Courtney M. McSwain, Writer

Dear Reader: On Joy

Joy Image
(Photo: Joy by Rach, (cc))

June 2014

Dear Reader,

I was on a plane headed to…okay it was Portland. (See last month’s dear reader letter for more on why I’m obsessed with the city.) If you read the blog last month, you’ll recall my outlook on writing and business changed after a recent trip to Portland for an entrepreneurship conference. While traveling there, I decided to write out my goals for the days ahead so that I would arrive with some sense of what I wanted to get out of the experience. I started a free write, and, as free writes go, my sub-conscious took me to an unexpected place. The words began to flow like this:

“I’m headed to Portland for the Pioneer Nation conference. I’m just now starting to get excited. I was excited when I first signed up, but, over the past few months, I’ve become less so. I think the stress of thinking about all that I’m trying to do and all that I could lose has been weighing so heavily on me that I haven’t allowed myself to feel very much. I haven’t allowed myself to feel very much joy…somewhere, I guess I started to think I don’t deserve joy because I’m not working hard enough…or I’m making myself believe that I’m not working hard enough. I don’t really know what the truth is. I feel tired all the time, but I don’t know if that’s a sign that I’m really working or if I’m just spinning my wheels trying to catch up to something that is so far ahead of me. That’s kind of how things feel right now: This business, the vision of what this business can become, what I’d like it to become, is so far ahead of me and I can’t catch up to it. I’m running around in circles instead of going in a straight path toward the vision. I think that’s why I feel so tired all the time…and I guess that’s why I haven’t been excited in the past few weeks leading up to the conference, because I’m going there attempting to save myself and I’m afraid it won’t work…I pray it does work, that I can find something – some part of my gumption and grit – to keep going; that I can allow myself to have fun and find some joy in this experience.”

Sitting back, reading what I had written, I wanted to cry at the thought of not allowing myself to feel joy. In order to not start bawling in front of a plane full of strangers, I pushed the tears down – but not the revelation. The revelation I kept at the front of my mind, because I knew I wanted to come back to it later. And when I started thinking about a new vision for my blog, I knew I had to take a serious look at joy.

In order to navigate the creative process, one has to become a master at dealing with emotions, especially pain. Understanding – even spending some time with – pain can help us avoid feeling paralyzed every time it enters our lives. But, we run the risk of being derailed and overwhelmed if we sink into the pain with no exit strategy. Our exit strategy is joy.

As creatives, we must allow ourselves to feel joy and cultivate it relentlessly. It’s a matter of survival. Joy keeps us on the path and reminds us that the act of creation is a gift: One that we should joyfully participate in.

Come back to the blog every Friday this month, and let’s take some time to talk about joy – what it means to us and how we can make it a staple in our creative lives.


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