I started writing for fun when I was a child. I can’t remember the exact year, although a story remains from when I wasn’t much older than five and wrote, on gray pulpy paper with wide blue lines, a tale about a bear who got “stickers in his nose” and couldn’t get them out. So, I’m not sure if I wrote regularly at that age, but I do know that shortly after learning to read well, at some point it occurred to me that people wrote books and that meant I could write books too.
When I was a child and a teen, I wrote because it was fun to write and I enjoyed it. Yet, as I have alluded to before, eventually, writing became imbued with so much seriousness that it lost its fun and, at times, became a chore. I’d sit in front of a computer with ideas, but they wouldn’t come because I felt I had to Write Something Important, which of course, is stressful and the furthest thing from fun. I am here to tell, you, though, that the single biggest way to begin writing again is to make writing enjoyable and fun once again.
Take exercise as an example. We are all different when it comes to how we like to get our exercise (if we exercise at all), but the key to doing it frequently is to find a way to enjoy whatever it is that we are doing. For years, I tried to go to the gym because most people went to a gym for exercise and this is what I felt I had to do. I’d don my gym clothes and dutifully drive there, only to be accosted by a gust of ice-cold air and the smell of the gym–a mixture of old coffee and stale sweat.
I think it may have been the cold air I hated the most. Gyms keep their temperature cool on purpose because obviously, when people are working out, they get hot and most people are not as cold-blooded as me. I’d spend the first thirty minutes trying to stave off hypothermia until I sufficiently built up enough heat to carry on with my workout, but I felt miserable the entire time. I also hated dealing with each machine—wiping it down, hooking up my music, etc. If I found a way out of going to the gym, I found it. Eventually, I canceled my membership ever single time (well, except when we lived in Dallas with small children and the trip to the gym allowed me to put them in the child watch, which they loved and I loved. This was my only hour alone for over a year, but I digress, although it supports my point that when something is enjoyable, we are more likely to do it).
It took long time before I realized that I was far more likely to exercise if I went on a walk or a run outside my house. Sometimes I listen to music or audiobooks and sometimes, I just think. The air is warm (very warm in Houston) and I’ve found out that I look forward to walking or running each day. The trade-off of sometimes being rained out (or flooded out, in Houston) or having to run when it’s cool enough to avoid death, but this is a trade-off I have to make to keep me exercising most days out of the year. After analyzing why I wasn’t exercising before and doing what I needed to do to make it enjoyable, I was able to make it part of my regular routine. Again, if it is fun, we tend to do it more.
(The picture above illustrates this. On a recent trip to San Francisco, my husband and I walked from the financial district to Chinatown, to Little Italy, all the way to the Golden Gate Bridge. Then we walked across the Golden Gate Bridge and into Sausalito where we then decided we needed to Uber home. The Uber driver was suitably impressed. Suffice it to say that we both find walking enjoyable).
The same goes for writing, and this is why we should all write what we want to write! Tell yourself a story and for a first draft, don’t think beyond yourself and the fun you are going to have writing it. If you suffer from writer’s block, you might want to first begin a new draft by telling yourself that you are just writing for fun, no one has to see it, you are just playing. Tell yourself this even if you have every intention of ultimately submitting the final draft for publication. This isn’t the final draft, after all, and you are just playing. Writing what you want allows you to try new things you wouldn’t have tried before. It allows you to explore different themes and concepts and techniques. Just let that first draft unwind and go where it wants to go. You will reel it back in and edit it later, after all. You can fix what ails it later. But the first time you write it? Let her rip. You need that raw material.
Some people will love what you wrote and others won’t. It’s a simple fact of life. Don’t worry about it. You are not trying to please the entire world—you are just writing in a way that will probably please some of the world–a small faction, even. I have had people read things I have published—one story in particular that is fairly experimental—and tell me “I didn’t really like that one,” or something to that effect. This is fine. Everyone is entitled to his or her opinion. That same story also received quite a bit of kudos from others and actually made a small amount of money, so some people liked it. Every piece is not for every person. Don’t sweat it. Just keep writing.
Explore in your writing. Use it as a project to understand something, whether it be understanding a new technique or understanding a personality trait. Or write because you have a story to tell and that story isn’t written yet.
At the end of the day, we all need to take ourselves a lot less seriously. We need to do things because we enjoy doing them, regardless of the bigger picture.