Once, I thought the more books I wrote, the easier this writing gig would get. Bwhahaha!! Nope, not for me. I’ve been thinking about this a lot over the last year as I really struggled to write my last two books (CAGED MAGIC and EXPOSING THE HEIRESS), and that has me something seasoned authors told me long before I was published:
Enjoy the process now because once I published, all the pressure, deadlines and drama would suck out the joy.
Hmm, after writing twenty-some books, am I losing my joy in the process?
Sure, I look back on my early days of “writing the free and untamed book of my heart” with nostalgia. I miss just going for it without that pesky voice of experience in my head censoring each word, questioning every character motivation, scoffing at an unrealistic plot line or nagging me about passive writing. Trust me folks, those voices crowd into my head, bottlenecking my writing process and frustrating the bejeepers out of me. On top of that there are always deadlines ramping up the pressure to produce, which of course, sends my brain into the blue screen of death.
Oh yeah, it seems like the early, pre-published days were glorious – until I wipe away the nostalgia of writing with more hope and joy than any real skill, and I realize the truth.
I was clueless as shit.
No seriously. I didn’t know what sold. I didn’t understand the appeal of a trope (a tried and true plot line like redemption or falling for best friend’s little sister). I didn’t know how to emotionally hook a reader into my character’s goals to create page-turning tension, or how to use hooks and action to ramp up pacing and keep the reader from putting the book down.
I’m still learning every single day. I love that part of the job, I’m always pushing myself to write a better, more powerful and cleaner story.
But I hate the fear that has come with the knowledge. The more I learn, the better I get, the more critical and frustrated I become with my own writing. I realized this even more as I just did a revision on CAGED MAGIC, plus copy edits and proofreading on EXPOSING THE HEIRESS. I’m never satisfied and I suspect I never will be.
That’s called growing as a writer. Sure, in my beginning days as a writer, the newbie passion burned brighter and sitting down to the computer was more of a joyful experience. But that’s a memory that’s been cleaned and sanitized by time, often conveniently forgetting all the numerous people who didn’t take my career goals seriously and a few who made fun of me. And later, too many dream-crushing rejections to even count. Nostalgia has a way of softening the old pain and letting us recall the good times over the bad.
These days, getting paid to do a job I love is priceless. A deep and satisfying joy because I had to work my butt off for it with long hours, painful mistakes and pure determination to do it over and over until I got it right. Or at least close to right as I could, because as I said before, I’m never completely satisfied.
In my early days, I had a dream and every time I put my fingers to the keyboard, I was pursuing that dream with joy. That’s a good thing.
But now? I’m living the dream. It’s harder, takes more blood sweat and tears, but the joyful dream has matured into a sense of accomplishment, and a drive to keep doing it. And the pay off? Every time a reader falls in love with one of my books or characters, I experience profound sense of happiness that is significantly more satisfying that the simple joy I felt in those early days.
My joy still lives and burns, it’s just tempered by time, experience and the drive to do my best not to let down my readers who got me here.
May 15th, 2015 at 7:54 am · Link
Beautifully written, Jen. And so freakin’ true.
I think with my current book, I am hitting that wall of ‘how am I really going to make this work’ VS I’m FINALLY WRITING AGAIN. The joy is still there, but its vastly different. Not that I have even a grain of your experience, but I get it.
I look up to you, so very much. I don’t think you understand. You crank out book after book, and I see your journey and frustration and its real to me. You are real, not just the author with loads of money, drinking her wine and nibbling on chocolate (not to say you don’t drink wine or eat chocolate-but I think you get me) making it look so easy and without a stress in the world.
You put it out there and let us see the trials and tribulations…and also the joy of each book.
I can honestly say, I’ve never read a book by you I didn’t love.
Thanks for being such an inspiration to me. Hope one day I can be you when I grow up.
May 15th, 2015 at 8:22 am · Link
Yep, yep, and yep. I’m finding joy in the ability to publish my own books. (Accidental Death is available for pre-order now.) But I haven’t written any new words in months and that kinda sucks. I need to get back to writing. Maybe now that AD is out and Wish in One Hand is months off, I can sit down and bang out some new words.
I’m so glad you found your joy, Jenn, and kept it alive even through the naysayers and the turds and the negative Nellies. Your books are awesome. Still, I’d like to see you get some of that initial WOOHOO! back. Because then there’d be hope that it’s not totally lost over the long haul. Maybe we all need to take a month and write something totally off the wall, without worrying about whether it will sell or whether anyone will love it. LOL, like any of us has a month to blow on frivolousness. Hey, a gal can dream. ;o)
May 15th, 2015 at 11:20 am · Link
I have nothing to say to this. You said it all. And that last line?
Yeah. That. That’s the fear I experience every time I sit down at the computer. That’s the motivation every time a new character and story creeps into my imagination. That’s the goal I’ve set for my career.
And now back to work…
May 15th, 2015 at 11:21 am · Link
Ashlynn!! Wow. Just…wow. Your comment really touched me today. I hope that is exactly who I am — someone you and others can relate to. I’m not famous or rich, I’m just me — a woman who is passionate about writing and driven to tell decent stories. But I am just as passionate about all the reader-friends and author-friends who’ve come into my life through this job. That is a true gift, and you are definitely one of those gifts
As to what you’re going though now, I get it so much. The first blush of excitement fades as we gain the experience that tells us each and every book will be Real Work. Fear begins to seep in and then the struggle grows. Be smarter than me and believe in yourself. I do and I know you’ll keep writing amazing books!
May 15th, 2015 at 11:28 am · Link
B.E, congrats on getting Accidental Death up for preorder!
I have moments of amazing joy, but I doubt I’ll ever be as much of a true believer as when I signed my first contract or heard all the glorious promises from publishers etc. Experience has a way of doing that. But on the other hand, I wouldn’t keep doing this if I didn’t love it. The hours suck, the sleepless nights are draining, the worry is eating up my stomach but the payoff is worth every single second. Every time a book is published and a reader is happy, it’s rewarding and validating. I love it.
Still I love your idea of a vacation from work and doing something crazy!
May 15th, 2015 at 11:31 am · Link
Silver, thanks and I know you relate to this We’ll talk this summer at RWA!
May 15th, 2015 at 3:30 pm · Link
What a beautiful post. Nicely thought out and right from your heart. We’ve all watched you struggle with each book and too. I never realized that much of that has come from what you have learned with each passing book. But still I will tell you that you don’t need to worry, that we know we’ll be getting a great read.
Thank you again for giving us a look into you :).
Have a great weekend!
May 15th, 2015 at 4:20 pm · Link
Viki, thanks I feel like I’m saying the same thing over and over. And I do have great moments — like to day I was forced to be still and quiet for an MRI and came up with something I really like for my next book. Love those moments when an idea strikes.
I really appreciate your confidence in me! Have a great weekend!