Monday Motivation! With Joy!
Welcome to our fourth installment of Monday motivation! This is a one-month interlude of motivational fun, as I’m doing some traveling and unable to write the regular bi-weekly news column. Enjoy! Regular Lit Mag News news roundups will resume in August.
Confession: Sometimes it feels like I don’t enjoy writing fiction as much as I used to.
Don’t worry. I’m don’t plan on stopping anytime soon. I still enjoy it enough to keep at it.
It’s just, I noticed something happening in my relationship to the craft. It took place about a decade ago. I can’t pinpoint the exact moment, but I know that there was some kind of small shift in my approach to my work. At some point, I decided I needed to Get Serious About My Writing.
Around this time, I also started wearing a blazer. With elbow patches.
This is, of course, an important step. (Not the blazer with elbow patches.) Getting serious about one’s work, I mean. I encourage all writers to take their work seriously, to protect it, nurture it, study it, not give up on it.
But also important is that in the process we don’t lose the spirit of playfulness, joy and wild hunger that initially brought us to this craft. Admittedly, this is what I sometimes lose sight of.
In the process of revision, in moments of trying to anticipate what others want and expect rather than what I can articulate and make new, in moments of uncertainty when I try to make my words fit in rather than stand out, at times of self-doubt when I chip away at my own work until I can no longer hear the particular voice inside of it, then I know that something has been lost.
At these times it’s as though the work’s spirit has been crushed in my efforts to wrangle it into a form someone else will hopefully deem acceptable. In those times the eager joy that first brought me to the desk has most certainly slipped away.
What it feels like is writing from a place of fear, rather than a place of power.
It feels like wearing a super cool blazer with sleek shiny lapels. Meanwhile the body underneath is a quivering shell with nothing inside.
As I get older and continue along this path of being a writer, and continuously re-discover and re-define what that means and how to make it happen, I’m thinking more and more about balance. Finding balance between taking your work seriously but also remembering to marvel at your own experience every time you put new words onto a page. Balance between being professionally ambitious but also privately proud of what you have already accomplished. Balance between trying to meet tangible goals while also remaining full of wonder and love for the self that has simply shown up and attempted the day’s writing.
What happens between you and your work on any given day really can be extraordinary. We all know this. Surely this is why we come to writing in the first place. We have all tasted those sparks of magic. We have held those fireworks in our hands, been stunned by their bold and crackling light.
Let’s not let professional ambitions take that away from us. Let’s never make up stories to tell ourselves, that we haven’t yet reached some essential place or yet arrived in some very-important velvet-roped section of the literary world. Let’s not berate ourselves over some fantasy about where we imagine we’re supposed to be at any given moment, or age, or stage in our lives.
It’s not necessary. It’s not even real.
What’s real is what happens with you, every time you sit down to write. Can you find that connection today? And come back tomorrow, and seek it out again?
If you’ve lost it, can you find your way back to it? One word at a time?
If you’ve always had that connection, can you keep going and promise yourself never to lose it?
The nice thing about this relationship of presence with your own work is that you don’t even have to wait for it. You don’t have to send the message out, check your Submittable queue, twiddle your thumbs for six months, then open your email to hear what the verdict is. Heck, you don’t even have to pay a submission fee!
This is free. This is the good stuff. This is available to you, to me, right this very moment. No one can take it away from you. It is yours to keep. It’s already here.
Joy. And connection. And pleasure in the work itself. Your work. Which only you can do.
For this week’s motivational mojo, go forth and write something you love. I don’t mean write a great story or go write a kickass poem.
I mean, find love in the process of something you are writing. Fall in love with your own style. Enjoy the zany family member who interrupts everyone in your short story. Delight in a languorous description of the rosiest-fingered sunset of all time. Linger over all your luscious and luxurious alliterations.
Go wild with cliches! Don’t let that mangy cat get your tongue! Open all the cans of all the worms! The more the merrier! Beat that dead horse and beat it good!
Swing on the vines of your each and every sentence, dear friends. Find utmost pleasure in what you, and only you, can create with your magnificent mind.
Have a good time of it.
No matter where you are.
Now it’s time. The day, the week, the moment is all yours.
Go on, dear ones. Go write your beautiful hearts out.
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