If You Can Do It For Joy…

First, thanks to everybody who commented last week. You overwhelm me with your interest and with your insights. I’ll continue working through the comments between ice storms and power blinks.

I’m also continuing to work through my “Write Better, Faster,” workshop, and this week’s exercise is to keep track of how we’re spending our time. Not only are we writing down what we’re doing, we’re writing down whether it’s essential, a high priority, a desirable activity, or a non-essential task. Finally, we’re keeping track of how we feel about the various to-do’s we’re doing.

This is tedious, and finding the time and motivation to make one more list has been a struggle. Interestingly, the presenter puts great emphasis on the need for adequate sleep. We haven’t yet discussed adequate rest, rejuvenation, or joy. We will doubtless get to that–the presenter is very knowledgeable and thorough–but I think I might need theremedial sessions on that topic.
As I read down my time log, I’m struck by two things. First, so much of what goes into a day is non-negotiable. We must procure groceries, we must tend to hygiene, we must deal with the bank, we must get the scripts filled, we must eat, we must show up for that day job.

Second, so little of what I do in my day occasions joy. I’m grateful for my many freedoms and privileges, I’m grateful to have a meaningful day job (well, most days I’m grateful…), I’m grateful to have food to eat (really grateful), but the reality is, I can’t eat what I want to eat (not without life-threatening consequence). I can’t miss court (not without profession-threatening consequences). I can’t blow off taking out the trash or putting gas in the car.

Most of my days aren’t awful. They hover between boring and OK, with some tedium or some pleasantry thrown in. I am very, very lucky and I know it. But I also see that list of chores–most of what I do is a chore of some sort–and I see the emotional monotony it invokes, about a much bigger chunk of my time than I would have suspected.

Which leaves me with why I write: I love to write. I’m happy when I write. I’m not content to do it, or OK with it, or comfortable with it. I love to write. Doesn’t matter if it’s a blog post, an email, or a scene for a novel (wrote a hot scene today–wheee!), I was born to write. If I can get some writing hours in most days, then all the other duty-do’s are bearable.

Writing is the one item on my list that has words like “Yum!” and “Lovely!” beside it, every time that activity is on my time log. So as I move into 2018, I want to make sure I get that writing time in, no matter what.

What were you born to do? What’s the activity on your schedule that would almost always have a smiley face beside it? Can you do more of that?

To three commenters, I’ll send signed copies of A Rogue of Her Own


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36 comments on “If You Can Do It For Joy…

  1. 1
    Mary T says:

    Well, it’s no secret. Being retired and saddled with painful arthritis, the activity that always brings a smile to my face is reading. And I thank God for it. And I thank God for talented writers like you.

    What was I born to do? At 73 years of age I’m still asking myself that question. (smile)

    • 1.1

      Some of us were born to read. If not for those HEAs waiting for me at the end of every day, there have been many years when I’m not sure how I would have coped. TV doesn’t cut it, movies don’t cut it, video games aren’t for me… gotta have my books. My mom was the same way.

  2. 2

    My joys in my life have been varied and fruitful and have seen me through many a difficult time.From the age of fifteen I wrote poetry I was quite a deep sensitive teenager who looked at the world at that time with sceptical eyes and disappointment.I was convinced the world would would blow its self up.So much was wrong and politicians were running around like headless chickens.Now nearly sixty years later not much is different what was gained seems to be turning in on its self and being questioned.But being old and where I am now does give me joy I can plan my day I can cook I can garden,read,keep my flat nice see friends and so on.Or the joy of not doing much at all I have the choice and that gives me no desire to keep up with anything If I don’t want to.I have thought about writing poetry again after all these years this in the eyes of a geriatric,that should be interesting!!.Continue to write Grace for the joy it gives you _ passes onto US and gives us JOY.

    • 2.1

      I hope you do write some poetry, Brenda. One of my reader-buddies is a single mom with two high-maintenance (in part because they are brilliant) boys. The poetry that comes out of that woman, about being a mom, about her history, about the world we have now… she can make all kinds of dots connect in two stanzas that I’d fumble around for a whole book trying to hook together.
      Might hafta sit down with pen and paper myself tomorrow.

  3. 3
    Make Kay says:

    Apparently I’m born to read and walk in the beach. If only I could do more of it now. I don’t have grand plans for retirement when it comes, but I do plan to read more and to walk on the beach more.

    • 3.1

      My dear old dad saw San Diego back in the 1940s, when he was in the Navy. He said to himself, “THAT is where I want to retire.” At the age of 55, he ditched the professor job, and bought himself a house with view of the ocean, close enough that he could fall asleep listening to the surf. He lived to be 96. Must be something to that ocean view, for those who crave it.
      I hope you get that beach time, Make. You’ve earned it.

  4. 4
    Susan Gorman says:

    Reading, baking and dog walking are three activities have smiley faces for me.

    I forget about work, my commute, bills and other nagging day to day details when I read. I am transported to a different location and meet new people in each book.

    Molly ( the corgi) and I are baking this afternoon. She supervises while dozing on the rug. Am making pumpkin cheesecake squares and banana bread. I find baking relaxing…where I am kneading dough for bread or stirring the batter. Molly is always on hand to offer her opinion after the bowls are washed.

    It’s fun having a puppy to walk and to train. I have forgotten how to train a young dog. Walking is enjoyable and a good way to talk with neighbor’s or to enjoy the beach or a woodsy trail.

    I definitely need to walk more…and Maybe bring Molly!!

    • 4.1

      When I had a child underfoot, I made all of our bread. There’s something about goodies baking in the oven, and lordy, I could LIVE on fresh bread and butter.
      Now I’m hungry.

  5. 5
    Teenie Marie says:

    Making music, advocating for the arts and caring for children. And many times, I get to do all three together!

    There is something so satisfying singing or playing with other people. Our breathing syncs together. We are literally on the same page, with the same purpose.

    I am involved in a cross-genre arts advocacy group in my community. In fact, I’ve been working with them since the beginning almost four years ago. It’s wonderful to work with like-minded artists and businesses in our community, promoting ALL sorts of arts AND our community at the same time. It’s fun to work with visual artists and gallery owners and understand their views.

    I’ve wanted to be a mother since I was a little girl myself. And I directed a children’s chorus for many years. I enjoy children, their views on the world and helping them find their voices, sometimes literally when I teach them to sing.

    Dishes still need to be done. I probably need to do another load of towels but making music lightens the load of the mundane in life!

    • 5.1

      One of the things I love about Scottish culture is that music and dance are still part of it. In the cities, the pubs have session nights–all welcome–and every little widening in the cowpath still has the occasional ceilidh dance. EVERYBODY goes. The old ladies, the new parents, the teenagers, EVERYBODY. Even I have a gotten off my duff to try a few moves (though Jim Malcolm had to drag me).
      I think it makes for a healthier culture to make music, dance, and art together, to participate in creation together. Otherwise, we’re all just sitting in our own nesting boxes, surfing Netflix. Where’s the culture in that?

  6. 6
    Carol Luciano says:

    I’m actually still trying at figure out at 70 what I was born to do. But what brings me joy now is the fact that I love to read and do so every single day. It lets me enter into different lives and places when my real life becomes to overwhelming.

    • 6.1

      I love to read too. Some people don’t leave the house without cash, others have to have a bottle of water. I have to have a book with me. I take a book everywhere. There are book in the bathroom, books in my purse, books by my bed, and for good measure a few out by the couch in the living room. I am so grateful for literacy that it ought to be on gratitude list every night.

  7. 7
    Advc says:


    • 7.1

      I wish you continued progress with your stroke recovery, though I know it’s a long, tedious road for many. My mother had a stroke at 86 though, and pretty much recovered all functions the stroke had compromised. When I’m in the UK, there’s a lot to admire–great public transportation, very clean, local food sources, health care that’s superior to ours and much cheaper…. BUT we have them beat hands down on handicapped accessibility. We have the advantage of newness, of having built most of our infrastructure in the past 100 years. We have curb cuts and big elevators,we have ramps, and HC parking. It’s still a huge challenge getting around in a wheelchair, but you are 100 percent right: Life is still to be lived!

  8. 8
    Beth Lisk says:

    Every Thursday night I go to my Sweet Adelines chorus (Georgia Sensation Chorus) rehearsal. It is hard work and requires dedication to show up every week and work on my music and all the details to learn music and be a part of a small group. However, it is the event of the week where I can leave the outside world worries at the door and be with ladies who accept me for who I am, where I can be my 5-year-old princess/deva self that I can’t be most of the time, where I can SING – feel the words as they are formed in my body and escape out of my mouth. Being part of such a group is good for making friends and for me mind (memorizing the music and choreo moves), body (standing on risers the whole rehearsal and moving to the music), and soul (hey, it’s music!). I get the chance to work on my self-confidence as I learn new skills and become a better singer. And when we sing for other folks, I get to enjoy seeing their reactions as I reach them with my song and my performing with facial expressions and movement. And, hey, I get to play dress-up at performances, wearing sparkly clothes, fancy jewelry, and makeup. Going to yearly competitions allows me to join women from all over, some of whom I have sung with in other places and so I get to reconnect. Sweet Adelines is truly international. Come sing with me!

    • 8.1
      Teenie Marie says:

      Yippee Beth! Love the SAs and think it’s true for every genre—we get to forget our regular lives and just SING! Whether it’s your Glitzy group (and I do love to watch the SAs go to town) or mine, where we’re singing Mozart and Bruckner and Schubert, singing together is somethin’ special.

    • 8.2

      That’s a great advert for the Sweet Adelines! They occasionally held summer sessions at Penn State when I was undergrad there, and I once came upon an impromptu rehearsal outside. WAY cool. Move over, barbershop!

  9. 9
    Sarah says:

    Reading. I work at a book shop and I need to know what I am selling so I need to do a lot of reading. It is an awesome excuse to curl up with tea and a good book.

    • 9.1

      Thanks for that day job dedication.
      On one of my cross-country trips, I at about thirty different Barnes and Noble stores to sigh stock (I’d just put a boo out). Because I’m not long on chit-chat, I asked the customer service people the same question as I stood around signing books. I’d ask, “So how do you like working here?”

      INVARIABLY, the answer was a gush: I love it here. Books make such a different. I just helped a lady facing a mastectomy find books on what she can expect. I helped a dad whose son is a slow reader find summer books. I researched fixed-wing DIY air craft manuals…

      Books are magic, and the people who connect a reader with the right book are magicians.

  10. 10
    Glenda says:

    Grace, I’m hoping you are looking for my answer of reading while cuddling my cats and dog. Because I’m very good at multitasking at that and it has to be on my daily schedule so that I can decompress and sleep. I do think I was born to do it. 😀 Talking long walks and when possible very slow hikes are things that rarely fail to bring a smile to my face – especially when I’m doing them with my husband or one of my young adult children.

  11. 11
    MaryMeg says:

    I was born to read! Preferably romance,(your books are some of the best, always in my love to reread category!) fantasy, and some sci fi.

    • 11.1

      I’m dipping through some Ursula LeGuin in honor of her passing, and my heavens, the prose is exquisite, but it’s not an HEA. I want my HEAs on a pretty reliable basis. I do enjoy historical mysteries, though, particularly Ashley Gardiner/Jennifer Ashley’s Captain Lacey series (and she has a new one coming out next month!).

  12. 12
    Marianne says:

    Like others, I love to read. Prohibited from fiction for a long while as a child, I read biography, cookbooks and the Ci-Cz and D World Book Encyclopedia. This fostered a great love for all sorts of trivia and the craving to just find out… whatever.

    Finding things in general makes me happy. It might be a copy of an old song, a good book, a new word, an author worth reading!

    • 12.1

      I read the old World Book article on horses so often the pages fell apart. They were an amazing collection of books. For some reason, the articles on mountains also sticks in my mind. They had a graphic that compared mountains of the world, with my tiny old Appalachians barely ankle-high on the Himalayas. Fascinating stuff to a kid.

  13. 13
    Anne Egger says:

    I really love to read, whether it is the local newspaper, Stalin, Laura Lee Guhkre, or Darren Hardy. I enjoy training work study students. I enjoy spending time with girlfriends. I love my cats. I enjoy spending time with my husband as long as he isn’t grumpy.

  14. 14
    Chris L. says:

    This one is a no-brainer. Recreational reading is the one thing that I do every day (twice a day, really) that brings me joy, peace, calm, stability, all the things that help me slog through the rest of the to-dos. Like you, I’m grateful for my job for many reasons. A big one is that it affords me the luxury of buying books when I want to or cannot get them at the library. It’s also nice to have a 60-minute lunch break during which I shut my door and blinds and immerse myself in whatever book I’m reading at the time. I do the same thing for about an hour before I go to bed. I’ve built this routine and followed it for about 3 years now, which happens to be the point at which I began reading romance again – no coincidence at all. Great HEAs keep me grounded and sane and hopeful, something I’m not naturally good at.

    Keep at the thing you love, Grace, and I’ll keep at the one I love, too! 🙂

    • 14.1

      Romance is a hopeful genre, and I think it’s message is fundamentally valid: Get your courage in one hand, people who love you in the other, and take life on as an adventure. Good things happen!
      I read every night before lights out. If for some reason I can’t, I just don’t sleep as well.

  15. 15

    Thank you for your inspiring words.

    A good friend forwarded your post, as she knows how much I LOVE TO WRITE! I will be retaining a copy of your special message as a daily reminder to do what I love.

    Best wishes as you continue with your craft.

    • 15.1

      Charlene, is it not the best thing ever to have a good writing day? To have a story come together? To have a character finally let you know what all the fuss is about?
      It’s better than, I dunno, playing lost kids in the oak tree out back on a long summer afternoon, and that was keen.

  16. 16
    Emily K says:

    Yes, reading makes me smile and so does teaching—born to teach I think. There is nothing as wonderful as watching a student “get it” or add something new to the conversation. I taught HS English for several years and now I “teach” my kids manners and how to love life and others. Learning something new is another activity that brings a smile and when you learn with your kids it is even better.

    • 16.1

      Learning something new is a key to keeping the old brain from ossifying. People with a life-long habit of learning remained much more functional in old age than people who pretty much closed the books and their minds at age 18. Of course there is significant non-book learning that’s part of everybody’s education, but when the globe-trotting and careering, and class-rooming are too much of a challenge, the books will still be available.
      This comforts me.

  17. 17
    Jen from Oz says:

    Well you’ll probably all think I’m crazy but my children and grandchildren have various ways of describing me as “born to make order out of chaos”. The grandchildren invite me to help them organise their rooms (with cries of, “Mamma, what are you doing?” when the first step is to gather everything that isn’t nailed down and put it in a pile in the hallway before “reconfiguring”), my husband asks me to file in such a way that he doesn’t just “lose things in alphabetical order” and a few friends have asked me to help them order their priorities. What can I say? It just gives me immense satisfaction!
    Oh – and I love to read as well.

    • 17.1

      There’s a verb in my family, “to Popo.” Popo was the grandchildren’s name for my mom, who could spent about twenty four hours visiting one of her children before she was re-arranging furniture. Into her eighties, she’d wrestle couches and move rugs, add a bouquet there, a table cloth here, and you’d walk into your own house and trip over a table that “got Popo’d,” but everything she got her hands on ended up looking prettier, more inviting, more comfy.
      And how I miss that. Sounds like you got the Popo gene.

      • 17.1.1
        Jen from Oz says:

        What a comforting thought. I’ll treasure that. On the dark side of this tendency, my son still deliberately moves things into odd positions when he visits to see how long it takes me to notice.