don’t know what it is. Maybe you love those serendipitous character moments, or the construction of unique turns-of-phrase, or engineering twists in the story. I love creating metaphor, I love chapter titles, I love finding the rhythm of a sentence. The things in which I find joy, I will pursue doggedly this year. Teeth out. Greedy hands, searching. I’ll make it happen. I’m also going to seek opportunity in writing to make myself happy first and foremost, to find something in every day’s work that gives me true, even if small, joy.

Something for me, not for you.

The first bite of the heart.

I hope you’ll do the same, if it suits you. I think it’s a noble pursuit, the joy in one’s work. The good news is, I think this suits not only you, but the work, too. The myth of the suffering artist is just that, a myth. It can make the work suffer, too. Let the work sing. Let yourself sing in the work.

So, in 2022, that’s what I’m doing, and maybe that’s what you’re doing too.

Seek joy in the writing.

Be selfish.

A little bit, anyway.

Have a great one. Let’s all agree to make this year dance for us, instead of us dancing for it.

26 responses to “Writer’s Resolution, 2022: The Necessary Act Of Selfishly Seeking Joy”

  1. You’re one of my favorite writers, not just in terms of the stories you tell, but the way you talk about and think about the craft of writing. I’ve lost the thread, to borrow your phrase, in my own writing, and 2022 is going to be the year I get back on the proverbial horse. Stop worrying about the fact that my work isn’t selling and just…create. Get back to the place where I sit at the keyboard and peck away because that’s who I am and that’s what I do. This might’ve been for you, but there are those of us who appreciate and needed this same message as well. So thank you for that.

  2. Thank you for this. Definitely something I needed to hear. It’s been a strange trip.

    And yes please, keep creating metaphor. When I was reading Book of Accidents I was astounded at how well you worked it, but “lightning laced the corset of the sky” was the one that SLAYED me. Freaking brilliant! I’ll never forget how viscerally I felt your words at that moment. Thank you for writing it.

  3. Thanks for this Chuck. Good thoughts all. It’s important to remember that the one thing guaranteed to give me a sense of joy, regardless of what else is happening in my life or the life of the world, is to sit down and write.

    Anyway – have a very successful 2022 – with a lot of joy in it where you can find it.

  4. Chuck, I have been “…a person in the ocean [clinging] to a piece of floating debris” for a while, even before The Plague. I don’t write (I make things out of nice metals, small enough to be worn) but I haven’t made things for a while now. But you have given me “something to hold on to” today. Compounding that, I have more life in my rearview mirror that I have on the road ahead. Not as much time left, so to speak.

    Thank you, Chuck. I appreciate your eloquence in giving us something to hold on to going forward, because I have this nagging feeling the future isn’t going to be easy!

    Happy New Year – may it be packed with birbs and apples. 🙂

  5. As a visual artist who had for years to “make a living” with it, I am still struggling, since I left the “market,” to feel that it—and I—are no longer commodities. Thank you, Chuck, for speaking to the recovery of creative joy. I want to feel the same delight that I did when I first discovered art as a child, with hailing frequencies wide open—and the freedom of doing what I want to do, as long as it takes me to do it, without editorial or client restrictions. The few but heady times when I’ve felt so in the flow, that my thinking, pencil, and brush seemed “guided,” I would love to feel more often. That, and also—a big one for a trying-to-be-former perfectionist—to accept that ideas/skills that don’t work at the time aren’t doomed failures, but temporary setbacks, waiting for a different day to be seen by different eyes. Love to all of us on the journey!

    • Thanks, Chuck.

      I haven’t written any fiction of note for more than two years mostly due to the batshit insane state of pretty much *everything*, but this year… I will write again!

      ((Hugs)) from Iowa and may you have a happy, healthy, productive, and sane 2022. <3

  6. This is such good advice. And…I would give a lot to figure out how to switch back to being the forward-facing partner in the ugly waltzes we’ve been having with the past two years, but I’m hoping that the first step is to take joy in something we do, instead of hoping that the chaos hands us some.

  7. I didn’t write a single word in 2021. Not one. I worked as a nurse, came home all used up, and ignored my writing. I did read a lot, because escaping into other worlds seemed preferable to this one. My new year’s resolution is to write for an hour a day, no matter what, because I’m halfway through the sequel to my first book and I need to finish it. I’m reading your post after today’s hour, and it made me remember the joy I felt writing the first book, how fun it was. So thanks for that. The pandemic is very real to those of us who work in healthcare. It’s draining, to be honest. But your post helped me realize I can’t let it drain the joy from my life.

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