Writing is hard. Capitalizing on the motivation to do it is hard. Succeeding at it is hard.
But far too often, writing is hard because we are told it’s hard. And that’s not always a good thing.
Over the past few years, I’ve written more than one post about taking your writing more seriously. Going after your writing goals with the focus and drive required to accomplish them is a definite must, and I’m all about “tough love” when it comes to getting people to sit down and actually write things.
But there are also many aspiring writers who can’t write because they’re too caught up in the seriousness of it all. And this is a problem that’s not all that difficult to fix, if you’re willing to try.
In blog posts and guides and interviews and books we’re told all the things we “need” to do in order to create writing success. Some guides go as far as walking us through each element of a story that makes it likable — and let’s be honest, marketable.
This makes us feel comforted and capable, and there’s absolutely nothing wrong with that. The anxieties associated with creating something other people are going to judge and critique are real, and any little thing that can help us overcome them hardly goes unappreciated.
There’s just one problem with following a specific set of guidelines, always striving to achieve a very specific goal: It’s very easy to forget that fundamentally, writing is supposed to be fun.
Every single writer starts out telling stories for fun. There’s something truly magical about that. Even if we have far-off dreams of being a published author or full-time blogger, we typically start out just seeing what we can do with the endless possibilities that come with storytelling.
Most of us aren’t worried about telling the “perfect” story. We’re not thinking about whether or not an agent will want to pick it up. We’re not preoccupied with grammar mistakes and spelling mishaps. We’re just sitting at our computers getting to know our characters, wondering if we can actually write something from start to finish.
Sometimes, we even do it.
So what happens to take us from “just writing for fun” to “have to write the perfect story or else”? Our own false beliefs, regardless of how they formed, are mostly to blame. We believe working harder (not smarter) is the key to success. We believe being the best (not better) is what will get us where we want to go.
We believe that “making it” is the most important thing in the world, and begin to forget that the reason we started writing in the first place had nothing at all to do with that. The reason we started writing at all was because there was a story in our heart, and we had an absolute blast telling it.
Writing should be fun about 50 percent of the time. Not because we aren’t allowed to enjoy it, but because there absolutely MUST be an equal balance between work and play. If there isn’t, everything falls apart.
There are always going to be moments you don’t enjoy writing. That’s why writing is work, has always been work, and will always continue to be work. There are going to come situations in which you are going to have to focus long and hard on tiny details you’d rather not spend time perfecting.
There is a time and a place for 100 percent seriousness. And that leaves plenty of time and room left over to goof around and have fun with your characters, stories, and everything else associated with your creative process.
Over the past few months, I’ve gotten a lot better at making time to write things I never plan on showing anyone. I’ve noticed that doing this more often has made me enjoy writing in a way I haven’t in a very long time. While there is nothing wrong with having a goal and working consistently toward that goal, sometimes it’s OK not to have an end goal. Sometimes, it’s OK to just write for fun.
It makes you a better writer. It ignites and fuels your creativity. And most importantly, it serves as a reminder why you do this writing thing at all. It’s hard. It’s not always fun. But at the end of the day, you keep doing it anyway because it’s what makes you feel whole.
Don’t ever forget that. Writing is a part of you. And it always will be.
Meg is the creator of Novelty Revisions, dedicated to helping writers put their ideas into words. She is a staff writer with The Cheat Sheet, a freelance editor and writer, and a 10-time NaNoWriMo winner. Follow Meg on Twitter for tweets about writing, food and nerdy things.