A Writer’s Life: Joy

Writer, what makes you joyful? Like, singing-at-the-top-of-your-lungs joyful? So joyful that you just want to put on some crazy music and dance in your kitchen?

Do you know?

I actually had to think pretty hard to figure out what it was that made me that joyful. Spending quality time with people I love, flowers, music, moments when I am working on something I know is part of my soul and my purpose, fixing a plot hole, discovering a character; all of these are things that spark that kind of joy for me. And that kind of joy feeds my creativity and gives me the energy to do what I love with my whole heart.

So what about the moments when joy is hard to find and nothing seems to be going right?

Joy

Embracing joy is a necessary part of life. Without it, daily chores, schedules, and meetings become a drudge and nothing is life-giving anymore.

But it has taken me a long time to understand the rather nebulous idea of ‘joy’.

Because we’re supposed to have joy in every circumstance and season of our life, right? But for me, it’s always been hard to feel joyful when I am sucked down with too much work, broke, and struggling to find a job to add more onto my workload just so I can pay bills. It was hard to be joyful in the midst of a nasty breakup. It was hard to be joyful in the midst of a creative desert and a toxic workplace.

Joy sparks creativity. Without it, you may find your ideas withering to ash and your brilliant brain switching from explorer to autopilot.

If joy is so important, especially to creativity, how are we supposed to write when joy seems unattainable?

How To Make It Happen

Unfortunately, if joy is connected to circumstances and is, in fact, that fuzzy happy feeling curled just beneath your heart, it’s going to come and go, and more often than not, it’s going to go.

A little discouraging, right?

Unless you step back and realize that joy is not always going to be a feeling. Sometimes, yes, joy is a feeling and a very nice one. But sometimes—the bad times—joy is and will always be a choice. A choice to see the good where the bad is trying to blot it out. A choice to love what you do when you only have an hour or two a day—or week—to do it. A choice to focus on what is good in your life and to walk through the bad without drowning in it.

And yes, I realize that it’s very hard to do. I am still learning myself, and there are days that I crash and burn.

But somehow, I have always managed to pick myself up again. I do it with two truths, three tricks, and one spark of gratitude.

Truth #1

When life is rough, schedules are overloaded, and you are overwhelmed, joy becomes more of a choice than a feeling. And sometimes, that choice means smiling with gritted teeth and snapping a list of all the things you are thankful for instead of everything wrong in your life.

It’s not pretty. It’s not flowers and roses. Sometimes it’s crying on the bathroom floor until you’re ready to breathe again, smiling, and find five things to be grateful for amidst the mess—even if those five things are toilet paper, food in your fridge, that you have space to cry, books, and a story that you still love despite the way it’s driving you crazy.

Truth #2

You can’t find joy when you’re living on autopilot. I am the worst at this. When things are rough, I hit autopilot hard, and the goals I have consist solely of getting through the day and moving on to tomorrow.

And sometimes, that’s just life.

In the midst of a breakup, a bad situation at work, or a period of grief, sometimes autopilot is the best we can do, and—for a time—it’s the best thing for us.

But it’s hard to find joy on autopilot, and it’s even harder to be creative and embrace your stories there. Eventually, you’ve got to flick off the autopilot and start living again.

Three Tricks

  1. Find what you love. Find something that soothes your soul when everything else is going haywire. When I was struggling in a job environment that zapped my joy and energy and left me crying on the drive home, I did yoga. Obsessively. That hour before I went to work became the time when I chose joy and filled myself up for the day ahead. It centered me, reminded me that I had a life outside of this job and that I had some control over myself. Getting up that much earlier was hard, of course, but it helped me choose joy instead of discouragement.
  2. Appreciate what you have. Practice gratitude. Yes, there are hard things, and yes, your time is limited for what you love, but there will always be things to be grateful for. Make a list. Have a journal with pages of pages that begin with simply, ‘tell me something good.’ Choose gratitude instead of complaining.
  3. Get out of the rut. If a job is toxic, start looking for something else. If a relationship is destroying you, seek counseling and considering ending it. If things just need to be the way they are right now, then switch up your other routines a bit. Go for a walk after dinner. Meet a friend for lunch. Get up a little early to write or do yoga. 

One Spark Of Gratitude

Writer, you are alive. You have the world ahead of you, your life at your feet, and you are not alone.

So be thankful. Make lists, come up with something to be thankful for every time you have a cup of coffee or start your car, or just tell someone in your life how much their support and love mean to you.

Find something. Something that you love, something that is beautiful and meaningful about today. Something that you can be thankful for and find joy in. Embrace it. Pause for just a minute to enjoy it.

Then pause again, in the midst of your rushed writing session. Take a minute to appreciate that you, you, get to write this story. You have the opportunity to expand your imagination and put it to good use. You are a writer.

Be thankful for that.

Good luck, dearest writer! May your tea be hot and your dreams wild.

What is joyful in your life right now? What are you struggling to find joy in? Tell me about it in the comments, and stay tuned for next week, when we will be discussing discouragement and how it affects a writer’s ability to actually write.

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