It is good to work. Work with love and think of liking it when you do it. It is easy and interesting. It is a privilege. There is nothing hard about it but your anxious vanity and fear of failure.
And when you work on your writing remember these things. Work with all your intelligence and love. Work freely and rollickingly as though talking to a friend who loves you. Mentally thumb your nose at the know-it-alls, jeerers, critics, doubters.
— Brenda Ueland, If You Want to Write
I’m declaring this the year of writing smart and not scared. What do I mean?
For one, I want to approach my writing with intelligence and love. I want to work freely and rollickingly (is there a better, more joyful word to describe doing the things we love to do?). In other words, I want to be a whole lot more like Brenda Ueland.
Here’s my game plan:
1. I want to be aware of the work beneath the work. Am I involved in frantic wheel spinning because I feel I need to produce something? What’s my motivation behind my need to be busy? More often than not, I’m learning it’s fear.
2. I want to be proactive instead of reactive. Sometimes the writing life means there is nothing new to show, but important work has been done nonetheless. (I’m thinking of all the behind-the-scenes work that never, ever is efficient and sometimes feels like wasted time.) I want to learn to be more comfortable with what’s best for the work. And I want to think through what this means for each project (ideally ahead of time) so I’m not just putting out fires, but really benefiting the writing (and my learning, too).
3. I want my work, even when it’s hard, to bring about joy and satisfaction. Sorry, Brenda. I do believe it’s hard. But I still want the rollicking! I’m living my dream. There is so much to love: The freedom to experiment and play. The chance to write stuff that only I’ll ever see; to make things that might interest no one else, but will satisfy me. The room to try things that feel extra niche-y. The opportunity to pursue these things because the work feels like talking to a friend who loves me.
4. I will not be afraid of anxious vanity. I’m one to stress and worry about life in general. And this seeps into my writing life a lot. (I’m really awful when it comes to number 21 on this list.) I’m an all-out pro when it comes to worrying that I can’t write another book. I find it hard to give my work the space to grow from its fragile, junky beginnings, trusting it will one day be able to stand on its own. It’s way too easy to compare fledging drafts to finished books. That isn’t fair to the new work or to my creative process.
Augusta Scattergood says
#2 sounds like I could have written it.
Oh, and check out the essay /interview from today’s Wall Street Journal. Anne Tyler says she never reads her reviews. (I just put it on my own blog.)
Reviews teach us nothing!
Thanks for this excellent post and your inspiration, Caroline.
Let’s hold each other to it! Off to read your Anne Tyler post. Love her.
W.H. Beck (Becky Wojahn) says
Me! (Can we form a support group for this? )
I love your #3. More joy and satisfaction; less stress and anxiety, please.
I’m there with you, Becky. Let’s make this a real thing!
Michael Gettel-Gilmartin says
Wonderful post, Caroline. Bookmarking it.
(I love that it comes on the heels of Beth’s post, which I also loved. The Universe is trying to get something into my thick head!~)
I emailed Beth immediately after I read her post. She has been such an example and support to me. Love how we were thinking along similar lines this week.
Faith Hough says
I love this list, Caroline! #3 is beautiful…and right where I’m trying to be at…
Here’s to some rollicking fun!
Valerie Geary says
#1–Yeesh. Some days I am such a hamster on a wheel with my writing. And you’re right…it’s fear that drives that frantic feeling. Fear of not finishing in time (whatever that means). Fear of never being good enough (comparing myself to others). Fear of falling behind (since when did this become a race anyway?). So #1 is the big one I want to work on this year.
#1 is something we talked about ages ago…and continues to be something I think about regularly. So hold me to it and I’ll hold you. Deal?
Natalie Bahm says
Aww, Caroline. I love this. You are a brilliant writer, but also you are thoughtful and hard-working and because of those things I know you’ll always be successful. Best of luck in your new year. 🙂
I’ve missed you, Natalie! Thank you for this. All best to you, too. I need to email soon…
Valerie Geary says
Thank you for that Beth Kephart link. Words I needed to hear. She always has such beautiful ways of sharing her wisdom.
She has been such a great, great example of someone farther on the journey who has taken time to reach back to a new kid (me). I just love her.
Beth Kephart says
Dear, dear Caroline. I’m taking this journey with you. It’s a joy and privilege to have you in my life. Maybe 2015 is the year we can all pull back a little, avoid the antic qualities of the larger publishing world, and be who we naturally are. I can’t wait to read your book!
So very grateful for you, Beth Kephart! Can’t wait to share my book with you. xo
Kimberley Griffiths Little says
I read Beth’s post a few days ago and already printed it out to keep!
I love your post, dear Caroline. I’m IN! I’m with you in spirit and heart and love and rollicking frollicking. 🙂
I hadn’t seen that list of 24 Things No One Tells You About Publishing. Good stuff! I love #24.
Thanks for all of this, dear heart! xoxo
Love that you were on the other side of town reading Beth’s words, too. Let’s do this!
Irene Latham says
Dear Caroline – this post fits so lovingly in with the work I am currently doing with The Artist’s Way. Thank you. Also, I wrote a related post you might enjoy: http://littlepatuxentreview.org/2015/01/30/concerning-craft-poetry-as-practice-poetry-as-life/
Hello, you. I have never finished The Artist’s Way. I wonder if I picked it up to early in on my writing. Must try again. Now off to read your post.
Jenn Buell says
Thank you for this! I want my writing to be rollicking! You’ve encouraged this fledgling writer this morning over my tea cup in the quiet before I wake my four children to start my insanity. Thank you. Today I will write with abandon and not judge the first draft too harshly.
How I love hearing this! Enjoy and enjoy.
Deborah Wiles says
I love Brenda Ueland! Still learning to thumb my nose at the critics, and I will say that I am more like Dorothy Parker, who said (paraphrasing): I don’t like writing. I like having written. The act of writing does not bring me joy and satisfaction; it often brings me pain and heartache. But there is a lot of satisfaction at having done it, when it is finished. If that makes sense. Maybe even joy. Good luck this year.
Oh, I love this. Must find it and write it down.
Great thoughts. Especially since our voice and mood comes across in our words, so readers will have a gut reaction (that they probably can’t quite pinpoint) if we’ve been scared while we were tapping away at the keyboard.
A sense of fun or adventure will come out as well. And who knows where some of those dark novels have lurked before they break out into print.
A quick technique to lift your mood: stand up, head pointing upwards, yell out “Yes, yes yes!” (and ignore anyone who gives you odd looks when you do it). Even if you only yell in your head this works a bit but out loud is better for an almost instant fear-banishment.
To this I say Yes!
Linda Mitchell says
Wonderful goals! I love the quotes you share…they always feel tailored made for me!
Happy to hear it!