Have you ever been so excited by a seminar or talk you attended that you just want to share it all with whoever will listen to you? But then, when you finally get someone to listen, it’s all just a jumbled mess of thoughts and impressions, bits and pieces floating through your memory. There are quotes that you wrote down, studies that you want to investigate, and books that you need to look up and, perhaps, purchase.

That’s the way I’m feeling right now after attending Grace Burrows’ four hour (in two long Zoom lectures) course called Joie de Plume.

It was all about finding the joy in writing, as the name says, but she taught through incredible stories of her life as a child-advocate lawyer, studies she learned about, and books she’s read. There were ideas and concepts there that I’d never heard of—many that I have and that I teach, myself—but so many more I want to incorporate into my own life and coaching practice.

There are ideas I fell in love with: “Constructive Procrastination” where you do something you don’t really want to do in order to avoid doing something you really, really don’t want to do. And there are quotes that I’m still parsing out the meaning of: “You can’t make a baby in one month with nine women,” said R. Paul Warren, someone Grace has worked with. I think it means that you have to do things the normal way and can’t hurry things up, but it’s also an example of ‘out of the box’ thinking, which Grace commented is an essential tool for authors.

She talked about the importance of surrounding yourself, in your workspace, with inspiration (your book covers, green plants, and nice smelling candles). She spoke of the importance of not sitting on your duff for hours on end because it’s really not good for you, and also because getting out and having new sights, sounds, and experiences helps build and adds to your well of creativity.

Apparently, the esteemed author of Regency romance, Mary Balogh, always lights a candle when she sits down to write. It has taught her brain that when she smells that candle, it’s time to produce those words. I do the same with music—I always listen to brain.fm when I’m going to write and my brain immediately kicks into creative-mode. You can do it however you want, but usually a distinctive sensory perception is best. And it’s so cool, it only takes your brain two or three times of experiencing this and writing for it to remember the connection (based on one of the many studies we were quoted).

Another fantastic phrase that has really stuck with me was the “death march to success”. Doesn’t that just conjure up all sorts of fantastic images?

What Grace was talking about was how some authors focus on one thing and one thing only—hitting the bestseller list. They want to sell lots and lots of books and make a lot of money. They tailor their writing to what’s hot in the market rather than writing what brings them joy. Now, I have no problem with wanting to hit a list. It’s a passive goal of mine as well (and, honestly, I dare you to find an author who doesn’t want this!). But I’m not going to direct my entire life to this one goal. I’m not going to stop writing what I love in order to write what’s selling at the moment. And I’m not going to spend the time and money necessary to hit a list. I write for love and passion, to tell a good story and entertain people, not to see my name on a list with the likes of Nora Roberts and Stephen King.

Grace told us to play, to frolic, to take naps, to do many things and not to simply focus on our writing. That may bring us momentary joy—making that list—but it won’t last. Next week someone else’s name will be there and we’ll be back to the ‘death march to success’.

So, find your joy in writing, but don’t forget to stop and smell the flowers. Go for a walk, surround yourself with what makes you happy, and reward yourself for a job well done.