The Fun Factor(y)
Thanks so much to those of you who have posted and/or e-mailed regarding the Twelve-Million-Dollar Spurned Obama Puppy memoir item which appeared here on April 1st. The morning of April 1st, Joni and I were chatting, laughing because we were both attempting to work on the blog at the same time and kept messing up each other's changes, when I suggested that we should do an April Fool's post and proceeded to spit out some lame idea.
Joni suggested a better one, and for a few minutes, we lobbed thoughts back and forth over the phone until somebody (I forget who, but I think it was a combination effort) came up with the passed over puppy story. I volunteered to write it, because I'm the certified (certifiable) doggie-lover in this pack, and it just plain sounded like a lot of fun.
Mostly because it was NOT the manuscript I should be writing, the one that's been eating my brain and frustrating the tar out of me for lo, these many months.
The puppy story took me maybe ten or fifteen minutes tops, and I was laughing the whole time I wrote it, enjoying mightily the play aspect of a piece of writing with no outside deadline, no pressure to sell, review well, or live up to reader expectations -- nothing to worry about except having a bit of harmless fun. If it amused a few other people, great. If not, I've heard the crickets before after posting blog entries, and I've survived the silence just fine, thank you.
But here's the really cool part. After writing it, I went back to the manuscript from hell and finally found the flow I'd been struggling toward for what seems like forever. I found my fingers flying, the pages mounting as the story took off like a sled with fresh-greased runners.
I'm pretty sure I know the reason. With another deadline following this one, two proposals to write, and a couple of trips planned -- all during this summer, my mind had turned the current project into WORK, a brick wall to be painfully bashed through on my way to even more work. I'd forgotten how to have fun with the writing, how to divorce my brain from the outcome and expectation and whoop my way downhill as the story and its characters took me for a wild ride. Doing even a tiny blog gag for the sheer joy of it unlocked the keys to the abandoned fun factory where I'd left my sled tucked in a corner (next to the dusty trampoline and silly Groucho glasses). Laughing helped knock off the cobwebs and finally get me moving once again.
The more complicated truth is that sometimes writing has to be work. It takes discipline to see through an idea, discipline that's a lot tougher to come by when you're stretching to do something challenging and scary. But an infusion of fun resurrects those first, giddy days of writing for mere pleasre, where the simple love of process was the only anticipated reward.
So when you're really struggling, with your back against the wall, why not try writing something for the fun of it? Song lyrics, an-fashioned letter, a short poem (you have my permission to write a really bad one), or a gag. Spend a half-hour playing to refresh your tired noggin, and see if you can loosen up the tight knot in your prose.
What about the rest of you? What do you do to make the writing process fun again?