Learn How to Jam

Ditch Writing Despair. Embrace Writing Delight.

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No. 137 | By Christine Carron

At the end of last year, I decided to do some strategic thinking activities for Goodjelly. I wanted to take all the clarity I’d gained by walking the talk of this endeavor—both through the weekly blogging I’d done for two years and through welcoming my first cohort of writers—and work on my mission and vision statements.

The mission I’d already identified was solid: To help writers take charge of their writing adventure using smart process, grounded power, and inner kindness.

But I had never really identified a vision. So step one was clarifying that I truly understood the difference between a mission and a vision. A mission statement equals the purpose of why a company exists. Check. A vision statement is a future-oriented concept that conveys the ideal state of the world after your company has made its impact.

That felt a tad bit grand—the state of the entire world? Yet almost immediately Goodjelly’s vision statement spilled out of me:

A world where all writers delight in their creative process. 

Then what did I do? I totally doubted my instinct and changed it before I sent it off to one of my business mentors for feedback. This is what I sent instead: To bring joy back to the writing adventure. 

No Joy

On the Zoom call that followed, guess what word she challenged me on?

“Joy, Christine? Is your goal really just to make writers extremely happy?”

“No. I originally had ‘delight’ in there, because delight means “extreme satisfaction,” but I backed away from that.”

“Why?”

Ergh.

I had no good answer. Though delight on the surface might seem frothy, that sense of extreme satisfaction is what Goodjelly is all about at the highest level. It is about helping writers have a strong sense of confidence, of surety, of inner knowing that they can make the progress they want to make. That they can work through any block. That they can create a writing adventure that they enjoy being on. And that they do indeed “got this!” no matter how the external validators are currently lining up. 

I returned the vision statement to its original wording on that Zoom call and have been going full steam toward making that vision a reality ever since.

Operationalizing Delight

Once I was back on track with the vision, I knew I would need to find a way to help writers make delight tangible. A way to operationalize it.

One of my favorite things about working with writers in the way I do is that I get a direct peek into their creative processes and their experiences of their writing adventures. That data—along with their willingness to play with the Goodjelly tools, tell me straight up what is working and what isn’t, and question or ask for more clarity when needed—gave me the insight I needed to develop an operational model of delight. 

What I know for sure now, as I've gotten to work with writers at all stages of the journey, is that outward publishing success does not guarantee delight on the writing adventure. Yes, part of being satisfied is getting those outward achievements, but that alone does not sustain satisfaction over the long term.

Sustained writerly satisfaction seems to come in quieter, less public moments. From the cumulative effect of the day in and day out choices we make about our writing, our priorities, and the way we interact with ourselves. 

So, yes, it would appear that delight on the writing adventure is more of an inside job. One that, based on my observations of writers who are deeply engaged with and sometimes wrestling with their creative processes, is driven by four factors:

  • Work: What a writer assesses to be legitimate writing work. 
  • Tools: The productivity tools a writer has available to help them make progress and handle blocks.
  • Mindset: The beliefs, attitudes, and mental/emotional states that drive the way a writer frames events and experiences on their writing adventure.
  • Time: A writer’s perception of and relationship with time.

Our understanding of these factors and the quality of our relationship to them will either leave us writers cycling in frustration/despair or in confidence/delight. Hence, the name I gave the model: The Despair/Delight Cycle.

The Despair/Delight Cycle

Let’s dive into the model and see how these factors play out both when a writer is trending toward despair and when they are trending toward delight. We’ll start with despair mode.

Writerly Despair Mode

 At the highest level, despair closes in when we don’t feel we have agency over our writing adventure. That manifests in the four factors like this:

Despair Mode | Work: A writer has a very narrow view of what writing work is. They believe that the only real, important, and even worthy work a writer does is getting words on the page. Indeed, anything else may even be an affront to their writerly sensibilities. Common examples of such “offending” work: querying, marketing, building an author platform, etc. 

Despair Mode | Tools: The fewer tools a writer has in their productivity toolkit, the more likely they will tend toward despair. Why? Because there absolutely are many challenges on the writing adventure. Of all intensities and varieties.

If a writer only has a few tools in their toolkit they are not equipped to handle all those issues. It’s like being asked to build a house with only a hammer and a few nails.

Despair Mode | Mindset: A writer is in the clutches of their Inner Critic, their Inner Maxer/Pusher, and their Inner Perfectionist. There is a harshness to the way they expect themselves to get their writing done. That lack of inner generosity and kindness drags on their productivity, and the harshness is high octane fuel for writerly despair.

Despair Mode | Time: Time can be one of the heaviest anchors keeping a writer stuck in the despair cycle. Despair mode around time arises when a writer believes that they don’t have enough time for their writing and have often built work patterns and protocols that are rigid, harsh, and demanding in an attempt to resolve the time "problem."

Yet it never gets resolved. They never "get ahead." They are left constantly expecting themselves to produce at heroic levels and fixating on how much left there is to do, unable to stop and celebrate all the progress they’ve made. 

Along with a general sense of despair, relating to time in this way is a fast track to writer burnout. It is also one of the most challenging habits to break, because when a writer is enmeshed in such a combative relationship with time, there is a real and visceral fear that stopping or slowing down will bring immediate failure and put them even more behind.

In the end, relating to time in this way leaves us trying to make progress through constant brute force instead of creating smart, sustainable writing productivity. It's neither healthy nor effective in the long term. 

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None of the above sounds like much fun, right? But I am guessing you probably recognize yourself (or writers you know) in some of the despair mode factor descriptions. It’s not uncommon. And, let's be real, these modes are often lauded as how “real” writers are supposed to experience their writing adventure. (Egads!)

So let's not be hard on ourselves when we catch ourselves slipping into despair mode on any of these factors. But let's also definitely get grounded in the alternative mode available to us.

Writerly Delight Mode

We can grapple our way to writerly delight mode when we let go of outdated myths about what "real" writers do and how they behave, and instead choose smart, sustainable writing practices and mental frameworks. Delight mode comes not from trying to control the writing adventure but by taking charge of it. Here's what that looks like:

Delight Mode | Work: A writer confidently manages the full scope of their writerly work. They may not like all of it, and some of that work will likely require them to step outside their comfort zone to pull off, but they are still in charge of it and doing what needs to get done to move toward their writing dreams.

Delight Mode | Tools: A writer has a robust set of tools to help them conquer any challenge or block that comes their way. They also are always on the lookout for and experimenting with new tools to add to their writing productivity toolkit.

In Goodjelly speak, we call this a Jam Mavenry toolkit, because unleashing writing productivity is the bread, butter, and jam of what we get up to with the writers who join the Jam Straight, our signature program for writers.

Delight Mode | Mindset: A writer knows how to process and flow through the full range of their emotional experiences without getting stuck in or attached to any of them. Definitely note that Delight mode on the mindset factor is not about forced or fake positivity. 

Nor is it about spiritual bypassing, where a writer attempts to ignore the sometimes painful realities of rejections, critiques, and general creative struggles by avoiding the important but challenging (and often confronting) cognitive, physical, emotional, or interpersonal work that is required to truly process and move through those challenges.

Writers who trend toward delight are able to meet themselves where they are with smarts, generosity and kindness and keep moving forward step by smart, kind and generous step.

Delight Mode | Time: A writer has a healthy relationship with time. They do not blame time. Indeed, instead of fretting about time, they take full responsibility for their time and focus on utilizing the time they have using smart process strategies and tools.

They understand that effectively using time includes strategic slow downs where they strategize and prioritize for more effective flow. They do not feel guilty about that. They set their pace and their priorities and know how to design their work in a way that makes it easier to get it done. Time becomes a non-issue.

The Power of Delight

I've seen it again and again with the writers in my programs. When they take charge of their work; expand their productivity toolkit; meet themselves where they are with smarts, kindness and generosity; and courageously up-level their perception of and relationship with time, their experience of their writing adventure immediately starts trending toward delight.

It is a welcome, dramatic transformation that often takes them by surprise. Indeed, it is an absolute delight to watch writers reclaim their delight on the writing adventure.

Absolutely, if you want to take charge of your writing experience with a new and refined level of agency, I most cordially invite you to use the Despair/Delight Cycle framework. Have fun tracking yourself on the four factors of work, tools, mindset, and time.

When you find yourself trending in despair, this framework will help you better diagnose the specific cause or causes and empower you to come up with smart solutions to reverse the trend. 

When you do, I am betting that you, too, will watch in delight as you redirect toward delight on the writing adventure. Wahoo to that!