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Bringing Back the Joy

March 4, 2009

In spite of the need to hone both your art and your craft, wrestle time to get things done, and stay on top of all the different elements required for successful, sustained publication, it’s important to remember why you started writing in the first place.

Hopefully, you started writing because you love it and it brings you joy.

How do you keep the joy in your work without getting overwhelmed by the business aspects which conspire to keep you perpetually busy?

Believe it or not, a regular writing schedule helps, in the same way that a regular work-out schedule helps. Your body starts to crave it as you approach the time, and you know you’ll feel better when your session is done. Regularly scheduled time is something to which you can look forward, not dread.

Once you’re under contract, whether it’s for a series of books, a series of articles, or simply continued work in the same genre, you can feel the pressure of expectation. Approach each project with your heart as much as your head. Yes, you answer to your agent, editor, and publisher now, and, once the first book hits and you’re working on the subsequent books, they’re always a ghostly presence a little past your left shoulder.

Lose yourself in your settings and your characters the way you did while writing the first book. You started this series FOR YOU as much as for your imagined readers. Now, you actually KNOW some of those readers, and, while it’s fun to imagine how they’ll respond to the new work, remember where that work originated, and stay true to your gut instincts about character and story development. Don’t be afraid to try new things, and get a solid sense of what truly works and truly doesn’t, so that when if a disagreement comes up, you can decide for what to fight and what to let go.

Don’t be afraid of new ideas that have nothing to do with what’s contracted. It’s always good to have a couple of side projects going that aren’t under contract, deadline, or obligation. I call them “projects of the heart” – pieces that I write simply because I want to, and not because I’ve got a market in mind.

That horrifies people who don’t pick up a pen without an eye on the potential paycheck. Let it. I sell more and more frequently than most of them do anyway. And much of what I sell started as “projects from the heart.” They have the passion and emotion and drive that enchants the editor and the reader, whereas sometimes, when there’s a pre-arranged deadline involved, you have to work a little harder to get up that level of passion.

Finally, don’t succumb to the notion that you have to hate your job, especially if your job is writing. It’s okay to love your job (whether it’s writing or anything else). The myth that you must hate your job or it’s not really a profession is perpetuated by miserable cubicle slaves too terrified to take the steps that will change their lives into something wonderful and meaningful. Because they’re afraid, they strike out at anyone with the courage to follow their dreams. Don’t let their words or deeds affect you. Laugh it off and spare a moment to feel some compassion for their cowardice. But don’t fall into their traps. Don’t let them feed on your energy, even if it’s anger or sadness. Your energy should be used to fuel your own work.

Remember what drew you to writing in the first place, and give yourself the opportunity to play within your work.

–Devon Ellington

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4 comments

  1. Wise words, Devon. I’m working on a ‘project of the heart’ right now. It’s fun!


  2. I totally needed this today.

    THANK YOU!


  3. Work out schedule? What’s that? Writing is MUCH more fun!


  4. Hi there! Great idea, but will this truly function?



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