~ By Marilyn Brant
Note: This post originally appeared here.
There are downsides to the writing life. Ask any professional writer and you’ll get a chorus of groans about the MANY, MANY rejections, the years it takes to learn the craft (and the need to keep learning new narrative skills no matter how many eons you’ve been at this), the endless revisions, the confusing/chaotic/changeable publishing industry, the unending stream of promotional and marketing responsibilities, the necessity of being present on social media, the sometimes crushing critical reviews, and did I mention the MANY rejections?! (No April Fool’s joking here about any of the above.)
Yeah, okay. You’ve heard all these things before. Good. Moving on…
Now, let’s talk about one of the absolutely, indescribably, fabulously wonderful upsides of the writing life: The sheer JOY of the creative process.
Why do authors keep doing all of this crazy hard work? I’d say one reason is because of the thrill of creation — a sensation that can sneak up on you at surprising hours. It’s like a special drug that doesn’t damage your health. Like a jolt of caffeine just when you need the energy most. Like gourmet European chocolate that no one can snitch from you. It’s a secret weapon that inspires more than a little courage and great feats of endurance…and, for many writers, I think it drives us.
I’ll never forget the moment I finished the first draft of my first novel. I’d had many little bursts of delight along the way, but reaching “The End” was nothing short of euphoric for me. We had a little baby in the house and I’d been using my son’s nap times and any spare hours I could somehow lasso during the day (or night) to work uninterrupted. I’d tried to write a novel a few times before and had never made it past Chapter One or Two. This time, though, I managed to power through the entire draft by stubbornly working on it nearly every day for seven months…and when I wrote the last line, at 3:17am one freezing late-winter morning, I felt the endorphins rushing through my body as if I’d just finished a marathon. Indeed, I knew I’d run a type of race. I couldn’t be sure if I’d ever be able to cross the finish line again, but I was determine to try…if only to have a shot at experiencing that incredible feeling one more time.
Some of my books in the decade and a half that followed (10 novels and 1 novella, to date) were written faster than that first one — others were written significantly more slowly — but, always, at different points in the process of drafting each one, there were moments of pure, unadulterated joy. And maybe this is just me, but I’ve found it’s not a public thing. While there’s certainly fun to be had in social situations, this kind of moment doesn’t translate easily. It can’t be contained to a Facebook update or explained at a conference workshop. For me, at least, the intense feeling I’m remembering has never happened when I was in the company of others, despite having had a blast with my critique partners during our writing retreats and feeling energized by the ideas we brainstormed together.
This is something else. Something just between the writer and the page.
I think of it as an intangible, harmonic hum that we can feel, but cannot hear. It’s us becoming one with our characters, merging with them and stepping into the heart of our story. It’s the puzzle pieces clicking into place for a vibrant second, giving us a flash vision of the beautiful whole. It’s a rare moment, free of doubt or fear, where there’s only the certainty that we were somehow meant to do this. To create these characters. To write this story.
For me, there’s an ultimate tensile strength to the memory of this feeling, which somehow manages to outlast all of those acknowledged downsides. It’s what keeps me turning to that next fresh page…and writing down whatever line comes next, and then the one after that…
Seeking more joy.
Marilyn Brant is a New York Times & USA Today bestselling author of contemporary women’s fiction, romantic comedy, and mystery. She won RWA’s prestigious Golden Heart® Award (2007) for her debut novel, ACCORDING TO JANE, and was named Author of the Year (2013) by the Illinois Association of Teachers of English. She loves all things Jane Austen, has a passion for Sherlock Holmes, is a travel addict/music junkie, and lives on chocolate and gelato. Her coming-of-age romantic mystery, THE ROAD TO YOU, was a Top 100 B&N bestseller and an homage to Historic Route 66. Look for Marilyn’s new contemporary romance series, coming this summer, and visit her website: www.marilynbrant.com .