Fifteen Favorite Writerly Feelings

A while ago, Hank Green of Vlogbrothers (a youtube channel he runs with his somewhat more famous brother, author John Green) did a video on his fifteen favorite feelings. He did it because in part because videos like “fifteen things that annoy you” were commonly requested, and despite their popularity, they always left him feeling bad. He wanted to do a listy video that was positive. It actually was a very popular post as well, and since then some other people have borrowed the idea, like Malinda Kathleen Reese of the Google Translate Sings videos. (She runs song lyrics through Google Translate until they screw up, and then sings them dramatically. It’s wonderful.)

I’ve liked all these videos, so I decided to steal the concept for my blog. I’m doing two versions; one here that is specifically writing themed, and one over on The Brunette’s Blog for more general good feelings.

  1. Getting a new idea. There are downsides to this one. Sometimes my brain is overrun with unwritten stories. Sometimes I’m struggling with a story and the arrival of a new idea seems timed specifically to tempt me away. Still, that flash, that “what if?” followed by myriad implications that make my heart pound with scripturience… it’s the whole root of the reason I write, and even if I have too many stories on my roster, it’s nice to be reminded that one thing I will never run out of is inspiration.
  2. The sense that there is a story hiding in something. Often, before getting a clear idea, I feel drawn to something; a piece of music, a person, a picture, a scene. I feel like if I let myself be open to it, a story will unfold to me. According to Better Than English (and I’m not sure how reliable that site is) koi no yokan means the feeling that someone is going to inevitably fall in love. This is like that.
  3. The moment when slow, plodding writing becomes quick and easy writing. The best cure to writer’s block, as many writers will tell you, is to write. There’s a scene in Finding Forrester (a flawed white savior movie, but still very good) where Forrester, an established prize winning author, gives Jamal, gifted aspiring writer, some of his own work to start him typing. He says the mere physical act of writing will get Jamal’s own ideas flowing, and he’s right. The blank page is terrifying, the first few sentences clumsy, the first paragraph agonizing, and then suddenly it’s all a beautiful dance in which time and the outside world completely disappear.
  4. When I listen to my characters and they tell me something brilliant and unexpected. It can be such a struggle to surrender control of a story to the characters, but without that I can’t get this, and this is the coolest thing.
  5. Reading or watching something so good, it gets me excited about writing all over again. ‘Nuff said.
  6. When I observe something that I don’t think I’ve read about before. When I was a kid, my family went strawberry picking every summer. One day, I plucked a strawberry and, instead of putting it in my box or eating it right away, I took a moment to really look at it. I noticed that, if I stared directly into the flesh, I saw glitter. I saw that same glitter in every other strawberry I looked at that day, and I looked at every one I picked. Strawberries sparkle in the sun. At the time, the observation made me sad. I had never heard anybody speak about this before, and being the only one to notice it made me feel lonely. Now, I realize that it’s a blessing. The world is so full of strange and beautiful and sad and incredible things, it will take all of human history to notice it all. To notice something new and to share it with the world is one of the best jobs of the writer.
  7. When I give my readers something I don’t think is that good, but they love it. Giving my writing to somebody else to read is scary, and I’m always prepared to hear that I utterly suck. It’s such a relief to find out that I don’t, especially because all my regular critics are people I trust to not spare my feelings. Speaking of which…
  8. When a reader has a criticism and I realize I know how to solve it. Not only do I often hear that my work is quite good, the criticisms I get are less “you are awful and should give up immediately,” more “there are some fixable issues here, here and here.” It’s wonderful to replace that overwhelming dread with a sense of control.
  9. When somebody gets exactly the reaction I want them to get from a story. Obviously the best of the three possible reactions that my alpha readers give me, but the others are pretty great too.
  10. When somebody’s advice on writing gives me a brand new perspective. I like studying the art of storytelling, and one of the coolest things is that there’s no one right way to write a story. There’s just different strategies that are better or worse for different aspects. It’s always fun to discover there was more to learn.
  11. When I find a simple, clear, reliable source on a topic that is hard to research. Writing research is hard to do, simply because of the oddity of the information writers might look for. Even Google can’t always save you. Sometimes, when I come across a good source on rare topics, I don’t even care if it’s something I’m currently writing about. I’ll just gobble it up for future reference.
  12. When I have a terrible experience, and a little voice in the back of my head goes “you can put this in a story someday.” I’ve always thought this is one of the great consolations of being a writer. No matter how awful life gets, if you make it through, you can write about it. Remembering that always gives me a feeling of power over my adversaries.
  13. When a new use for an old abandoned concept appears. All writers have the ideas that they loved, and were used up in stories that didn’t pan out. Sometimes those include your favorite ideas. Luckily, the really good ones tend to be resilient. If one story gets trashed, they’ll crawl out and find their way into something else. When they do, it’s like starting a scary new job and finding an old friend already works there.
  14. When I’m watching quietly with my writer’s glasses on, and I’m struck by the beauty and variety of the world around me. Part of my brain is always writing, but sometimes I’m specifically focusing on the world around me as a writer. I’m trying to notice things. Sometimes what I notice is simply that the world is really, really cool.
  15. When somebody likes a blog post. Hint, hint. Thanks for reading, everybody!
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