Charlotte Rains Dixon  

Putting Joy Back Into It

I've been slogging through the "final" rewrite of my novel lately.  

Its a funny thing with working on a long extended piece over time, such as a novel or a memoir.  You rearrange one chapter and this rearrangement uncovers other things that need attention.  Thus, more work and more rewriting.

As the days I've allotted for the rewrite stretch into weeks and then months, my will flags.  I want to get this novel published more than anything in the world.  It has been a lifelong goal to be a novelist.  And I think I have a better shot at it with this one than ever before.

But, dear lord, I'm tired of working on it.

The thing is, I also see that this rewrite is making my book into the novel it truly was meant to be.  With every rewrite, the novel's characters become truer and the plot gets stronger.   Civilians (ie, non-writers) tell me that if an agent likes it, he or she will forgive all the problems and take me on. But I know that the publishing world has always been a tough nut to crack, and now even more so now.  While it is tempting to take the civilians' well-meaning advice, throw up my hands and just send it out, as is, I'm holding out to finish this one last rewrite.  I know that agents look for the smallest excuse not to take on a client.  I know we have to send in our absolute best work.  And I'm willing.

But for the last couple of weeks, I've had to flog myself to work on it.  Honestly, it is hard enough to fit in time to work on the novel when I'm excited about it, but when the joy is gone its nearly impossible.    (The great irony in all of this, of course, is that I teach and coach this stuff–how to make time to write, no matter where you are in the process.)

But this morning, I felt it again–that joy.  The energy, the connection, the lift off the page to my heart. So, how did I get it back?  And how can you?  When I stopped to think about why this might have happened, I realized that I did, in fact, have some suggestions.

1.  Show up at the page.  This is far and away the most important thing.  There's a famous quote by Woody Allen, something to the effect that "90% of success is just showing up." So true.  Some days I showed up and sat and stared, but such effort is eventually rewarded with a flow of words.  The universe and the muses look kindly upon consistency.

2.  Take a break.  I know, I know, contradictory advice.  First I tell you to show up, then I tell you to not show up.  What I'm advocating here is taking a planned break.  Allow yourself to get totally and completely away from it without guilt and do something replenishing. (Julia Cameron calls it the artist's date.)  The key here is the planning.   I fall into the bad habit daily of taking an accidental break by checking out the latest news on the internet.  But  this is far less renewing than if I actually stepped away from the computer and took a planned break.  Figure out what relaxes and renews you and then go do it.  You can take a big break–like a whole morning off–or a little break, like a quick walk around the block.

3.  Accept you are in a different place.  If you are in the rewriting phase, like me, It is not the initial place of invention and excitement, but rather an area of discernment and editing.  If you need invention and excitement, take notes for another project.  Being in this different place you are not necessarily going to feel the joy of creation as when you first began it.  For me, just realizing this in a conscious manner paved the way to get back to work.

So those are my suggestions and if anyone has any more, I'd love to hear them.  All of this pondering on getting the joy back has brought up another topic in my mind, namely, when is it time to quit the tinkering and let it go? 

Ah, but that is a subject for another time.

0 thoughts on “Putting Joy Back Into It

  1. Roy

    Congrats on the milestone and on pushing forward! :)

  2. Kelly Parisi Castro

    I’m on year five (5) of my novel and your post really hit home. It helps to know that it’s hard for everybody. I loved hearing that Hemingway wrote Farewell to Arms 39 times! And that One Hundred Years of Solitude took almost 100 years of solitude. . . Why? is never a useful question; but how to move forward (today) is.
    I love your blog. Keep up the great work. – Kelly

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