Victoria Noe

Award-winning Author, Speaker, Activist

The Joy of Writing, Rediscovered

Apr 22, 2024 by Victoria Noe, in AIDS , HIV , Friend Grief , writing

You know the social media posts, the ones about grabbing all the joy you can find? About discovering joy in ordinary moments, not just big ones? I think they’re annoying. Full disclosure: it’s not easy for me to access joy. I know it when I see/feel it, but it seems to be avoiding me more than I’d like. 

The last year or so, I’ve concentrated on looking for joy in other people and their accomplishments. I jump on posts announcing a new grandchild or a work accomplishment, on reels of photos of once-in-a-lifetime vacations. I can feel the joy in the posts and I celebrate it, even though it’s someone else’s. And for a while, that was enough.

I made the decision a few months ago to update my book on straight women in the AIDS community. The last book, about grieving friends during COVID took a lot out of me. I’m still working to understand how much.  I figured it was time anyway for that second edition. As it turned out, it was what I needed to find joy for myself.

The book (F*g Hags, Divas and Moms: The Legacy of Straight Women in the AIDS Community) was a labor of love, something close to my heart but a big switch from my previous books. And while I’ve always wondered if anyone would read my books about friend grief, if anyone would care, I never felt that way about this one. I knew there was an audience from the beginning, because so many people were willing to help me write it. I felt a type of confidence that was new to me. It wasn’t until recently, that I realized what I felt was joy.

All of my books share stories of people, often in vulnerable moments. This one did, too, but it was different. They were stories of women who fought their own demons and came out stronger. Women who made the world a better place for themselves, their families, their friends, and complete strangers around the world. Their work was draining, both physically and emotionally, but they kept on. They fought against unimaginable odds - and continue to do so to this day. They were frustrated and angry at times, but they did not give up. They still don’t, because HIV/AIDS is not over. Neither is their commitment to ending it. And in the midst of all that horror, they found joy.

And I felt joy in the telling of their stories.

I felt joy in finding women whose stories had never been told before, so they could be recognized for their accomplishments.

I felt joy in sharing those stories with people who had never imagined the kind of work these women have done for over forty years.

I felt joy in the sense that de Saint-Exupery defines it: the act of creation.

For a long time, I didn’t realize what it was. I thought I was just excited and a bit relieved to write about something other than unrelenting grief. I don’t regret writing about friend grief at all. It’s a topic that’s important to me, and not just because so few people have written books about it. I will continue to write about it, but I knew last fall that I needed a break. What better way than to return to a community where I feel so at home?

And maybe for the first time, I can acknowledge the joy.