Pep Talk Week 2: Joyful Writing by Susan Kaye Quinn

This week’s pep talk is by Speculative Fiction author Susan Kaye Quinn.


When you write for joy, you’ll be surprised how hard-working you become.

A Short Story

In January, I made a calendar for 2014 of all my writing objectives. Every week was color coded for the project I would be working on. (I’m just a wee bit of a planner.) The calendar quickly got buried under homework papers, notes, and the detritus that fills my unkempt house. When I finished a novel, I unearthed the calendar only to discover… I was two days ahead of schedule!

I floated on a blissful cloud of happy, then dove into the next novel and wrote with abandon for two days. I was incredibly productive.

I checked the calendar again, proud of my progress, only to discover… I was a month behind!
I had been looking at the wrong month.

I crashed down into a momentary deep, dark well of depression. Writing slammed to zero all that day. And the next. Then I realized how profoundly my mood affected my productivity. How, when I was in a place of joyful happiness with my work, I was insanely productive. It was exactly when I let go of the productivity hamster wheel, that I soared through clouds of creative productivity.

Joy Begets Creativity

This affirms a core belief I have about creative work: that our best stuff comes when we are most in touch with the joy of the work itself. This is not to say writing isn’t hard: plot points will vex us; character motivations will resist us; and the very words themselves will torment us as they elude our grasp.

But creative work is inherently life-giving. The outcome of creative work, once you beat through the hard, emotion-wrenching part, is an intrinsically rewarding experience. There’s nothing that can beat the feeling when you birth something entirely new into the world. Am I right? Isn’t this why you write in the first place? That high… personally, I’ve been addicted to it from Day One. It’s why I had to find a way to make writing a career, because any days spent not writing were an agony to me.

Live that joy, breathe it in, and let it loosen the words so that they flow from your fingers.

I still set insane goals. Writing an 85k book in six weeks (first and second draft) isn’t a target for me… it’s what I actually did in March and April. After realizing that deadlines were great, but joy was better; that focusing first on the joy would get me to my wordcount goal faster than anything else; and that there was no substitute for the slow-drip feed of joy that comes from getting words on the page each day.

Everyone has their own process. Discovering yours is a lifelong journey. But for me, the lesson of 2014 is that unlocking my creative potential may be as simple as cranking up FROZEN’S Let it Go and… letting those fingers fly.

P.S. Stuck on a plot point? Try my Brainstorming a Book post to get unlocked and moving forward in less than an hour.


Susan Kaye Quinn is the author of the bestselling Mindjack Trilogy, which is young adult science fiction. Her latest release is a short story (Corrections) in the Synchronic Time Travel Anthology about a time-traveling psychologist. Her next release will be Second Daughter, the sequel to Third Daughter (The Dharian Affairs #1) a steampunk fantasy romance which is her excuse to dress up in corsets and fight with swords. She also has a dark-and-gritty SF serial called The Debt Collector (now optioned for Virtual Reality by Immersive Entertainmnet) and a middle grade fantasy called Faery Swap. It’s possible she’s easily distracted. She always has more speculative fiction fun in the works. You can find out what she’s up to by subscribing to her newsletter (hint: new subscribers get a free short story!) or by stopping by her blog (

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