Pride vs. Joy in Writing

“Pride and joy” often go together, in descriptions of possessions, accomplishments, even children. It’s wonderful when both go together.

But what if they do not? Must they, in fact, do so? And if one were required to choose between the two, which is the better?

When it comes to writing, I say joy.

In context, I have in fact been proud of most of the things I have written. There are different reasons to be proud. I can be proud of the sheer amount of labor put into something. I can be proud that I overcame something within myself in order to write a work. There is pride in the result, of course, especially when it meets all of my expectations. And of course, pride in the impact one of my creations could have on those that read it. I hear there is even financial pride, when an author makes money from their work, though thus far that’s a mythical concept in my life.

There are, then, many different type of pride, cause by various things. But does pride in and of itself bring joy? It can, of course. but is that inevitable? Not to me.

Though I may be a certain type of proud whenever I finish writing something, it isn’t always a source of joy. Sometimes I have a deadline to meet. I do good work, proof read, insist on quality and I am often proud of the result. But joy? Not in such cases. If something I wrote got syndicated and I made a million from it, that would probably be followed by joy, but the source of joy would come from the result of my writing, not the finished product, or even the process.

There should be joy in your process, and your results as a writer, far more often than there is not. Joy inspires your best writing. Joy keeps you working. Jopy makes it worth the time when almost nobody cares about your final; product. (As has been the case, so far, with my first novel, Flowers of Dionysus which very few people, even among friends, have read.) That continues to sadden and disappoint me. Yet I took joy in writing it for any number of reasons, and I feel joy that it exists.

I’m also proud of that novel, so I suppose it’s fair to ask if joy brings pride. To tell you the truth, I’m not as certain in that direction. But I do know that if you write what gives you joy, you won’t be as concerned with pride as you otherwise might be. I, for example have the ability to write a three volume epic tale set in 1840’s Prague. Such an undertaking would require years of research, years or writing, and rewriting, and, fear of flying aside would probably require at least one trip to Prague. Tens of thousands, if not hundreds of thousands of words would be produced in that effort, not to mention the “darlings” I would probably have to kill in the process. No doubt such a work would take center stage in my artistic life, possibly to the expense of other things, for ten years at least.

And if I completed it? I’d be damn proud of myself. I would have completed an exhausting, laborious process and survived it. Whether or not anybody would ever read it, I’d be proud that I’d finished it, even as I was depressed over nobody ever caring about it.

And I would feel almost no joy at all during any facet of the process. I think Prague would be an interesting city to visit some day, and I’d probably learn some interesting history in the course of the undertaking, but a three volume epic set in 1840’s Prague does not speak to me. It doesn’t move me. In short, it holds no potential joy. Pursuing it, just to have something to be proud of, (and maybe for some, a chance at fame and awards of some kind) would make me miserable. If I became rich because of it, I would have some joy in the money, but the price would be tens years plus of artistic misery.

And it probably would make no money, because I’m not likely to produce work that will bring great joy to others if I was miserable the whole time while writing it.

Winning contests, awards, acclaim and praise are wonderful things for the artist, no doubt. To that end, I’m not suggesting you should never think about those things. Nor am I suggesting that you will never have to work hard even on manuscripts that bring you joy. But I think joy should always be the fuel that keeps a writer going through the harder times. Pride will come later if joy is first, most of the time. But if you use pride as your compass and the joy never comes, what’s it all been for?




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