Joyful, Joyful: Writing and Responsibility


It is disorienting when you feel something newly born within your heart. Falling in love. Finding the rotting zombie of hate in a graveyard of memory. Returning home and being a stranger. Recently, I’ve fallen in love with writing. And I am off balance.

Writing was what I wanted to do in college, but it was born from wanting to be a critically acclaimed “important” writer. I wanted to be the next fill in the blank. I wrote without heart and full of pretension.

It was a chore for me.

It was not vital.

It was disheartening.

I’ve always felt my future career was in the creative world. Cartoonist and illustrator have been titles I can use to make a living in that world. Drawing can feel fun until a project comes along where I need the money and don’t really care about what I am putting on the page.

When I finish a piece of drawing and Kristin tells me it is good, I don’t feel much.

When I finish a piece of writing and she says it is good, I am filled with joy.

I didn’t see this coming. I was shocked to wake up with “writer” in the middle of my mind like a mystical name given in the night.

All I want to do is think, talk, read, and write!

Not for the sake of critics.

Not for fame or glory.

Not to be remembered in textbooks by obsessed researchers and bored students.

I want to write for the sheer joy of it. Seeing words on a screen or a page. Getting thoughts down and wrestling with grammar and structure to make the poor, mediocre, or the mediocre, good. These are what I want to do, all the time.

Kristin will tell you I get obsessed with things easily: running, card games, video games, television shows, etc. I fear I may be obsessing with the joy of writing.

I have responsibilities. I have drawing deadlines. I have old unfinished design projects I need to deliver. I have my day job. I have my family of which to be a part. I can’t throw these things off for an affair with writing.

I need to learn what everyone learns when a new things is born, how to not spoil it. How to give proper space. How to not feel so off-balance all the time with blinding love or expectation.

It’s a difficult task for me as I read Zen and the Art of Writing by Ray Bradbury. He exploded and burned for his writing. The incendiary efforts of his mind and typewriter fueled so many stories and worlds. He understood the place of the “cool” moments of editing, but he described not writing for a day as if his thoughts and ideas would become toxic.

I have to wonder what other things in his life suffered as he chased his love with pen and paper?

What moments of joy or terror were lost by obsessing with stories?

A bit of wisdom comes to me from Ecclesiastes, a truism easily forgotten, “for everything there is a season.”  I can’t give myself, body and mind, to the desire to write. I need to remember my responsibilities and things I value like walking with my family, talking with Kristin, staring at a sunset and the changing color of leaves, or being in a quiet room at rest.

I am in awe of the sheer joy of writing I now possess. Now it is up to me to find a way to father the flame of my joy; a way for it to continue to give warmth and light, not to let it die, and not feed it to the point it burns my life down around me.

Fellow writers, I hope you can find a way too.

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