The Discipline of Joy


Joy's a choice. Joy's a discipline. Misery's easy. Sometimes, you don't feel like you can handle the burden of joy, so you slouch and frump and sigh and feel exhausted. Joy can be a real pain, like doing elevated push-ups on your TRX system in the basement. Right now, the joy doesn't want to ignite. I'm feeling the pressure of writing against the schedule of outside things. Inside vs. outside. I have to rush back to school today--my writing day--to sit in a PhD oral defense. Tomorrow, I have to teach, though I can get in some writing after. But Friday, I rush away to Tucson Festival of Books. Love Tucson, love my friends there, love the festival, and I love fancy hotel weekends with Cinderella. I can't get it done. So my decision today is to embrace the discipline of Joy. Capital J. Because I'm feeling a li'l beat.

Wait. I could just Kerouac that and make it Beat. Make beatness into Beatitudes.

Perhaps you have seen the Lakota thought that you need to arise and thank the day; then give thanks for the breakfast; then give thanks for life; then give thanks for work and all things, and if you can't give thanks, then you can own your own misery. Ha ha. Yeah, bouwee!

What has been, as warned by all my friends, a total time-suck, has been this new foray into Facebook. But what a joyous thing it has been. I like it. I am too dense about computers to get much out of it, which is a good thing. But the all-knowing, all-seeing, all-powerful Cinderella runs all the clicks and whizzbangs for me. Keep dropping me messages over there! I am having a great time answering you.

And I have really enjoyed the continuing craft discussion here. I have gotten emails, comments, twitters and messages on fb about the thoughts I post about writing. I like it. I will keep that up as long as you like it, too. If you have questions, get 'em to me by whatever means you like, and I'll try to answer here.

You might notice the website changing. Yes, we are redesigning it. A new phase is upon us, what with Mr. Mendoza's Paintbrush coming out, followed by the paperback of Into the Beautiful North. I also hope to submit Hummingbird's Daughter II (whatever we call it) by summer. And the UK edition of ITBN will be out just as we set foot in London in July. Big cool stuff.

You know, when you're a poor boy in San Diego or Tijuana, listening to scratchy records all night because you can't sleep, and you're thinking about some big scary future that you don't think will happen, and your little 69 cent drug store notebook is filling up with absurd meditations on the heavy wowness of the universe, you don't know. You don't imagine. But you hope. If you're lucky, you get kissed a little. All right, you get kissed a lot. But you would trade all those kisses to get any sense of hope at all that this dream will come true.

Yo, I kept the kisses. What--am I stupid? But look at what happened. On the days when Joy hides, I sit back and look. I get to do the thing I love. I try, as Rumi suggested, to be the thing I love. That I get love back from you is...well. It's simply too much to comment on here.

I have conversed with readers from Australia, Bahrain, Chile, China, England, France, Germany, Holland, Iceland, India, Indonesia, Iraq, Ireland, Israel, Italy, Mexico, New Zealand, Scotland, Siberia, South Africa, Spain, Turkey, United Arab Emirates. WHAT? Really? Oh, Luis--I wish I could go back in time and let you know that someone would be listening. But you were too busy fretting and working, and that work made me grow fits and starts...your scared poverty nights made these days. So, thanks, son.

And thank you, mis amigos. See you in Tucson. See you in my dreams. Or, um, on Facebook.



Beverly (not verified)

I just completed an amazing trip from Mexico to Kankakee...& back again, I am sad the journey is over but at the same time, joyess in the experience. You, Mr. Urrea give great pleasure in the words you place on the page. I thank God for giving you this talent and you the courage to make the most of it! To quote another, Wow just Wow!

Sharon Kay (not verified)

For me it's all about the gratitude. If I stay in that attitude...the joy follows.
Be Grateful, ya'll! In ALL things!
Be grateful your mind works. Be grateful your hands work. Be grateful your lungs work. Be grateful you heart beats! Amen?

EdgyJuneCleaver (not verified)

Wow. Just wow. Thanks.

coffeewithcarl (not verified)

I'm not a writer, but you give me hope to keep pressing on with what God has called me to, L. Thank you for being honest with us. Thank you for trusting us to love you for real. Thank you for loving us, man.


el poquito (not verified)

Very timely, Mr Urrea. I was just asking myself the other day, "how does he do it all?" There was a fair amount of awe mixed in there also - admiration, awe and questioning of "how does he make the joy front and center?" - at least usually. I know it ain't easy; I know there's the private Luis who annoyingly leaves his stank nasty socks laying around; I know it ain't always pretty or easy; I know the grass often looks greener o'er there; but I also know by now that with consistency you bring your best foot forward - consistently.

I've been enjoying very much the inside look to your work and process. And frankly I'm always amazed by your ease with self-exposure/public vulnerability. You wear it well - authentically - and am very honored to know someone who would even consider, reveal and write about such things as "the discipline of joy."

big thanks.

Add new comment

Book club members have been some of my most enthusiastic and careful readers. I’m thrilled to share my work with you, answer your questions and tell you some of the stories behind the stories. This is our spot, just for us. Here, we can chat:  If I’m nearby, I’ll come and visit your club. Otherwise, we can Skype, talk over the phone or email. Sometimes, I’ll send surprises or hold contests.

Tell us all about your book club!
Type the characters you see in this picture. (verify using audio)
Type the characters you see in the picture above; if you can't read them, submit the form and a new image will be generated. Not case sensitive.