Tuesday, June 28, 2011

What if Writing was Just Fun?

I'll admit it: I'm a lurker on Twitter. And on Facebook, for that matter. I don't have a ton to add to the conversation. I follow a bunch of writers mostly, and though many of them crack me up, a lot of folks complain a LOT about how hard writing is, how much legacy publishers suck, how they're disappointed at their sales numbers. Criminy, it's like they've displaced all of their anxieties and crushing hopelessness from other aspects of their lives over to their writing.

Breathe. All of you. Just breathe.

This is writing. It is not breaking stones in a gulag. It can suck as much as you want it to suck, or it can be joyful. You can write for one hour a day (as I do) or you can write for 10 hours a day every day except holidays (as Stephen King does). You can self-publish or you can go the legacy route (if you're extremely patient). You can make the experience of writing fun, or it can be a slog through waste-high pig crap.

The point is, it's a choice. I read an interesting post the other day about the top five regrets people have on their deathbeds. It was written by a former palliative care worker who has nursed countless people until their deaths, absorbing what they say as they reach the final precipice. The number 5 regret people had was that they wished they'd allowed themselves to be happier.

Yes, happiness is a choice.

I'll say it again: happiness is a choice. I know what you're thinking: Chris must be the happiest guy in the world! He's chosen to be happy! Wrong. I'm still learning how to be happy. I'm evolving. But what I've discovered is this: you can either subject yourself to a style of writing that makes you miserable--for me, if I have to do a ton of research to write a book, I will hate life--or you can choose to write in a way that makes you feel fulfilled and happy and screw what Harold Bloom thinks of your writing.

You're not gonna please everyone anyway.

I once had a writing teacher who chastized me when I said that I wasn't having fun writing a certain short story I was working on.

"Fun?" he snarled, giving me what I would come to learn was his signature withering look. "Writing shouldn't be fun. Think of it more as prostitution. No matter how you're feeling on any given day, you have to write."

Pardon me while I hurl.

Look, the cliche is true: we only have a finite number of years here on earth, so why not make them happy ones? One counter-argument to this is that we work hard and drive ourselves into oblivion now in the hopes that it'll pay off later in terms of critical love, industry respect, etc.

I say to hell with that.

Be happy. Writing will still be hard once you've discovered the kind that makes you joyful, but at least you won't be beating your head against the wall every step of the way. And that love will come through in your stories, and it'll keep readers engaged. So go forth and be happy!


  1. Well said. I can't write when I'm miserable (unless my goal is write emo, depressing, and incoherently).

  2. Thanks for your comment, K.D. and thanks for the follow! I know, I can't write when I'm miserable either. I think lots of people feel that they must put themselves through an emotional cheese grater in order to create good work. But IMHO, this just doesn't have to be so.