Chase the Fun: A Cliché You Never Hear as a Writer
There are a lot of clichés writers say when they're talking about their trade. "I don't believe in writer's block," is one. It's as flippant as it is nonsensical. "I write whether I'm inspired or uninspired," is another. That one at least shows some wisdom because it's about having a work ethic. "I write because I have to," is another favorite eye-roller. Puh-leeze, get over yourself.
You've probably heard a dozen more. But let me ask you, have you ever heard a writer say, "I write because it's fun"? Rarely, I think.
Writing is a professional endeavor, sure, but do I really want to toil in a job that I hate?
It's tough, very tough, as a writer to remember that this activity is supposed to be fun. This is true especially now, when the entire publishing industry has drawn in on itself and there are fewer readers in the world than ever before. Better to spend your time on something more rewarding such as building ant farms. I've spent months, years, finishing projects only to see them get rejected again and again. I've dealt with unscrupulous publishers and filmmakers, knuckleheaded reviewers, indifferent readers, and fellow writers so drunk on their own egos that they forgot the meaning of friendship. I've lost money every year as a writer. I have a folder of rejection letters as thick as my arm. Therefore, is it any wonder as I now approach mid-life that I ask, Why, oh why, am I still investing my time and energy in this?
Fun? Yeah, give me a break.
And yet, when it's the end of the day, and I'm done partaking of the wine of sour grapes, I still hold onto those moments when yes, I had fun. I relish the buzz that came from laying down that perfect line or image, the one that made me giggle.
Since I am, at the moment, "between book publishers," I've made more of an effort to let my sense of fun, rather than my sense of obligation, guide me from project to project. Last spring, I finished a full-length stage play, a sea-faring comedy with wacky pirates and a Lovecraftian monster. I wrote a short, romantic comedy skit about secret agents and mistaken identity in a bar. Then I launched into two dark short stories that were, unsurprisingly, about babies and birthing. I've also been recording short stories for places like Variant Frequencies and SFZine. I've been blogging about whatever the hell I want. And at the moment, I'm futzing around with animation software from Xtranormal.com to create silly, short movies like these:
Is any of this going to get me any farther in my publishing career? Probably not. But am I having fun? Yes.
Is creating things for my amusement at least causing me to sit down and be creative for part of the day? Yes. And that, ultimately, is the value of chasing the fun.
Where this formula sours for me, as I believe it does for many writers, is when I start equating fun with the attention or money I hope to garner one day with writing. I admit it: I have the most fun when composing for a specific market, especially one that has hired me or invited me to submit. That kind of carrot on a stick has kept me going for years. The trouble comes when the carrot rots or when the stick is struck by lightning. At that point, it's very tempting to hang it up.
So, I have a New Year's resolution to make — a couple months early, but here goes. I'm going to throw the carrot and stick down beside the path. I'm going to skip down the trail instead, just as I've been doing. Writing is a professional endeavor, sure, but do I really want to toil in a job that I hate?
Put down the carrot and stick. Pick up the jump rope.
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