Reclaiming the Joy


I’ve struggled for the last year with my writing. Like anyone who does this professionally, I weathered through, stuck my butt to the chair and wrote all kinds of crap, edited, rewrote, and read craft books in the hopes of reclaiming the joy in my writing. Writing had never been work for me. Don’t get me wrong. I considered it a career, and I approached it as a professional. However, it was always fun. It was the true “joy” in my “work” life. The last year that had all changed. I found myself in a writing funk that nothing could blast me out of and believe me I tried all sorts of remedies. Ask my critique group.

There were good reasons. I was teaching full-time AND adjuncting at a local college. I loved both and didn’t feel any draining of my energies. I continued to exercise and stay on top of my life so two jobs was manageable. Or so I thought.

Then, my dad became ill. I spent three months taking him from one doctor and testing facility to another before getting a devastating diagnosis in November. We were still reeling from that when our youngest son became ill. He thought it was the flu, but it didn’t go away and pretty soon he weighed 100 pounds and became dehydrated. A trip by ambulance to the ER scared everyone. Finally, doctors diagnosed and treated him, and he was able to begin healing.

We thought 2011 would bring better news. I looked forward to two writing conferences in the spring and pitching my novel. Okay, I was pretending to look forward. I knew the joy wasn’t there. Then, my husband pulled me from my classroom at the end of February. A shoplifter had stabbed our oldest son at his job. We made a flying trip to see him and since then have dealt with court appearances, testimony, and the emotional aftermath of trauma. (for the parents – our son is fine, go figure) We wondered if we should take out our landline and bury the cell phones in the yard.

There were other challenges this year, but these were the high or low points. My school year has finally ended and with it a piece of good news arrived like a rainbow following all those ragged storms we’ve suffered in the Midwest. Last night I sat down to make edits to my manuscript. I pitched my YA to an agent at the conference, and she requested the manuscript so I have a lot of work to do. As I edited, a realization hit me. I was having fun.

The joy was back.

Had it been working two jobs? Was it all the trauma? Was it everything combined? I don’t think it was those things directly. I believe it was something more threatening, probably as a result of my year.

I’d lost hope, that elusive quality that keeps all of us going no matter what. Everyone experiences bad times, and they impact what we do. The loss of joy in your craft is not something I would wish on anyone. Today, I am grateful for its return.

Have you ever struggled with your writing joy? How did you reclaim it?

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6 Comments

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6 responses to “Reclaiming the Joy

  1. C.D.Jarmola

    That’s what I struggle with the most. The losing of hope. I love the writing process and I’m happy with what I create. But then I take it out to share with the world and no one wants it. It’s like dressing up every night to go meet Mr. Right and he never shows up. But then I, like you, sit down to re-edit my work and I think – Damn, I’m good. And so I keep trying. You keep trying too!

    • dawnall

      I love your analogy. It is like that. One of the best things about the writing community is that it is my relationship with other writers who are experiencing the same process that helps me keep the hope alive.

  2. Jennifer

    I’m glad you found your joy again. My biggest problem is finding the strength to sit down and write when I really just want to take a nap. Of course being 8 mths pregnant will do that to a person.

    • dawnall

      Yes, it will. I admire your efforts. I didn’t even attempt to write until my kids were older. Tired was a permanent state of affairs.

  3. Bill

    In my own writing, momentum seems to play a larger role than inspiration. Once I stop writing for a while, I find it difficult to resume. Small projects, such as a book review or a lesson plan, force me back to the keyboard, while editing the work of a student or colleague reminds me of the value of creative control.

    • dawnall

      I agree that stopping is harmful to momentum. And too many times life throws roadblocks up that stop us. That’s when that force my hind end into the chair no matter how hard it is becomes my life saver. Writing prompts help a lot when that happens. They jump start my writing.

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