Writing from a Place of Delight

So, about a week ago I thought I would write a blogpost inspired by Steven Pressfield, about…pain. I copied Pressfield’s recent post and linked it (see bottom of page), and I added this passage from the painter Grant Wood:

“The public does not realize, perhaps, the amount of work that goes into one painting before I begin to set it down on canvas. In my last picture, I spent two months–fourteen hours a day, including Sundays–sketching, making notes, rejecting ideas.” –Grant Wood

It’s all very wise and was meant to encourage me to push through a rough patch. But it really just made me feel  the complete opposite of encouraged. I wanted to go back to bed.

On a whim I googled “DELIGHT,” and it took me straight to J. B. Priestley’s book Delight, published in 1949. Not long ago my husband and I watched the 2018 film of Priestley’s play, An Inspector Calls, so this seemed like one of those synchronicities that we ought to pay attention to. I bought the book, downloaded it, and, well, was delighted.

In the preface, Priestley begins, “I have always been a grumbler.” He goes on to explain the benefits (the delights?) of a good grumble. But then we get 114 short chapters on what delights him: reading detective stories in bed, lighthouses, waking to the smell of bacon, the ironic principle, orchestras tuning up, making stew, departing guests. Some of it is a little dated (the stereoscope, wearing long trousers, and several chapters about the delights of smoking). But it’s also a window into Priestley’s time (1894-1984), bits of a lost world.

I’m rushing off to a task this morning (and finishing it will delight me), but here’s a post from another blog that does a better job than I have time for: https://www.stuckinabook.com/delight-jb-priestley/

And that’s your assignment for this week. Sure, I hope you sometimes push through, dig deep, suffer for your art, but meanwhile: what delights you? I’d love to hear about it.

6 replies
  1. Janet Hamilton
    Janet Hamilton says:

    I can relate to this SO much…pushing through the pain zone. Yes, to get better we need to push through it -more than some people would wish to. It’s probably more of an inner drive than anything, more than what our parents taught us (my siblings are all quite different). Delight? For me it’s interspersed with the work, and also outside of it. A poem or painting that works is a high, but so is dinner with friends and the change of seasons,,,,

    Reply
  2. Rita
    Rita says:

    Oh, does this speak to my week. It was one of few delights, and as I sit here on a Saturday morning hoping for something to come up within me for a blog post of my own, all I feel is empty. I think delight is a requirement for writing. Even when I’m writing about painful things, there is delight in it. Delight in gaining insight, in finding the right words, in working through something.

    The longer I live and create and support others in their work, the less I think that productivity is a matter of will or what we call discipline. I think we do what compels us, and not choosing one thing is a way of choosing another. My creative barrier has most consistently been a combination of economic need and a need to do work that feels meaningful. (Thus, a career in education.) I think Pressfield is a bit of an ass, primarily because he writes from a place of being a rather privileged white man. I’m glad you found an alternative perspective that served you well.

    Reply
    • Bethany
      Bethany says:

      Rita, Just wanted to say that I have read and reread this comment, it contains some profound wisdom for all of us. After reading your recent blog post, I also thought about how you must coach your students to do this too. Even when frustrated, decidedly UNdelighted, there’s a delight in figuring it out and getting to that terrific insight at the end. Thank you for saying so.

      Reply
  3. Carolynne Harris
    Carolynne Harris says:

    What a delight to read about delight. I watched aging parents find delight – my dad with clouds and babies. My mom with birds and all growing things. I find myself 77 year old self re-remembering my delights – making my day today!

    Reply
    • Bethany
      Bethany says:

      A man from my writing group emailed — he went to his local bookstore and ordered a used copy of Priestley’s book — which delighted me. Thanks for sharing your memories. 🙂

      Reply

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