How to Recapture the Joy of Writing

If you read my December 17, 2018 blog post, https://janetswritingblog.com/2018/12/17/to-write-or-not-to-write/, you know that I was considering giving up my ambition of writing and publishing a novel.

After much prayer, soul searching, reading some blogs and articles about writing – as well as reading many encouraging comments from my blog readers – I have decided to recommit to writing my southern historical novel.

Working title: The Spanish Coin OR The Doubloon

The working title of my book is The Spanish Coin, which refers to a gold Spanish coin – a doubloon – that shows up in a Carolina backcountry community in the 1760s. There is a murder, after which the coin is missing. Is there anyone in the small community who is not a viable suspect?

That’s the story I’ve been working on off and on for more than 10 years. I’m not getting any younger, so I’d really like to finish writing it. I would also love to get it published. That’s why I wanted to recapture my joy of writing.

Extrinsic vs. Intrinsic Rewards

Several hours after posting my blog on December 17, 2018, I read an article that was just what I needed. The link to “How to Restore Your Love of Writing” is https://writersinthestormblog.com/2018/12/how-to-restore-your-love-of-writing/. The article was written by Colleen M. Story, and it addressed much of the problem I wrote about on December 17, 2018.

In her blog post, Ms. Story explains that there are two kind of rewards writers seek: extrinsic and intrinsic. Extrinsic refers to the rewards the world gives us, while intrinsic refers to the rewards we get from within ourselves.

First, I needed to discern which type of rewards I wanted. Ms. Story offered several questions that I asked myself. Those questions led me to conclude that money would be great, but that’s not what is driving me. It is a sense of accomplishment that I seek.

What led me to start writing in the first place? It wasn’t money. Those who think, “I’ll be a writer and get rich” are setting themselves up for crushing disappointment. Some writers make the big bucks, but they are the exception.

What led me to start writing was an innate desire to put my thoughts on paper. I kept journals as a teenager and sporadically as an adult. I took a creative writing class in high school, but I never considered writing as a possible career.

Another blog post I found helpful

Several days later, I read the December 19, 2018 Writers in the Storm blog post:  https://writersinthestormblog.com/2018/12/top-10-writing-success-tips-from-ray-bradbury/. In it, Jenny Hansen lists her 10 favorite writing success tips from author Ray Bradbury. The five that resonated with me were the following:

            Do the work.

            Do what you love.

            Embrace your emotions.

            Read.

            Get out of your own way.

And, of course, my blog readers inspired me

I received a number of comments about my December 17, 2018 blog post, and I took encouragement from each one of you.

Since my last blog post

I have started writing a short story set in colonial America. I’d like to publish a book of short stories set in colonial America – my favorite place and time in history.

Until my next blog post

I’ll try to take Ray Bradbury’s advice and get out of my own way.

I hope you have a good book to read. I’m reading If I Understood You, Would I Have This Look on My Face? My Adventures in the Art and Science of Relating and Communicating, by Alan Alda.

If I Understood You, Would I Have This Look on My Face?, by Alan Alda

If you’re a writer, I hope you know why you’re writing. I hope writing gives you joy.

Thank you for reading my blog. You could have spent the last few minutes doing something else, but you chose to read my blog. I appreciate it! I welcome your comments.

Let’s continue the conversation.

Have you ever lost the joy you once had for an artistic endeavor, a favorite hobby or pastime, or your once much-enjoyed career? How were you able to recapture that joy?

Janet

They’re All Uncertain Times

Events of the last week prompted me to write about uncertain times for today’s blog post. It soon occurred to me that all times are uncertain because we cannot see into the future.

We tend to think the time we’re living in is more unpredictable than any other time, but if you’ll stop and think about it, you might see that life is and always has been full of doubts, worries, and stress. The unknown can do that to you.

I think about the uncertain times my known ancestors lived through:

English-speaking Lowland Scots being taken into the Gaelic-speaking Kintyre Peninsula in the southwest of Scotland to be tenant farmers in the 1600s and being required to attend a church where only Gaelic was spoken;

Scottish immigrants crossing the Atlantic and settling in the Carolina backcountry/wilderness in the 1760s; and

Those Scottish immigrants facing the American Revolution and not knowing what the outcome would be.

On December 23, 1776, in “The Crisis,” Thomas Paine wrote the following:

“THESE are the times that try men’s souls. The summer soldier and the sunshine patriot will, in this crisis, shrink from the service of their country; but he that stands by it now, deserves the love and thanks of man and woman. Tyranny, like hell, is not easily conquered; yet we have this consolation with us, that the harder the conflict, the more glorious the triumph. What we obtain too cheap, we esteem too lightly: it is dearness only that gives every thing its value.”

My ancestors lived through those times. The deaths of my Morrison great-great-great-great-grandparents during the American Revolutionary War left my great-great-great-grandfather orphaned at the age of nine. He and his siblings were cared for thereafter by his uncles and their wives, but it must have been more than frightening.

Then came the following trying times:

War of 1812;

American Civil War;

Reconstruction Era in The American South;

My maternal great-grandmother’s death in childbirth in 1881;

My paternal great-grandfather’s accidental death while felling a tree for lumber to build a kitchen in 1886;

Spanish-American War;

World War I;

The Great Depression;

My paternal grandmother and maternal grandfather both dying as young adults;

World War II;

Korean War; and

Illnesses and epidemics.

Living in the age of modern medicine and miracle drugs, it’s difficult for most of us to empathize with our ancestors who lived with the possibility of dying or watching their children die of typhoid fever, tetanus, flux, or polio.

When the Salk polio vaccine became available in the late 1950s, I did not fully appreciate what it meant to my parents. For me, as a child, I just remember our family going to the gymnasium lobby at Harrisburg High School on three Sunday afternoon after church to get an oral vaccine on a sugar cube.

The 1960s and years since have brought the following times of uncertainty:

Vietnam War;

Civil Rights Movement in the United States;

Numerous wars in the Middle East;

Rumors of more wars;

Terrorism; and

Incompetency and recklessness in The White House. (Don’t blame me; I didn’t vote for him!)

All of my ancestors down through my grandparents were farmers. I can’t imagine a life full of more uncertainties than one in which one’s livelihood is at the mercy of the weather.

I believe that God created the world with everything we need to not only survive but thrive. Human beings have brought on many uncertainties by not being good stewards of the world that God has entrusted to us – its animals and natural resources. Come to think of it, we have created most of the uncertainties ourselves – war, poor planning, poor agricultural practices, greed, and envy.

Earthquakes, hurricanes, tornadoes, floods, volcanoes, and wildfires happen, but even many floods and wildfires are caused by man’s carelessness.

I attended two funerals in less than 48 hours last week. One was expected after a long battle with cancer, but the other one was quite sudden. Life is full of uncertainties.

Reviewing some of the events and hardships my ancestors faced, and the things I’ve witnessed in my 64 years has helped me put recent events and concerns in perspective.

The sun comes up. The sun goes down. The world keeps spinning around and revolving around the sun. What an amazing world!

simon-hesthaven-216108 (2)
Photo by Simon Hesthaven on Unsplash

 

Until my next blog post

I hope you have a good book to read. I’m reading Killers of the Flower Moon:  The Osage Murders and the Birth of the FBI by David Grann and Among the Living by Jonathan Rabb.

If you’re a writer, I hope you have lots of productive writing time.

Janet

Some books I read in February

On February 21 I posted a blog about some of the books I read in January. I think in the future I will blog about the books I’ve read in a given month at the end of that month or first couple of days in the following month. I have good intentions, but you know what they say about those!

“Exploring North Carolina” is one of my favorite shows on UNC-TV. The host, Tom Earnhardt, never fails to educate and entertain as he explores the varied and rich geography, geology, flora, and fauna of the state. Although the vast majority of my books come from the public library, Mr. Earnhardt’s book, Crossroads of the Natural World: Exploring North Carolina with Tom Earnhardt was a book I knew I wanted to own. It’s the kind of book from which one can learn something new every time it is read. As if I needed any encouragement to visit every nook and cranny of North Carolina, this book makes me wish I could spend all my time doing just that.

Now that Sue Grafton is nearing the end of the alphabet, I decided to start reading her books. I read A is for Alibi in January and plan to continue reading my way through her popular alpha series. I couldn’t help but notice how telephone communications have changed since A is for Alibi was published in 1982. It almost places the book in the historical fiction genre.

Another case that falls into the “so many books, so little time” category is John Grisham and his books. I finally got around to reading Gray Mountain. (Yes, Sycamore Row is still on my “want to read” list — which is growing far faster than I’ll ever be able to keep up with.) I thoroughly enjoyed Gray Mountain. I love the way Mr. Grisham gets his points across regarding social justice issues without beating us over the head. In Gray Mountain, he puts a human face on how surface mining has scarred so much of our nation’s coal-producing region.

I was delighted to win a copy of The Third Reconstruction: Moral Mondays, Fusion Politics, and the Rise of a New Justice Movement, by the Rev. Dr. William J. Barber II with Johnathan Wilson Hartgrove. I participated in the Moral Mondays Movement in North Carolina in the summer of 2014, so I was eager to read Dr. Barber’s book. Even though I pride myself for staying informed about local, state, and national politics, Dr. Barber’s book opened my eyes to some historical connections that I had not made. This book shines a light on dirty politics in North Carolina but gives strong hope that this current grassroots movement will persist.

The Dark Road to Mercy, a novel by my fellow North Carolinian Wiley Cash, is primarily set in Gastonia, North Carolina and Myrtle Beach, South Carolina. It is the sad tale of two young sisters abandoned by their father and then left in a children’s home when their mother died. Long lost Dad shows up and wants his daughters. Thus begins a tale that will keep you wondering what’s going to happen next and what the final outcome will be. If you want to read what inspired Mr. Cash’s book, read his author page on Amazon.com. I’ll be on the lookout for his next book.

David Baldacci’s The Guilty was the next book I read in February. Mr. Baldacci did not fail to give the numerous twists and turns for which he is known. This whodunit is a true page turner. As a Southerner, I think the accents were at times overdone, and I was surprised he made the mistake of having a character ask another character, “What do y’all want” when obviously speaking to one lone individual. Also, I’ve never heard a Southerner use the term, “Yous.” On a positive note, he did spell “y’all” correctly, which is something some Southerners don’t do. The deeper I got into the fascinating story, the less I noticed the vernacular. Not sure how I’d feel, though, if I were from Mississippi.

Perhaps I am just sensitive about the accents because use of accents and brogues in dialogue is something I’m struggling with in my fiction writing. I’m dealing with Carolina backcountry settlers from Scotland, Ireland, and France and slaves from Africa in my historical novel manuscript titled The Spanish Coin. Since I’m a novice writer, who am I to criticize someone like David Baldacci? I’m striving to strike a balance between giving characters authentic voices and overdoing vernacular to the point that it distracts the reader from the story. It is a writing skill I must master.

Now I’m afraid this post is too long. Do I need to blog about what I’m reading more often than monthly?

I love getting back into the process!

I love getting back into the process of writing my historical novel, tentatively titled The Spanish Coin! Having a computer again and making time to get reacquainted with my 97,000-word manuscript has been fun and reassuring.

A few days ago I started with the first chapter and went to work tweaking words, phrases, sentences, and paragraphs. I have changed the layout of the house that Nancy Craighead Richardson lives in based on some things I saw in October in a house at Hart Square in Catawba County, North Carolina. That necessitates making consistent changes in the book as people move from room-to-room or can or cannot hear conversations taking place in another room. As I work my way through the manuscript for the umpteenth time, I still search for more precise words, more vivid descriptions, and tidbits to add in order to make my characters come alive.

The first hurdle I had to jump before plunging back into my manuscript was to once again come to grips with the fact that I am writing historical fiction. The historian in me was faced (once again) with a conundrum. When I write a history article or nonfiction book, I am a stickler for making sure every fact to checked and double-checked. Writing historical fiction based on a person who actually lived 250 years ago is a challenge for me. My fear is that someone will read The Spanish Coin and fall into the trap of thinking it is all based on fact.

In my manuscript I took a 1771 Carolina backcountry event and the lore that grew out of that event to weave a “what if?” story. In fact, I visited the Lancaster County SC Public Library in Lancaster on Friday just to make sure I had not overlooked something in my initial research for The Spanish Coin.

If I am fortunate enough to get my manuscript published, I must trust the readers to read it and appreciate for what it is — a work of fiction.