Monday, April 29, 2013

Thoughts on Writing: Writing with Joy

This past weekend I had the privilege of attending a mini-retreat at my parish on “Serving with Joy,” led by Father Don Wester.
In addition to being pastor of All Saints, Father Wester teaches homiletics (aka the art of preaching) and was one of nine American religious leaders recently interviewed by Time Magazine online in the aftermath of the terror attack at the Boston Marathon. You can read his comments on preaching about hope amid disaster here.

             While the retreat lasted only a few hours, one thing Father stressed that stuck with me was: “Don’t let the simplicity of this day diminish the importance of it.”

             Much of what was shared during the retreat about serving with joy also applies to writing with joy.
              Some of the most memorable and moving words in history are simple and concise, yet powerful. “Let them eat cake.” “Jesus wept.” Blaise Pascal’s famous quote, which is often attributed to others: “I would’ve written a shorter letter if I had more time.” One slim and simple, yet indispensable, book on writing advice is Elements of Style by Strunk and White.  

             During the retreat we were reminded that we are the custodians of our own joy. As writers, we are custodians of our words.

             We were asked to reflect on what robs us of joy. As writers, criticism, self-doubt, and worry about what others might think about what we write can rob us of the joy of writing.

            Other reflections that hit close to home are “we learn something from our suffering. Compassion comes from our deepest suffering, and joy takes the shape of compassion.” We’ve heard stories about how writers suffer for their art. While that may be true for some, I believe that as writers we learn a great deal about ourselves through our writing.

             We were reminded that we are God’s masterpiece, his work of art. As writers, we create our own masterpieces with our words.
             Although my family and friends give me the most joy in my life, when I was asked during the retreat what gives me joy, I mentioned my writing.

             At the conclusion of the retreat, Father read to us Philippians 4:4-9. What touched me from that passage is: “. . . Rejoice. Let your gentleness be known to everyone. . . Do not worry about anything . . . Keep on doing things that you have learned and received and heard and seen in me . . .”

             I plan to keep writing and try not to worry about my own self-doubts or the criticism of others. In essence I hope to capture the joy that writing gives to me by sharing that joy with others through my words.            
            How about you? How do you find joy in your writing? 


  1. The custodians of our joy...the custodians of our words. What a wonderful thing to keep in mind, Donna. Thanks.

  2. I find joy in the process of writing. I please myself. Sure, I HOPE others will be amused. But if they're not, that's okay. If they think it's inappropriate, that's simply their opinion of what may or may not have been my true intention.

  3. I find joy when I write something that captures a special thought or moment or person on the page. It I really like it, I read it over and over to myself, and it doesn't matter if it is accepted by a publisher. I have written anything for a couple of months now, due to just trying to keep my head above water on most days. I am longing to get back to it, to have a fresh idea and wrestle it down to paper!

  4. "Don't let the simplicity of the day..." I love that qiote and will keep it in mind.

  5. I find joy when I succeed in a witty turn of phrase or a thought that manifests in words just so.

  6. Lovely thoughts, Donna. I do realize sometimes that I may be writing with an ear cocked toward someone else's opinion. ANd those are just the times that lose the joy of self expression.

  7. Hi Sioux,
    I like that, too. And you're welcome.

    Hi Val,
    Your writing is so amusing. You have a gift.

    Hi Claudia,
    I thoroughly enjoy your blog posts about your travels and family. They are so moving and entertaining, and memorable.

    Hi Linda,
    It's a brief but thought-provoking quote.

    Hi Sally,
    Same here! That is such a true statement.

    Hi Marcia,
    Thanks. I agree; it's not easy to turn off the inner editor.

  8. Oh, this was a lovely reflection, Donna, and reading it brought me joy! I needed to remember this morning that I write because it brings me joy (despite an alarming lack of productivity lately!)

    You're so right about the criticism (whether it's from others or ourselves)that robs us of our joy in whatever we do. Time to turn that switch off and enjoy the day (and writing)!

  9. I find joy when I realize my writing has helped others in some way. I also find joy when I complete something and turn it in--that is the best feeling! :)

  10. Thanks for the lovely post, Donna! I'm afraid I don't find much joy in writing these days ... mostly because I simply don't write for my own enjoyment anymore. I let business get in the way. But your post has inspired me to try to carve out some time to regain that lost part of myself. Thank you!

  11. Hi Cathy,
    Thanks. You are so sweet. I find that when I take time to reflect, it's not time wasted, but time multiplied by the sense of calm I fee. I totally agree about turning off the critical switch and enjoy life.

    Hi Margo,
    You are a joyful writer and a joyful person! Leaving something undone saps me of joy, so I agree that turning it in is a joyful feeling!

    Hi Dianna,
    You are welcome. You are so sweet, and uber busy, so thanks for stopping by and leaving a comment. While you might not have time to find enjoyment from your own writing, you give other writers joy by inspiring them to become better writers.

  12. Simply--writing makes me happy. :) I've always remembered an English teacher who said, "Brevity it a virtue." I didn't fully understand until I became serious about the craft of writing. And now I know that while brevity is a virtue, it is not always easily won.

  13. Well, I have to admit I don't often look at writing as joyful. Maybe I need a good strong dose of attitude adjustment!

    Critter Alley


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