Perhaps some humans never experience genuine joy as they slog their way through a mundane existence, ever holding their eyes to the muddy trail below rather than lifting them to the glittering stars above. The writer, however, is not manacled to such a dismal fate. To the contrary, his craft plucks him from the mire of the mundane and plants his feet on loftier heights. In fact, my hours spent writing have endowed life with not one, but two, unique glories—first, the joy of creating through writing and, second, the joy of sharing my written words.
To write is to create. In his mind, the writer first conceives an Idea. Then, to give substance to that Idea, he casts the net of imagination into the swirling, ever-changing universe of words and hauls in those that can give shape and voice to his intention. Of course, just as a fisherman sometimes lands a fish that is too scrawny and flings it back, the author’s net often snags words too threadbare or too clichéd to suit. So he discards those puny expressions and searches for livelier, zestier terms to breathe life into his manuscript and grace it with a healthy, thumping pulse all its own. Achieving that goal results in the glowing joy of creation.
“But writing is hard!” moan some authors. True, quality writing requires practice, self-discipline, and a craftsman’s eye for detail. The wordsmith must forge his works in the fires of perseverance. Nevertheless, the fact that writing—that is, excellent writing—demands time and mental energy in no way lessens the pleasure of nurturing the Idea from a notion into actual, tangible pages. To the contrary, the challenges required by authorship only intensify the writer’s exultation when the last period hits the page and the work has been buffed to a glossy finish.
Why should the joy of creation diminish simply because the process costs the writer some effort? Should an athlete who conquers the marathon not rejoice just because the race taxed his lungs and limbs to their limits? Or should a mother not celebrate her pink-faced newborn merely because she recalls the labor of childbirth? Sure, quality writing requires work! But the perspiration spent in birthing the writer’s Idea only heightens the joy of bringing an original, living text in existence.
For me, though, the joy of writing culminates when my written words mesh with the minds of readers. I have heard that some writers pen secret journals by candlelight, while others banish hard-won manuscripts to languish, unread and unappreciated, in basements or attics. But for me, such habits would short-circuit the joy of writing. Why would a person who has sacrificed days, weeks, or months of his lifespan in order to create conceal the finished creation?
For instance, imagine that Michelangelo had sculpted his masterpiece David in some subterranean cavern—and then sealed the cave’s entrance forever. Those chiseled muscles and the exquisite polish on that cold marble would be just as magnificent, even if locked in darkness and unknown to this day. But what a pity and loss to the world that would be. The final reward—the joy—of any creator is to share his creation with those who can appreciate it, regardless of the admirers’ age.
Readers provide the final link in the joy of writing. For just as an author forfeits a segment of his lifeline to write, revise, and burnish his Idea, readers likewise sacrifice a fraction of their own lives (though not nearly so much) in order to share the writer’s vision. When a reader absorbs and embraces the author’s words, the circuit is complete, resulting in joy for the writer.
To cite one example, not long ago I received a note from a teenage girl who declared, “Mr. Barry, Oh my word! That little short story you wrote was so AWESOME!!!!! It made chills up my spine!” In that case, my text impacted her mind and successfully ignited into blazing images and sounds. She rejoiced, and so did I. Once more, I had received joy from the knowledge that my hours spent wordsmithing had touched a reader’s heart.
So is writing a chore? Yes. But regardless of the toil, writing—and sharing those written words—leads to avenues of joy that more than justify the journey.
Are you a writer? What brings you joy and satisfaction in your own work?