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.
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.