Spring Back into Writing

Spring is here in Utah! I always think of my grandma during this time as she loved tulips and fancy Easter tea parties. She got all her grandkids giant chocolate eggs filled with buttercream, raspberry, or caramel. Our names were written on the top with blue and pink pastel frosting. I always picked caramel. It was a beautiful treat, that you almost didn’t want to eat, but that didn’t last long. When I start to ponder moments with her, I also remember the very last thing she said to me. One that has stuck in my core. One that quite often I remind myself to do and need to be reminded often. “Don’t forget to follow your dreams. Please take care of my girl too,” she’d said.

My grandma knew me very well and she had seen my love for taking care of those around me. She adored that, but she worried to know end that I would always put myself last. I promised her before she passed that I would make myself a priority and follow my dreams. That, seven years ago, was the day I began taking myself and my writing seriously.

Now, that we’re a few months into 2018 sometimes goals and motivation start to lag, and we need to be reminded to keep going. Follow our passions. Push through what feels to be impossible. Show yourself what you’re made of and write all those beautiful words.

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Each day throughout April, write a quote on an index card and post it somewhere so you can see it, or you can read it out loud, if you’d rather. Let’s spring our writing forward with motivation, inspiration, and allow ourselves to see where we’re growing, not where we’re falling short. Here’s a selection of quotes to get you jumping forward.

  • Write with confidence because your opinions count—Chloe Henderson
  • One of the key joys about being a writer is that everyone seems to do it slightly different—Marcus Sedgwick
  • Keep your writing time sacred—Chloe Henderson
  • It is a delicious thing to write, to be no longer yourself but to move in an entire universe of your own creation— Gustave Flaubert
  • As soon as you start to pursue a dream, your life wakes up and everything has meaning— Barbara Sher
  • The prerequisite for me is to keep my well of ideas full. This means living as full and varied a life as possible— Michael Morpurgo
  • As is the case with anything that requires hard work, the more you do it the better you will become. Write as often as possible, and don’t feel you need to carry on from where you left off-you could write a scene that appears later, then you have the exciting puzzle of how to get from where you are to that scene—Chloe Henderson
  • Enjoy the process of writing and what you learn about yourself—Chloe Henderson
  • The secret of getting ahead is getting started— Mark Twain
  • I write only because there is a voice within me that will not be still— Sylvia Plath
  • I admire anybody who has the guts to write anything at all— E.B. White
  • Break routine occasionally and surprise yourself by doing a new activity or exploring somewhere new. People-watching can be very inspiring to a writer. Imagine the stories people must tell, where they are going and what their dreams are—Chloe Henderson
  • Dream your idea into being. Don’t force it—Chloe Henderson
  • One must be drenched in words . . . to have the right ones form themselves into the proper pattern at the right moment— Hart Crane
  • If you want to write, you can. Fear stops most people from writing, not lack of talent, whatever that is— Richard Rhodes
  • Even the great writers admit to poor first drafts. You’re in good company—Chloe Henderson
  • I’ve found it helpful to spend time with my writing project like it is a person rather than a thing— Gilmore Tamny
  • Use your own experiences both good and bad—as fuel for your writing—Chloe Henderson
  • It’s better to write something imperfect that you could improve on later, then stare at a piece of paper (or a screen) waiting for “the muse” to inspire you—Deborah Nam-Krane
  • You don’t write because you want to say something, you write because you’ve got something to say— F. Scott Fitzgerald
  • Like life, your characters will need to go through highs and lows in order to appear as real as possible to the reader, and so that the reader will root for them and be interested enough to know what happens to them—Chloe Henderson
  • Look inside yourself, then beyond yourself and see that everyone has a unique story to tell-what’s yours—Chloe Henderson
  • I write entirely to find out what I’m thinking, what I’m looking at, what I see and what it means— Joan Didion
  • The good writer seems to be writing about himself, but has his eye always on that thread of the universe which runs through himself and all things—Ralph Waldo Emerson
  • If you have an idea just before going to bed, write it down or text/email it to yourself- because you won’t remember it in the morning—Chloe Henderson
  • Allow yourself to make mistakes—Chloe Henderson
  • Look for inspiration in your own work—seek out small clues in your writing that you can develop—Chloe Henderson
  • Don’t just celebrate your big wins. Celebrate for your failures, losses, and every little step you take that leads to the big steps. They’re all important in your personal journey—Lauri Schoenfeld

Learn from the rainstorms and remember they help to make things blossom! Keep writing and finish those stories. People are waiting to hear yours.

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Lauri Schoenfeld’s first love is her little clan of three silly kidlets and her wonderful hubby, Andy. Writing is a close second. She began writing poems at the age of nine, and her love for literature and music developed into composing thirty songs.  In 2014 her short story, Christmas Treasure, was featured in an anthology called, Angels from their Realms of Story.  Her favorite genre to write is anything dark, psychological, and suspenseful, but she enjoys expanding her horizons and dipping her feet in other genres as well.  Lauri teaches summer writing classes for kids and mentors teens throughout the year. She’s a Child Abuse and Scoliosis Survivor. Lauri runs a group for teen girls with Scoliosis called, The S Squad. Their motto is Strength, Support and Self Confidence.  She’s been known to dance around the house with a spoon as her microphone and sneak toppings from the ice cream bar. Lauri’s taken online classes at the Institute of Children’s Literature and was the President of the League of Utah Writers, Oquirrh Chapter for two years.  She’s a member of Crime Writers and International Thriller Writers.

Why I Write: My Cancer Story

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Seven words kick-started my writing career. “It’s not good, kiddo, you’ve got cancer.” That was almost 5 years ago when the doctor showed up on my doorstep in scrubs, straight from work.

It was 5 years ago that I started taking writing seriously.

I had two types of breast cancer.

I was 34 years old when I was diagnosed and had been contemplating what I wanted to do for at least the prior 5 years before. I found myself getting caught up on technicalities or writing: finding and making time to write, questioning my quality of writing; wanting to do a blog but not sure the proper name to give it… then being afraid that I would look stupid juxtaposed to those amazing other blogs.

The list of excuses goes on. I won’t bore you with them.

But, the biggest fear I always had was that if I did the “thing” I was supposed to do with my life, then I would die sooner. My clouded thinking kept me from writing.

Sure, I was a closet writer. There was nothing that could keep me from writing. It was the sharing of my writing that was shoved to the black hole of the closet.

But hearing that I had cancer solidified one fact for me: if I don’t start sharing my writing I may die before I get to do the thing I most wanted to do with this life.

It’s true, prior to my cancer experience I had a national magazine that paid me for an article but never actually published it. The letter that read “Dear Author,” was enough to satisfy me for a while. But, somewhere inside I just knew I wanted to do more with my writing. Once wasn’t good enough for me anymore. And besides, only the editors got to read it so in some ways that just didn’t count.

It was time to put myself out there. It was time to write and share it. The desire of my heart was sent to heaven and blessings poured down.

Blessings Pouring Down

Once I decided what I wanted to do, my eyes were open to opportunities. After voicing my desire to write, the cancer center asked me to write an article for the monthly newsletter. And since writing workshops encouraged giving of your talents to start building portfolios, it was a no brainer for me.

Though, let’s be honest here, a big portion of me wanted to be paid for my effort. I mean, really, I knew the time I put into my writing. And who doesn’t want a paycheck? After a little internal debate I took on my first free job.
After one article the cancer center told me I needed to write bigger. They told me I needed to expand myself beyond a simple newsletter that would reach a handful of people. I needed to get my words on bigger paper.

This one free newsletter act landed me speaking assignments and it gave me even bigger opportunities.

Soon, the doors started opening. A national cancer magazine, Conquer, contacted the cancer center looking for stories. The editor called me and asked me to write for her.  I even got brave and asked if they could pay me a little something for my time (yikes, scary). Though most of the articles were donations she agreed to pay me for mine.

I worked hard on that article. It was my first real debut afterall. I mean the first one that people besides the editors would read.

After Conquer received my article she called me asking if I was a “professional writer or something”. Booh-yah!

“No. I’m just a girl with a passion for writing.” I am still just processing her words. Wow. Biggest payday ever.

“Did you take some writing classes?” she asked. She had some professional writing background and taught writing classes at a university.

I was a little embarrassed as I had to answer, “No. Just the basics in college. My degree is in nutrition.”

“Well, keep writing. You have a way with words.”

I don’t tell you this to brag. No way. I tell you this because I don’t want you to doubt your abilities. Your passion will be the vehicle to your success. I had no training in writing just a deep love for it. Doors will open in unlikely spots if you put yourself out there. Take advantage of every opportunity to share your passion. Other doors will open.

CANCER STRIKES AGAIN

So. My brave meter started rising. I decided to do that blog I had been thinking about (and overthinking about).

Soon after I decided to follow through with putting together my blog. I stopped worrying about picking the best name out there and just did it. I just plain started to write and publish my writing. I was so scared putting my 1st post out there but soon 1 post turned into over 100 posts and I was doing what I was meant to do. I was asked to join the Thinking Through Our Fingers blog and have been writing for them for a few years.

And somewhere in the middle of all of that cancer struck again.

Just 18 months after finishing chemo, radiation, and surgeries I was diagnosed again with cancer: metastatic breast cancer. It’s stage 4 cancer, which is incurable. It spread to my ribs, my backbone, my right hip, my right arm. The spots were small and they felt it was manageable. Not curable, just manageable.

The last 2 years I have been fighting stage 4 cancer. It has since spread to every vertebrae on my back, my liver, my lungs, my spleen. I don’t tell you this to make you feel bad for me. Absolutely not. I tell you this to let you know that there comes some sort of emotional healing when I write. That the pains of my condition are weakened because I can write. Feeding passions heals heartache and brings power into your life.

And that life is precious. Don’t waste time on wishing you could do the things that you wanted to do. Chase your dreams. Make them happen.

My trials gave sustenance to my writing.

Thank You

I’m glad that the doctor showed up on my doorstep 5 years ago. I’m glad I’ve been able to walk through this cancer journey so I could write. My heart is full of joy from following my desire to write all along while my body is filling up with cancer. I’m glad I took that chance 5 years ago. It has gotten me through my hard times with cancer. Writing has been the healing medication to my soul.

I did only one simple thing: I decided I was going to write. And how it has filled that hole in my life. How it has enriched and blessed my life.

So if I have just one word of wisdom to pass along it is this: Decide to follow your heart, then get to work. Write. And take advantage of those free writing opportunities, you never know where it will lead.

Today I have written my last blog post for TTOF. I want to thank you for your amazing support and opportunity I have had to share my writing journeys with you. There is a time and season for all things. It has been my blessing to be able to have this season with you. But, the time has come for me to focus on my family and maybe do a little writing through my personal blog as I feel necessary.

Thank you for sharing and commenting and keeping me afloat in my writing journey. What a blessing all of you have been to me. May your writing journeys explode your heart and fill you with the joy as I have found in simply thinking through my fingers.

Have a wonderful day… that’s my plan.  

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christie-perkinsChristie Perkins is a survivor of boy humor, chemo, and faulty recipes. She loves freelance writing, blogging, and is a nonfiction junkie. Her stage 4 cancer doesn’t knock down her passion for life and writing. Not a chance. A couple of magazines have published her work but her biggest paycheck is her incredible family. Christie hates spiders, the dark, and Shepherd’s Pie. Bleh. Mood boosters: white daisies, playing basketball, and peanut butter M&M’s. You can find out more about her on her blog at howperkyworks.com.

 

 

Writer Beware: Speed Bumps Ahead

There are moments when a writer feels blocked. No words come. The story stalls. You’re staring at a brick wall. Every writer needs their own bag of tricks for overcoming Writer’s Block. (One of the best: a deadline.)

Speed Bumps

You might not have heard of another writer condition, one similar to Writer’s Block, but it differs in a significant way. I call it Writer’s Speed Bump, and knowing how to treat it is critical. Continue reading

Road Trips & Other Journeys

I just read The Alchemist by Paulo Coelho, coming home from a road trip, wondering why I’ve never stumbled upon this book before. But, I’m insanely grateful that I’m reading it now. I’ve needed a new perspective, a different outlook, and his words are music to my heart. I feel them. They resonate with me. And I’m better for them. My highlighter can’t go fast enough as I’ve colored page after page of some of my favorite paragraphs. Ones, that I will no doubt come back and read again. I’m not sure if he knew when he was writing this book, that it would have the impact that it does, but it changed me!

In my personal life, I always have a plan set in motion, knowing exactly where I’m going to go. I can see it, feel it, and even breathe the excitement of the next chapter. Until, life happens and a bump in the road leaves me flying on the asphalt. I promise you, that’s never in my agenda for my story as I know that’s not in yours either. That’s the thing with life – much like writing a book – it never quite goes the way you start out planning it to be.

A lot of times as writers and creatives, we get discouraged that this section needs to written, once again. It’s a cycle, the rewrites of life as you will. But, somewhere along the many edits and revisions, our story transforms and we grow along with it. We learn new ways and techniques that we wouldn’t have seen before, if we hadn’t changed our perspective and tried again. We sit down at the desk after long hours of re-working a scene, and keep going even when it’s tough . . . because deep down we know that we’ll come out better for what we’ve written. It won’t break us. Even when it feels that it just might. It won’t. There’s something deep within us that longs to write this story, and even through all the tough parts, we know that there’s light at the end of the tunnel. A purpose for the shifts that we must make. There’s moments, we need reinforcements to come in, and help guide us to a place that demands some love and attention, so we can progress and grow.

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Isn’t that what life’s all about? Hitting the ground and asking ourselves, “How are you going to create your story now?” It forces us to either stay put, or to stand up and get back in. To re-write that book that you we’re so sure about. Only this time, to have grace in understanding how it really needs to be written to gain the most clarity, for ourselves and the readers. We must be willing to always be teachable, to listen to our inner voice, and draw from those around us whom we trust and know have our best interest at heart.

Our stories in life and writing, are ours. There’ll be bumps, shifts, changes, tears, and much doubt. But, every step will lead us to the writers and humans we need to become. None of our experiences are the same. That’s the beautiful thing. We create the chapters. I’m excited to read yours and have you read mine. What will you make of your story?

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Lauri Schoenfeld’s first love is her little clan of three silly kidlets and her wonderful hubby, Andy. Writing is a close second. She began writing poems at the age of nine, and her love for literature and music developed into composing thirty songs.  In 2014 her short story, Christmas Treasure, was featured in an anthology called, Angels from their Realms of Story.  Her favorite genre to write is anything dark, psychological, and suspenseful, but she enjoys expanding her horizons and dipping her feet in other genres as well.  Lauri teaches summer writing classes for kids and mentors teens throughout the year. She’s a Child Abuse and Scoliosis Survivor. Lauri runs a group for teen girls with Scoliosis called, The S Squad. Their motto is Strength, Support and Self Confidence.  She’s been known to dance around the house with a spoon as her microphone and sneak toppings from the ice cream bar. Lauri’s taken online classes at the Institute of Children’s Literature and was the President of the League of Utah Writers, Oquirrh Chapter for two years.  She’s a member of Crime Writers and International Thriller Writers.

Inspiration 101

Any writer will tell you that when inspiration strikes, it feels miraculous. The planets align, all your neurons fire in tandem, and nature trills along with your giddiness. I dare say that any person who becomes a writer did so because they were struck by inspiration. A story idea. A character. A setting. A magic system. What led us all to the keyboard is the same—inspiration.

But inspiration can be fickle. Like any emotional high, it is special and rare. When we as writers have pages and pages to fill, how do we compel inspiration to come and stay a while?

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Here are some suggestions.

  • Sit at your computer and write. Don’t worry about punctuation, word choice, or sentence structure. Let the words flow out in a messy jumble and see where they lead.
  • Break up with your keyboard. Leave your house, and better yet, leave your cell phone behind. Unplug, go for a walk, run errands, visit a friend, grab a meal, experience nature. Do something you’ve never done before or that has nothing to do with storytelling. This can be tough because so much of our lives circles back to our art, but set aside “Me Time”. You deserve it.
  • Consume enriching stories. Read, read, read. Binge-watch an acclaimed TV series. Go to the movies and absorb yourself in the big screen. Take in and digest well-crafted stories as well as the not-so-great ones. Think on what you would improve. Let these ideas permeate and simmer.
  • Set a deadline. Require a certain number of words/hours from yourself a day, week, month, etc. This goal should be attainable. It should motivate you, not cripple your process. Adjust these expectations as you go. Forgive yourself for falling short. Reward even the smallest accomplishment. Be open to new ideas for how best to meet your deadlines.
  • Limit social media. Browse the internet, but don’t allow your Facebook feed to distract you for hours on end. You may find inspiration there, but is it more likely to come when you’re not irritated over someone’s political rant or snorting at sarcastic Disney memes. By all means, build your online platform. But don’t let that work infringe on more reliable forms of brainstorming activities.
  • Have a backup art. Tethering your creative self-esteem to one manuscript could backfire. Create or build something else. Bake, quilt, sew, woodwork, draw, sing, dance, paint. Do whatever fills your spirit and helps you feel accomplished.
  • Don’t play the comparison game. If so-and-so drafted a book in two weeks, great for them! Who cares if your first draft took two years? Respect your creative process by not forcing it to look like someone else’s. Write like you. Your stories are an extension of yourself. Why would you try to put that unique thing of beauty inside someone else’s box? Nothing kills inspiration quite like letting outside forces shame or discredit your hard-earned work.
  • Be resilient. The publishing industry will throw a lot of unexpected twists at you, both upbeat and negative. (Pro tip: the good news can drain your creativity too.) Be ready to combat highs and lows with perseverance and remain steadfast in your determination to achieve the goals that drive you. Protect your creative process vigilantly and without regret. Wield your positivity like a shield and don’t let anything harmful get through. As you do this, you will still take hits, but your recovery time will shorten. You’ll become better practiced at staying centered and won’t let the ebb and flow moments slow you down.
  • Your health is number one. Don’t sacrifice sufficient sleep, proper nutrition, or suitable recreation to satisfy the fictional perception that writers are moody, self-destructive caffeine addicts. The writing process is a mental marathon. Keep your physical faculties conditioned for optimum performance.

Inspiration does not strike once and recede like a tsunami. Inspiration comes little by little during routine events until it accumulates into a solid, recognizable idea. Inspiration comes by living.

This New Year, I hope you can keep your creative wells full and respect your personal writing process. I guarantee that inspiration will lure you back to the keyboard when you are primed for another story.

Which of these conduits to inspiration work best for you? Is there another method you’d like to share?

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Emily R. King is a reader of everything and a writer of fantasy. Born in Canada and raised in the U.S.A., she’s perfected the use of “eh” and “y’all” and uses both interchangeably. Shark advocate, consumer of gummy bears, and islander at heart, Emily’s greatest interests are her four children. She’s a member of SCBWI and an active participant in her local writers’ community. She lives in Northern Utah with her family and their cantankerous cat. You can find Emily at emilyrking.com

The Lie We Write On Ourselves

You are a story.

You are a human-shaped piece of paper. There are doodled facts on your elbows, and virtues and vices have been etched into your finger bones. There are blazing truths rattling echoes through your ribcage, and fragments of about-to-be-told story lodged in your lung tissue.

People have written on you without your permission, and you’ve erased some of the scribbles you’ve realized aren’t true. But there’s this itchy spot between your shoulder blades where people carve hard-to-reach lies sometimes, and you can’t find an eraser big enough to scour yourself all the way clean.

  • You’ll never be as good as [insert name].
  • Writing is just a hobby.
  • Books are entertaining, but don’t you want to do something that really matters?
  • You need a thick skin to make it. You’re not tough enough.

On and on the lies go. Some are just scratches that heal over after hours or days. Some dig deep, clawing through skin and sinew till they’re so far inside you it’s hard to know where they end and you begin. Some are written by others, but the most heartache and hurting ones are in handwriting you recognize all too well.

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The only antidote to a lie is the truth, to write over the falsehoods till they disappear altogether. So pick up your pen and write those blazing truths down. Write them deep, and write them true.

  • You are finding newer and truer words. You are building worlds and breathing life. You are pulling magic out of the sheer white nothing of the empty page. You are a creator. You are the pop-sizzle-crackle of the new and the now. You are enough.
  • Creating brings you a measure of joy you can’t find anywhere else. You are meant for this. Whether you devote zero minutes or hundreds each day, this is a part of the entirety of who you are.
  • Stories inspire empathy—they help us learn compassion. Stories inspire imagination—they help us see the legion of possibilities stretching out before us. They matter. Oh, how they matter.
  • You are a human, not a dragon. Your skin is beautifully vulnerable. You are allowed to hurt. You are allowed to struggle. You’re allowed to stop for a while and start again when you’re ready. You’re allowed all the human qualities those itchy lies between your shoulder blades want you to shun.

Your words are the answer to the itch and the etch. Use them to tell yourself all the truths the paper of your soul is hungry for. Tell yourself who and what you are. Tell yourself who and what you have it in you to be. Don’t give lies co-author credit for the story of your life. Don’t let small minds and small words steal the wide and the stretch of your aspirations.

2018 is coming, an infinite blank canvas, waiting for words and stories only you can tell. Sometimes they’ll come in dribbles, sometimes in monsoon-level pourings, but whenever and however they come, they’ll be yours. They’ll be you.

You are a story. Don’t let anyone tell you that you shouldn’t be written.

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kimKimberly VanderHorst is a YA author who cherishes a love for all things quirky and strange. Claims to fame include running Prism Editing, co-hosting the annual Pitch Slam contest, and serving on the committees for the annual LDStorymakers Conference and The Whitney Awards program. Despite being a city girl with a tendency to cuss a lot, Kimberly is married to an LDS minister and lives in rural northern Canada. There, she helps raise their four lovely daughters while pretending not to be afraid of the neighbour’s chickens.

 

What Makes You Happy?

I had a moment of transcendent happiness a few weeks ago. Now, I’m not an unhappy person, as a rule. Though my family may disagree, I believe I tend to stay pretty evenly keeled. My bouts with crushing, wrenching despair are probably as rare as my bouts with supreme joy. But this moment struck me, and because I’m fairly scientific by nature, I spent some time trying to analyze just what the formula for that sort of happiness was.

I was in the French Quarter of New Orleans, sitting at a restaurant with my husband and my in-laws, and we were two long days into a road trip from Utah to Florida. (Which on the outset sounds more like a recipe for tearing one’s hair out than bliss, doesn’t it?) New Orleans wasn’t a stop on the quickest route, but my mother-in-law had never been there, and my husband and I hadn’t been back since our honeymoon, so we decided it was worth the extra couple hours of travel time. So we fought our way through narrow, crowded streets, found parking, walked for a bit, and did a quick online search for good lunch spots. And now here we were, seated next to French doors opened wide onto the street. It was mid-November and seventy degrees. Rock music and jazz battled it out in the distance, with additional percussion provided by road work a couple of blocks over. Traffic bustled past—foot, vehicular, and horse-drawn carriage. The scent of fresh manure floated in on the breeze, courtesy of the latter. From within, there was a noise of clattering dishes and people talking. Over everything was a tantalizing odor of Cajun food.

And I realized I was happy. Purely, blissfully, incredibly happy.

(No, it wasn’t the drinks, thanks for asking. They hadn’t even arrived yet.)

There are words for supreme happiness, but none of them seem to fit. Terms like rapture, beatitude, and ecstasy imply a religious angle (or a sexual one, which is an odd but not incomprehensible intersection of meaning). But it’s not about religion. Or about sex. It might be akin to the feeling one gets when falling in love—that magnificent sense of everything being fated. The conviction that no one has ever, ever felt this way before—that you’ve discovered a grand new emotion.

But really, I suppose, it’s just—being in the moment, being completely content. Knowing that this instant, this right now, is where you are supposed to be.

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If I ask you what makes you happy, chances are, you’ll talk about the things you love most in the world. Spouse, family, children, to start. And I agree. Don’t get me wrong—I agree. But that sort of happiness, at least for me, has always been fraught with so much else. With my children, for example, I’ve always tempered happiness with worry for their futures, responsibility for their wellbeing, guilt over not doing the many, many things the world tells us a good parent should be doing. There’s always something left undone when I’m dealing with the people I love, something niggling at the back of my mind that tells me I might be inadequate.

What about a good job well done? What about writing? I understood two things, that moment in New Orleans. First, that this is the same feeling I get sometimes after a good day’s writing. And second, that for me, there are some profound similarities between writing and that afternoon in a crowded restaurant.

Writing is also fraught with worries, of course. Once you share your words with the world, you open yourself up to criticism. What will the reader/agent/editor/publisher think? If writing is a career, the worries compound exponentially. But there was that nugget of joy, wasn’t there? That pure moment when you said, “Yes, this is where I’m supposed to be.”

That day in New Orleans, I discovered three reasons for my happiness. First, I was exploring a strange and exciting new place. What was around the next corner? My feet itched to wander, even if only for a few minutes. Second, I was sharing my admittedly limited knowledge of the area with others. I’d been there once before, but my mother-in-law hadn’t. I wanted to show her around, and I had just enough confidence in my abilities to feel good about that. Thirdly, there was the immediate prospect of good food—always serious business for me (ask anyone).

When we write—and maybe what I’m saying is particularly specific to fiction, but I think it applies to nonfiction as well—we’re leading our readers on a journey through a wonderful new world. We’re their guides, knowledgeably showing them the highlights, the things that could touch their souls. And there’s just enough of the unknown in it for us as well that it’s still exciting to see what’s around the next bend. (But what about the good food, you ask? Believe me, if I could add it to my manuscripts, I would.)

Is there stress, worry, guilt? Of course. But sometimes we get lucky and all that fades into the background, and we set off into the wild—intrepid leaders following the trail of story.

And now it turns out I have a word for that type of happiness after all. Because out of all the ways I’ve phrased it above, one of them keeps resonating with me. Maybe it’s the season, but that word is joy.

May we all have joyful writing in the coming year.

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Kristina Starmer lives in Southern Utah with her husband, son, dog, and more cats than she likes to admit. When not working as a university chemistry lab manager, she can most likely be found rereading one of her favorite books. She is passionate about traveling to new places, ice cream with lots of mix-ins, and the peaches from her garden. Her favorite children’s book is The Owl and the Pussycat and her favorite element is copper. She writes renaissance-era historical fiction topped with a generous scoop of magic.