It’s Saturday night as I sit here typing this and things have been pretty crazy here over the past few weeks. Let me break tell you just how crazy I mean: the first of the month through the 7th, my best friend visited with her 1-year-old son; the 11th through the 13th, the husband’s best friend visited with his 5-year-old son; the 14th through the 17, the husband’s parents visited; and now the 19th through who knows when, the husband’s cousin is visiting (he’s a bit of a free-spirited wanderer–I don’t think he uses a calendar or a clock). And because of all this excitement, my oldest daughter has a nice little cough, my youngest is so congested she sounds like a 70-year-old smoker, and I have lost my voice. So what am I doing this Saturday night? Not unwinding after a busy few weeks. Not resting so I can get well. No, I’m berating myself for not getting any writing done.
It’s easy to do, isn’t it? Anyone who takes a creative inclination and decides to turn it into in a profession knows the pressure that comes to produce. We read dozens, if not hundreds, of blog posts and books telling us to write no matter what–sick or healthy, tired or not, friends and family be damned. And I agree with them…except somewhere in the back of my mind, I’m not sure I do. What happened to allowing time for fun?
I’ve been reading The Happiness Project by Gretchen Rubin for, oh…about 3 months now. It’s one of those things I always want to do but never seem to get around to doing it. Being that I wasn’t writing, I figured I might as well do the other thing I’ve been nagging myself to finish so I picked it up. The chapter I’d bookmarked is called, “Be Serious About Play,” or “Leisure Time,” or basically, doing things you enjoy, purely for the benefit of enjoying them. Remember that? Yeah, me neither.
So the beginning gets right into talking about what activities you consider fun. Of course, reading is at the top of my list, which I do still make time for most days. I remembered my guitar, which is gathering dust in the corner. But there isn’t much else because I just don’t have much time for “fun.” Oh yeah, I remind myself, laughing–writing! Because, of course, it’s the most fulfilling and exciting part of my life. It’s a blast…except somewhere in the back of my mind, it isn’t. Otherwise, why am I not ecstatic about the quiet in the house right now?
That’s the hard part about taking something you love and turning it into a job–it becomes just that. A job. A job, by definition (just ask anyone–we don’t need Miriam Webster here), is not very fun. Even if we “enjoy” it, per se. The fact of the matter is when we feel obligated to do anything, it automatically becomes less fun. Which is to suggest, if we want to enjoy writing or any other creative pursuit, we probably ought not decide to try making a living out of it. But then, we want to be read. We want our work to be appreciated by someone other than our word processor.
Even though I’m only just dipping my toes into the publishing industry, I’ve always treated writing as a job. I am the type of person that enjoys deadlines and accomplishing things I set out to do. I love striving toward something. But somewhere along the way, I lost a lot of the fun. I look at writing as something I have to do, instead of something I want to do. And there’s a big difference there.
Choosing Writing, Not Forcing It
Of course, writers can’t sit around waiting for inspiration to strike us. That would never happen, and that’s not what I mean. What I mean is finding a way to look forward to writing again as something enjoyable, instead of dreading it as a chore. Same end goal, different frame of mind. Unfortunately I’m not the type of person who can change my mind with the flick of a switch. I need to change things up. So as I continued reading The Happiness Project (I didn’t get very far into the chapter before I had to sit down and write this blog–because blogging is fun!), I wondered how to make writing fun again, even as I dive deeper into making writing a profession. Ever-optimist that I am, I refuse to believe it can’t be both. Here’s what I came up with for me…
When I attended the Colorado Gold conference last month, I sat in on a workshop with Cindi Myers about revisions, but she also told us a bit about her writing schedule. Every morning, she wakes up and very first thing, gets 2 hours of writing in. I’d read about other people using this method of tackling the biggest or most important work of the day at the first opportunity, but I always wrote it off because I was a self-proclaimed “night owl.” There was no way I could wake up before the kids to get my writing done. But as my nighttime writing hours dwindled due to exhaustion and sheer lack of motivation, I decided I wasn’t doing my writing justice if I didn’t give it a try. So made a solemn vow to do whatever it took to make morning writing a reality. I made this resolution on September 26th. And then, well…see above.
Again, though, I came back to the idea of my ideal schedule: writing in the morning, spending quality time with my girls all day, reading in the afternoon, then exercising and doing social networking in the evening. Sounds pretty lovely, doesn’t it? Sure beats stomping around all day, frustrated that cleaning the house, chasing after the little ones, and running errands was going to suck the life from me before I got a single word written.
I feel like this morning idea works for 2 very specific reasons: 1) I set myself a strict time to start writing and 2) I set myself a strict time to stop writing. And I think the second one is most important for keeping writing fun. How many writers out there let work seep into every moment of your lives? It feels like we should be doing it because we can and we want our dreams to come true. But all of this comes at the cost of enjoying the process and enjoying our days now. The lack of balance ends up taking the fun out of work and everything else.
A Plan for Fun
Which leads me to my new “fun” resolution: ENJOY writing in the morning, then put it away and stop worrying about it for the rest of the day. At first, the idea scares me. Won’t I be losing so much time I could be using to accomplish more? But the reality is, I spend much less time than 2 hours each day writing now because I spend so much time avoiding my “job.” The hope is that by putting it away for the day–really letting go of it–I will allow myself enough time to miss it by the time the morning comes. And then…just maybe…I’ll actually have fun doing it.
Do you still have fun writing? What do you think you could do to make it more enjoyable?