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Writing a book is a joyful end in itself

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By Mark Azzara

Dear Friend,

I am writing a novel. It has taken me a long, long time, in part because I haven’t worked on it every day. I know that offends those who identify themselves as “writers” but the truth is I’m not a writer. I detest being called “a” (fill in the blank) because I am so much more than what I produce. To me writing is a joy, not a job.

I try to focus every day on being human, even when it’s nothing more than taking out the garbage, vacuuming the rugs (which I don’t do often enough), doing my laundry, balancing my checkbook (I found a $10 error in my register last week) or worshiping.

The literary fiction I’m writing is about human beings, but I don’t do human things to inform my writing. My desire it to deal with whatever God puts in my path today. And lately, after letting the novel sit for a long time, God led me to take it up again a few weeks ago and rediscover the joy. For instance, a few days ago I added five words to a sentence and was thrilled because those words added a whole new dimension to the paragraph, the chapter and the primary relationship.

Yes, “thrilled” is the right word because I saw my work getting closer to the point where it’s as good as I can make it. I don’t pretend that the novel will ever be “perfect” because there is no such thing, but there is the best I can do, and I won’t settle until I know I’ve reached that point. Every time I write I get closer to that goal. And every time I get closer I know even greater joy. This is by far the most fun I’ve ever had.

As a journalist on deadline I almost never got the chance to focus on good writing. Just do your best and turn it in. But the desire to do something really well ate at me until, with encouragement from a close friend, I decided to write the story I’d dreamed of writing.

In the course of that pursuit I have discovered how totally different journalism  writing is from fiction writing. I have found my own fiction “voice,” and the real joy is editing my story so that every sentence speaks with my voice alone. Simply by adding those five words I was able to express myself in that voice yet again.

Getting published can be a nightmare. I recently heard from an English professor who gave up his dream of writing fiction because the task of getting published was overwhelming. And a lot of people have that dream. I read today that an estimated 6 million people have written at least one manuscript.

I know that getting published takes a lot of work and I’m willing to do that work. But regardless of whether my novel is published I will never regret this effort. Not for one minute. The joy is more than sufficient payback for all my work. I have often worked for 6, 8 or even 12 hours at a stretch without realizing it. And friends have added to that payback by flooding me with encouragement lately.

I am genuinely unconcerned about getting published. I am relying on God because he alone knows what will become of this creation.

And it is my “creation.” I have brought it out of nothing. And the joy I find in creating is, I think, something like the joy I suspect God feels when he creates. Maybe that’s the best part – experiencing in a small way what it’s like to be God.

All God’s blessings – Mark

Mark Azzara

About Mark Azzara

Mark Azzara spent 45 years in print journalism, most of them with the Waterbury Republican in Connecticut, where he was a features writer with a special focus on religion at the time of his retirement. He also worked for newspapers in New Haven and Danbury, Conn. At the latter paper, while sports editor, he won a national first-place writing award on college baseball. Azzara also has served as the only admissions recruiter for a small Catholic college in Connecticut and wrote a self-published book on spirituality, "And So Are You." He is active in his church and a non-denominational prayer community and facilitates two Christian study groups for men. Azzara grew up in southern California, graduating from Cal Sate Los Angeles. He holds a master's degree from the University of Connecticut.

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