(Why did I become a writer? WHY??)
“I love almost every part of writing. Writing is what I clawed my way up from hell to do.” –Ilana Waters (yes, I just quoted myself)
“Writing is fun, easy, and enjoyable. If you want hard work, go dig a ditch for a water pipe on a golf course in a steady rain on a cold day. That’s work. Sitting at a computer and making stuff up just isn’t work. It’s a dream job.”
“Because our task is so easy and so much fun, we have to make it seem harder to those around us, and to ourselves, otherwise we get no credit for all the ‘hard work’ we do every day.”
–Dean Wesley Smith
What kind of writer are you?
I imagine there are two kinds of writers reading this post.
The first kind says “How to make writing fun? You mean writing isn’t already fun?”
The second kind says “God, yes—please tell me how to make writing more fun! And by the way, I hate that first kind of writer.”
Now, I’m not here to referee between the writer types. I brought neither my referee shirt, nor my boxing gloves, nor my shatterproof, blood-repellant goggles. If you are writer #1, perhaps this post will make writing even more fun.
(Full disclosure: I consider myself a “writer #1.” Please don’t hate me).
But if you’re writer in the second camp, which seems to be more often the case these days, I hope this post will be useful. Be forewarned: there are certain things I can’t do to make writing easier and more fun. I can’t make the baby stop crying, the house clean itself, or the sticky plot mess suddenly . . . unstick.
But I can tell you what works for me. Maybe it will work for you too.
What keeps us from enjoying writing?
To get started, here are some of Mr. Smith’s suggestions on how to make writing more fun:
1) “Take the pressure off. Simply put, this is not brain surgery. No life is in your hands other than some made-up characters. And you can kill them if you want, since you are God in your story.”
2) “Stop calling your writing work. Stop thinking of writing as a grind. In other words, CHANGE YOUR ATTITUDE.”
I should probably mention at this point that Dean Wesley Smith has been both a traditionally and independently published writer for decades, with dozens of books under his belt. He also has a well-established blog where he discusses the creative and business aspects of being a writer. Although I don’t agree with everything he says, I do think his aforementioned views on writing are spot-on.
Many people think writing should be agonizing and painful. As if that’s the only way to make it “good” or “real.” Writing is painful and arduous for them, so they need to justify the experience and suffering by making others hurt as well.
This is wrong, and demonstrates a distinct lack of self-awareness. If an author wrote a fantastic book in five months or five minutes, do you care? Would you even notice?
Okay, so the quality of the five-minute book would likely be a dead giveaway. But maybe the author’s just a speedy typist. Instead, let’s pretend the comparison is between five months and five years. Or five weeks and five months.
I think, then, that the answer to the previous questions is “no.” If the writer sweated blood over each and every word, or dashed off a manuscript in a surge of euphoric inspiration, the reader wouldn’t care. It’s unlikely they’d be able to tell the difference anyway.
As Mr. Smith says, maintain your perspective
Maintaining your perspective when writing is crucial to the “fun” process. Sometimes, working on a book too long can actually harm the story. Writers tend to overthink things. We may change what was awesome, original, and gratifying because of some imagined flaw.
My mother was a high-school biology teacher. She once gave me this advice on how to prepare for tests: “Go with your first answer. It’s usually the right one.”
Now, this is not license to ignore the whole revision/editing thing. It is license to ignore your brain when it starts playing funny tricks on you. Like when you think your MC resembles Princess Leia too much because of some tiny, infinitesimal detail that only you notice. Maybe it’s the hair-braid buns.
Permission to make writing fun: GRANTED!
Now, I’m not trying to be one of “those” writers. The ones who frolic around the other, agonized scriveners struggling with their WIP’s. “Those” writers run about strewing rose petals over keyboards, saying how wonderful and easy their lives are.
When the struggling writers say, “Um, no. I’ve actually got a serious problem here that—”
“LA LA LA LA I CAN’T HEAR YOU TOO BUSY FROLICKING!” The rose-spewing writers drown them out. I am not trying to be like that!
Personally, my writing takes a ton of effort, but I love it so much, it doesn’t seem like work. I guess what I’m trying to say is that we’ve been conditioned to believe that if something is engaging and fun, it’s not worthwhile. That if the process isn’t tortuous, something must be . . . wrong. It can’t possibly be that easy! If you’re not sweating over every word, if your perspiration isn’t withering the rose petals left by Obnoxious Writer, your work must be crap.
I’m here to tell you it’s all right. Your work is very likely not crap. You are suffering the same ill-conditioning we all did. But you must learn to see past it.
You need to realize that you don’t have to be worried/upset/fretting in order for something to turn out well. You can be calm/purposeful/forgiving with yourself.
And I think that’s what Obnoxious Writers are trying to say, if only they’d stop singing and put down their !@#$% basket of rose petals.
(Depressed writer image courtesy of Sander van der Wel)