Tag Archives: joy

Exchanging Doubt for Joy

Heart PicIt’s my turn to leave the nest. It’s cozy and safe and I don’t WANT to leave! But a new generation of debut authors remains, poised for greatness. They are talented and wonderful and the blog will be in capable hands.  I am filled with gratitude for the support and personal growth I’ve experienced during my time as a member of EMU’s Debuts.

This past year in particular has been a study in contrast for me, filled with extreme highs and lows. It was a dream come true seeing my book in print. But there were doubts, expectations, and worries too—issues that snowballed and eventually resulted in a diagnosis of severe depression. I mention this because I had anticipated only joy, and considered it a personal failure when the joy did not materialize exactly when and how I imagined it would.

Thanks to my incredibly supportive spouse, I finally stopped blaming myself and sought proper treatment. I am doing so much better now! And I realize that I waited way too long to ask for help.

So many of us fight a daily battle of doubt vs. joy.

I started playing the flute when I was ten years old. A few great teachers and a lot of practice helped me develop a skill that brought me happiness and made me feel like I was good at something. I played all the way through college and even started out as a performance major with the hopes of joining a professional orchestra someday.

Then doubt got in the way. There were lots of talented flute players. What were my chances of competing? It was too hard, I had to practice too much every day, I’d never make it into an orchestra and if I did I’d never make a living at it. I talked myself out of it, and destroyed the joy it used to bring.

I graduated with a generic music degree and a decision to turn my attention to children’s literature. I don’t regret the choice to write, but I do regret making that choice out of fear, and will always wonder “what if?”

Of course, the path to publishing is fraught with opportunities to doubt ourselves. Even after signing with my agent, even after my first publishing contract, there was still plenty of fear and doubt nipping at my ankles like a ferocious little dog. We learn to power through it, don’t we? We school ourselves to stay on the path, because perseverance is often the one trait that makes the difference in this industry.

But at what cost? All too often the joy gets trampled along the way.

1382268243_f3c1242184_bLast year we attended a performance by the Piano Guys. The cellist, Steven Sharp Nelson, is the absolute picture of joy when he plays. If you’ve never seen him, I urge you to look him up on YouTube. His tone is perfection, his technique jaw-dropping, but it’s his body language that captures my attention: eyes closed, face lifted to the heavens, a peaceful smile on his face. This man loves what he does. Can I say the same? Not always. But I’ve set a goal to experience that type of joy more often, because I do love to write and I believe it is a worthy pursuit.

I’ve resolved to write just for fun sometimes, for the sake of pure creative expression. Sometimes I’ll crank up a movie soundtrack to full volume while writing an action scene, or take my notebook outside to write in the park. Other times it’s a slog and I just have to make deadline, one impossible word after another. Life can’t be fun all the time.

And the doubt? Oh, it’s still there–corrosive, insidious. Yap, yap, yapping for attention. But there are steps I take to quiet it down: making my mental and physical health a priority; spending more time outside in the sunshine; seeking big-picture perspective while resisting the urge to draw comparisons to other people’s lives; and striving to be more compassionate toward myself and others.

In short: Go. Write. Chase the joy. Spread it around. Let it show on your face, and on the page. The world needs it. You deserve it.

We all do.

______________________________________________________

ChristineHayesauthorpicChristine Hayes writes spooky stories for middle grade readers. Her debut novel, MOTHMAN’S CURSE, was released June 16, 2015 with Roaring Brook Press/Macmillan. She is represented by Ammi-Joan Paquette of the Erin Murphy Literary Agency. Find her on Twitter: @christinenhayes or at christinehayesbooks.com.

29 Comments

Filed under Advice - Helpful or Otherwise, craft~writing, Creativity, Farewell, Happiness, joy, Satisfaction, Thankfulness, Writing

In Praise of Imperfection

Next month our family will be moving across the country for a new job in a new state. That means putting the house up for sale and keeping it looking as perfect as possible for potential buyers.

This isn’t our first move, but I had forgotten how crazy-making it is to chase that level of perfection in a house with three kids and a dog. It means nagging everyone to pick up wet towels and renegade socks. It means constantly wiping smudges off the refrigerator and crumbs off the counter.

Not that I don’t do a fair amount of that anyway, but it’s reached obsessive levels, serving up a painful reminder: this isn’t how we live. It isn’t us. The house may look like a magazine (except for the secret dings and stains we’ve done a good job of hiding), but it’s a photo shoot, a moment in time, an expertly crafted illusion. It’s all-consuming, eating up our time, energy, and peace of mind.

There is no such thing as perfection. Not in life, not in writing. I know this.

We all know it.

But how do we put that knowledge into practice? How do we let go of the crazy in favor of the joy and peace that comes with accepting limitations?

I recently received galley copies of MOTHMAN’S CURSE, my debut novel, the dream I’ve been chasing for a decade or more. And all I could do was obsess over its flaws, both real and imagined.

When I caught myself doing it, I was horrified. My fear of imperfection was sucking the joy out of what should have been a milestone moment. Worse, I realized that unless I changed my outlook, my worries about “getting it wrong” would overshadow the entire journey, all the way up to the launch date and beyond.

Life is messy. Houses get cluttered. Words on the page don’t always sound as good as they did in our heads, even after a couple of rewrites (or ten or twenty). It’s okay, it really is. We learn and grow along the way. We get better. We teach each other. We take the risk, open our hearts, and send our words into the world.

With any luck, someone will think those words are pretty perfect just the way they are.

____________________________________________________

ChristineHayesauthorpicChristine Hayes writes spooky stories for middle grade readers. Her debut novel, MOTHMAN’S CURSE, is due out June 16, 2015 with Roaring Brook Press/Macmillan. She is represented by Ammi-Joan Paquette of the Erin Murphy Literary Agency.

10 Comments

Filed under Advice - Helpful or Otherwise, Anxiety, ARCs, craft~writing