Take Joy by Jane Yolen: Writer Books Review

I know this comes as a big shock, but I love reading books about writing.  And I like writing about books about writing, and hopefully you’ll like reading the writing about books about….okay enough of that – here’s my first review 🙂

I’m starting with one of my absolute favorites: Jane Yolen’s Take Joy: A Writer’s Guide to Loving the Craft.

My much beloved – and used – copy of the book.

I love the whole premise of this small book,  which is a reaction against the idea that the writer’s life and the writing process need to be full of pain and agony in order to create good art.  Yolen says:

“Stories grace our actual lives with their fictional realities. Like angels they lift us above the hurrying world; they carry us in their pockets of light. How can you not approach such other worlds with joy?”

Hand in hand with this is Yolen’s assertion that writers should write not for publication, which does actually make us crazy, but for ourselves. As she perfectly and precisely puts it:

“I am not writing for them. I am writing for me.”

The book also gives great practical advice. Her section called “Many Voices” is one of the most useful things I’ve ever read about “voice.”  (Something that so many publishing people talk about & yet can’t actually seem to explain.)  Another section discusses the idea of poetry in the context of writing prose that sounds and feels evocative, definitely a skill I want to work on.

But in the end, as a writer who struggles with anxiety and depression, it’s the bigger message of this book that matters to me.  I need writing to be a positive, peaceful force in my life. So when I get tangled up in unfulfilled career expectations or mired in self-doubt, I re-read this book and remember that the key piece of advice from one of the world’s great fantasy authors is “take joy.”


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