profile

Julie Artz | author, editor, book coach, dragon

[Wyrd Words Weekly] 'Cause you can't, you won't, and you don't stop

Published 7 months ago • 2 min read

Hello Reader,

I thought about calling this newsletter "how to date yourself with one silly subject line," but then I realized that I bet I have some readers a generation older than I am who are scratching their heads too. So I think I'll stick with "you may be a Gen Xer if..."

So yeah, Beastie Boys. Ill Communication is one of those albums that immediately zaps me back in time to 1994. And who could have predicted that an iconic flute riff could go so perfectly with hip hop until they heard Sure Shot from that album?

It's the refrain from that same song that got me thinking this week: 'Cause you can't, you won't, and you don't stop

Because someone outside the industry recently asked me why I don't just quit writing. And I have to admit, the evidence in favor of quitting is compelling. The market is tougher than ever. People are banning the very books many of us have been agitating for over the past decade. There's been a spate of bad behavior from various industry professionals that has left both aspiring and multi-published authors alike scratching their heads and worrying about an even less certain future. And the screenwriters strike has demonstrated loud and clear just how little value many folks, from studio executives to fans themselves, put on the writers who create their content.

If this was a newsflash about me quitting writing forever, I would have chosen a different lyric. So why can't I/won't I/don't I just stop? Put an end to the waiting and worrying, the cadence of crickets and rejections in the inbox, and get back to my happy life as a book coach, hobby farmer, and aspiring empty nester?

The main answer that came to mind was flow. Flow is a "theory of optimal experience" made famous by psychologist Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi in his book by the same name. That sounds confusing, but at its root, it's a way of creating happiness through the experience of totally losing yourself in your work.

Flow is the main reason I won't stop writing. Because that feeling of losing myself in my writing, whether it's for a few stolen minutes or for hours, is the closest thing I know to the divine. It takes the feeling I get when I'm out on the lake, lost in the rhythm of the waves as I paddle my kayak, the meditative joy of the bike pedals propelling me through the world, and the cadence of cutting, sorting, and arranging flowers into a bouquet all wrapped up into one beautiful act. And I find that I cannot live without it.

But in order to keep my heart and my mind focused on flow, I have to separate that feeling of joy in the work from any expectation about the outcome. And that's the sticky bit, isn't it? The universe likes to prod me in the right direction when I have these moments of doubt and self-reflection and this week, that came in the form of George Saunders's visit to Dear Sugar back in 2017. For whatever unknown (divine) reason, my phone served up this old podcast on a recent drive. In it, George Saunders discusses this very thing with two other writers I very much admire, Dear Sugar's Cheryl Strayed and Steve Almond.

Saunders talks about how very few folks get to make a true living making art and what that means for those of us who will likely never get to quit our day jobs, achieve bestsellerdom, or win those awards and accolades that we secretly long for. And instead of it being a metaphorical bucket of ice water dashing our hopes, it's a rallying cry. To love the work for the work's sake, regardless of outcome, of outside validation.

That's what I needed to hear. I hope it helps you too. So get back to work. Find your flow. And, in the immortal words of Beastie Boys, Ah, yes indeed, it's fun time!

Warmly,

Julie

Julie Artz | author, editor, book coach, dragon

Julie Artz helps writers who dream of a life spent telling stories that matter slay their doubt demons so they can send their work out into the world with confidence. An active member of the writing community, she has volunteered for SCBWI, TeenPit, and Pitch Wars and is a member of EFA, the Authors Guild, and AWP. A social and environmental justice minded story geek, Julie lives in an enchanted forest outside of Seattle, Washington, with her husband, two strong-willed teenagers, and a couple of naughty furry familiars. Check out her weekly newsletter, Wyrd Words Weekly, and subscribe today.

Read more from Julie Artz | author, editor, book coach, dragon

Hello Reader, When I dig into a new story, I always go through a honeymoon period where I'm so excited about the idea that I've forgotten just how tricky writing that zero draft can be. During this honeymoon phase, the ideas come at me faster than I can type them up and sometimes I even get what my family calls "story brain," when I get caught staring at the wall thinking about my story when I'm supposed to be talking to them or getting myself ready or really doing any number of other things...

5 days ago • 5 min read

Hello Reader, I'd like to give a special welcome to folks just joining us from ProWritingAid's Romance Writers' Week. I'm so glad you're here (and just in time to celebrate!). There's nothing better in the life of a book coach than witnessing a hard-fought client win, which is one of the reasons it's been a pretty fabulous week around here. My friend, client, and fellow book coach Suzette Mullen celebrated the release of her heart-wrenching, vulnerable, empowering memoir, The Only Way...

12 days ago • 2 min read

Hello Reader, What's the best gift you've ever received? When we think of gifts, we often think of things that come in shiny packages with beautiful ribbons and bows. Or a birthday cake with candles and delicious icing. And I love those too (who doesn't?). But the best gift I got for my birthday this past week was one I gave myself: Time. OK, there was birthday cake too. I'm not a monster :) That's right. I gifted myself a writing retreat. Three whole days to write with no other...

18 days ago • 3 min read
Share this post