Two weekends ago, I took a great revision seminar with the novelist R.O. Kwon. There’s a quote of hers on writing I jotted down in my notes that I keep coming back to:
How amazing that I can get to such joy on such a regular basis without depending on anyone else!
These last few weeks have been stressful, emotional, and distracting for reasons both personal and global, and even though I don’t particularly feel like doing much of anything, I still find myself coming back to writing. Not because I feel like I must create, but because I need to feel less bad. It’s joy that I can give myself.
I’ve been thinking a lot about the importance of joy in writing — as motivation, as a revision tactic, and as fulfillment. When I saw Min Jin Lee speak in New York in 2018, her advice for writers was to “go for broke and just have fun” in early drafts, to get out of the way of the story. In many of the online writing classes and Crowdcast author events I’ve attended in quarantine, a common refrain I’ve heard is that you must first write for yourself. Boredom is the companion to joy and can be a useful litmus test for your writing. As Esmé Weijun Wang said in a panel, “To maintain interest in what I'm working on, I must keep my own attention. I don’t want to be bored by what I’m writing. If I’m bored then certainly the audience will be too.”
When I think about the times I’ve had the most fun writing, I think about the very terrible Gossip Girl / The Clique / The A-List esque book my friend and I co-wrote in middle school, sending a 100 page Word doc back and forth via email. We had the audacity to give it the working title Life and the cover was an emo picture of an unsolved Rubik’s cube. I think about writing fanfiction and the excitement I had in writing in total anonymity, plotting multi-chapter fics and lighting up every time someone posted a new comment. I think about one day during #1000wordsofsummer when I wrote more than twice the word count because the email prompt was to “let yourself write the thing that makes you feel good for a moment, whether it’s a different subject matter or form or genre or style.”
It’s no surprise that writing is the most fun when I don’t fixate on the stakes of publishing, when I just write with friends, for myself, or for strangers on the internet with my same obsessions. But it's something that I must actively and regularly remind myself of. To that end, this past week, I returned to my Chaotic Internet roots and wrote a cheesy short story to submit to Taco Bell Quarterly, a real literary magazine celebrating all that is Supreme in this world. For a few short hours, writing that story was just pure fun. And yes, I ate a Crunchwrap Supreme over the weekend (for research).
Whether it’s getting your favorite Taco Bell combo or giving yourself a “writing reward,” what is something you can do to bring yourself joy?
- Writer Hannah Bae has collected $700 to cover Black writers’ submission fees to the Pigeon Pages Flash Contest, judged by Kiley Reid. DM her to enter or if you can, provide additional donations!
- If you’re in a position to hire, edit/publish, or collaborate with folks, here are some helpful directories for finding writers of color, Black female creatives, Blacks Who Design, and creatives of color. These can be great starting points for diversifying your sources, writers, social media feeds, conferences, etc.
- “On writing for the sake of writing” by Jia Tolentino
- Taco Bell Quarterly is the literary magazine of my fast food dreams. Tonight is the deadline to submit to Issue 3.
I’m halfway through my annual 52 books reading goal! I read Alex S. Vitale’s book The End of Policing which is an excellent examination of why police abolition, not reform, is needed. Each chapter focuses on different areas of policing, such as police presence in schools, the War on Drugs, and the criminalization of homelessness and poverty, as well as outlines attempts at reform and policing alternatives.
I’m now reading Alisha Rai’s newest romance novel Girl Gone Viral which takes some inspiration from that "Pretty Plane Girl" Twitter fiasco two years ago.
I watched Blazing Saddles and Minority Report for the first time with my partner. (He needs to see a movie every two weeks or he will die.) I watched the first season of Ramy and the latest season of Kim’s Convenience. I’m obsessed with the new Netflix Wipeout-meets-Legends-of-the-Hidden-Temple game show, Floor Is Lava. The Planetarium is the hardest level don’t @ me!!