Isn’t that a lovely word, y’all?
It sounds like dancing and singing and hugs from loved ones and lots of smiling and the kind of day when you look back and all you know was that there was great joy.
Why am I talking about a random thing like rejoicing – especially on a Monday, of all the terrible days for this talk?
Because I’m firmly convinced that, as writers, it is our rejoicing that sets us apart, even more than our sorrow. Yes, I’m aware that goes against every writer stereotype there is. Aren’t we supposed to be tortured souls, ripped up from the inside, haunted by the ghosts of the words we can’t wield and the stories that fail to be?
Sure. If that’s what you want. But sorrow and mourning and silent contemplation, while each appropriate in their place, aren’t going to see you through.
Life is a very long journey, my friends. It may feel at times as though it’s all uphill, but you’re always moving forward. No matter how small the steps. And if you’re going to be here and live all these years and see all these things, wouldn’t you rather do it rejoicing?
How would it change your attitude towards writing – the writer’s block, the self-doubt, the fear, the desire to nap for twenty-seven hours – if instead of feeling the burden to write something great and deep, you felt the urge to write something joyful?
Don’t mistake the word joyful for happy. Happiness is situational, temporary, and elusive. Happiness and joy are acquaintances, not twins.
Joy means you can write about dark, painful, secret things, and still celebrate the human capacity for resilience, the ability to pick up and go on and still do great things. It means portraying the horrors unflinchingly, but giving love and peace their due. It means depicting the magical, the lovely, the friendly, and the homecoming with abandon, in celebration of everything these things can be. Joyful means you, the writer, are intimately aware of your own capacity for darkness and light, and willfully choose to move towards the light – not as if the dark doesn’t exist, but because it does. Joyful means celebrating, with every word, that it is your privilege to create.
Some of the most joyful books are sad. I think of World War II stories, and books about war and torn-apart families, and stories about loved ones who don’t come home. But the very best ones have moments – sometimes only one moment in a sea of sadness – that point out the preciousness of a touch between friends, the peace of a booming seaside path, or the hope wound up in seeing another sunrise. That’s what joy is. It won’t look or feel or sound the same from any two people, but every person has the capacity within them.
Today, my friends, be writers of joy. Write on, rejoicing.