When Writing Joy Disappears

on March 19, 2024 Lucy 2 Replies

Do you remember those first heady weeks (or years) of writing before you published? The determination to make time to write the story burning inside you to be written?

Publishing should only increase that delight in following your dream and pursuing your passion. Right?

The truth is…not so much.

When you are writing that first book (or the first book in a new series), your creativity is unfettered. There are no reader expectations. There is no editor feedback. There are no sales number targets. It’s just you and the story. Until that book is published, the story and the characters are entirely yours to write as creative inspiration strikes you.

Whether you are traditionally or indie published, once that book comes out and makes it’s way into reader hands, everything changes. Suddenly the story that you wrote because you loved it, is now a book. A commodity. A brick in the foundation on which you are building a career.

You are not an aspiring author anymore. You are published and now you have editorial feedback, reader reactions (both good and bad), publisher and reader expectations and a ton of marketing to do. (I hate to burst anyone’s bubble, but after two decades as a traditionally published author, I can tell you they have to promote their books just like indie authors do and for most of them, it’s on a tight budget with no more inside knowledge of the market than anyone else in their genre. Everybody has to do the work of learning.)

Indie authors have publisher expectations, but that publisher is themself. We have marketing goals and release schedules. Editorial deadlines that we set, but are important nonetheless. After some trial and error, I have found the perfect editor for me (Andie at Beyond the Proof). To guarantee she’ll be available to edit my books, I need to book time months in advance. Which means finishing a book by a certain date. Full stop.

What all of this does is change that sparkling fizz of writing inspiration into a job. A serious job for some of us, one we can’t afford to set aside when we aren’t feeling it. That does not mean writing every day or forcing the words – by now you should know what I think about that.

It does mean that writing after publication is wildly different to writing before selling that first book. Sometimes, it’s not as much fun. Some days are harder than others. But there is still joy, it’s just not unfettered. There is still inspiration, but now it’s mitigated by expectation.

The past is gone. We do not go back to that unfettered joy. We go forward. I sacrificed a lot to reclaim my published author joy in writing and for me that meant reclaiming my control over the content, length and tone of my books. I won’t give that up for reader expectation, or editorial advice, or even meeting the goals I’ve set for myself.

I’m still working to silence certain voices in my head, but there are new voices to take their place. And while I can’t always ignore those voices (and am not honestly sure I’m supposed to even when it makes the writing harder), I can and do minimize the weight I give them. Only I can do that. Only you can do that.

If the spark is gone completely, maybe you need to completely revisit why and what you write. For me, this took a lot of soul searching and a willingness to let go of things that had been very important to me while ignoring the fear of the unknown and plunging into something new.

Happy writing!

P.S. If you want to read my recipe for active ways to find joy in your writing, check out this blog post.

2 thoughts on “When Writing Joy Disappears”

  1. Thanks for this and the recipe blog post!

    1. Lucy Monroe says:

      So many of us go through the same times of doubt and struggles with our writing. I’m really grateful for you and the others as you always help me through mine.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *