Living a writer’s life is like being permanently strapped into a roller coaster seat. When we can pound out those words, or when we get an acceptance email, we feel a rush of excitement, and we’re so glad we write. But other times – and more times than I’d like to admit – we feel like we’re going downhill all the way. The words won’t come, or we received the dreaded “it’s not a good fit” email. Rejection. It really, really hurts.
“Try to enjoy the journey” is what we’re always told when we’re wallowing in our pity-party. Yep, sounds good, doesn’t it? But how in the holy hell do we do that, in the midst of frustration, disappointment, writer envy, and rejection? In Good Naked, writer and instructor Joni B. Cole shares her suggestions on how we can make our journey not only productive but positive and fun. She wrote this book because she wants writers “to cheer up…and swap the mindsets and practices that do not serve us for ones that feed our creativity, our productivity, and our souls.”
One of the points Joni makes in Good Naked is the value of mediocre writing. She stresses that it is not a sign of failure, but “is a normal, productive part of the creative process, the precursor to quality writing.” She is a cheerleader for accepting the fact that our first drafts will most likely always be average (or let’s face it – maybe crap!). As long as we have patience and perseverance, we’ll get our writing where we want it to be. Putting words on the page every day may be our biggest struggle, so just getting our stories out there in first draft (underwhelming as it may be) is the best way to keep moving forward.
Another awesome suggestion Joni makes is to write about where your heart takes you. You don’t have to write your story in chronological order, beginning with the first scene. If you have another scene in mind or even the last scene, go ahead and write it! This will get your ideas flowing and will not be a wasted effort. I love that Joni gives us permission to temporarily leave our linear way of thinking, and to write about where our imagination takes us. “Writing scenes irrespective of order means that you are apt to discover causality in organic, rather than prescribed ways. Your plot will grow as it goes, as your characters, not you, dictate what happens next.” Joni advocates for writing “one scene after another, then just slap on some craft.” What better advice can we writers get? We must push ourselves to finish that first draft.
Joni teaches us that we need to rewire our brains to reduce the negative bias we have toward our own work. “Seeking the good in each manuscript is firsthand proof that one can indeed overwrite the brain’s bias toward negativity.” And writing is sometimes an act of faith – that we “keep at it even when [we] feel discouraged and clueless.” She points out that sometimes when we write without understanding, possibly not knowing if we are even successfully saying what we are trying to say, that we are serving the creative process by letting our inner muses guide us through the fog.
Joni wants her students to know that our writing matters. It really does. We all have our “unique perspective and voice.” But in the end, each of us has to determine why our writing matters. And I’m willing to bet that Joni’s answer is what many of us will determine in the end: “I write because the thought of not writing makes me feel worse than the worst I have ever felt when I am writing.”
Good Naked explores and celebrates our creative process, especially the small victories, and it reminds us that as writers, we are happy when we write, regardless of the final product, regardless of perfection. So choose to be happy in the moment, as your fingers fly over the keyboard. Accept the process with grace, self-love, and faith. The journey is itself our reward.