Do you love to write?
Sometimes I love to write. Other times I love it after, when it is done. Still other times there is no love to be found, not hiding under any rock, not even afterwards.
Lately I've been thinking about fun and love in creativity, and trying to come up with a discipline that will make it always fun. Or at least: mostly. I don't know if that's possible, but it's worth a shot. The thing is, I generally set out to do something beyond what I can easily achieve, whether it's art or writing. The perfectionist in me is making certain demands from the outset, and that makes the process less fun that it might be if I were creating purely for fun.
For example, I wrote a silly story the other day just for Clementine. So long as my brain was on the right channel ("for Clementine, not for the hope of publication and wowing the world"), it was a breezy, light-hearted thing to do. Fun. But once I started thinking, "Hey, this is pretty good. Maybe this could be something," my brain switched over to compulsive self-editing perfectionist channel and it became less fun. I wish it truly were channels, because then presumably I could wrest the remote control away from whoever the heck is wielding it now, and I could turn on the fun channel for all first drafts.
Still, even if there is no remote control for my brain, there must be a mental discipline that would amount to the same thing. I'm working on that now: the discipline of fun. How to stay in that place of fun, creatively, more of the time. How to make it, ideally, the new normal. You know, just because you get really used to something, doesn't mean you can't alter it entirely and then get really used to the new something. Like painting a room. It's WOW! at first, and then it fades to normal. So, I'm setting out to develop a disciplined practice of FUN. Care to join me?
(No contortionism or skimpy outfits required!)
Here's one tip to get us started:
At one of the first SCBWI conferences I attended, the writer Michael Hoeye recommended you "write to a specific person, not to a cosmic crowd," for example: write to a child you know. There's a writing exercise I do sometimes called "Bedtime Story" where I write "Once upon a time . . ." first and then try to write in the spirit of telling a bedtime story out loud, to someone specific, be it my childhood self, or now Clementine. It's not a situation that encourages perfectionism. It's a way of turning that mental channel. Sometimes it works. I recall that Michael Hoeye told how he'd written his first Hermux Tantamoq novel for his wife while she was away on a long business trip, and I think he said he emailed her chapters. That's kind of a version of bedtime story. Make your audience specific, make them someone who loves you, and maybe you can make the writing process be purely about the joy of a story unspooling.
I hope so!
Here's a quote from the writing book Page After Page by Heather Sellers, which I have from the library right now:
To create a writing life, you will need to fall in love--deeply, seductively, passionately--with your writing life. It will become not a habit or a job, but a lover. If you keep it as a second-string lover, it might always be cranky with you. But if you make your writing life so lovely you can't take your eyes off it, you will space out during meetings, and dream about it as you go through the day, just like when you're in love.
I do want to fall in love with my writing life.
Where am I in my writing life? Well, I'm working on a YA novel that's written in the same style/tone as Lips Touch, but it's one big juicy tale rather than stories. With this book I have experienced memorable highs of fun. Last fall I recorded my first day with it:
"I had the most beautiful, brilliant, joyous writing day yesterday! Every word was sheer fun. The air crackled with ideas so that my hair got static and stood on end. A shimmering window opened in the air and butterflies flew in. A polite goblin brought me a key on a golden pillow. I don't know what it opens yet, but I'm sure it's something awesome."
I'm sure you've been there on the first day with a new idea. Like a relationship, a book will not always maintain that same level of infatuation, but hopefully like a relationship it can sustain deep affection and attraction and commitment. Love.
I also finished a first draft of something else the other day, something shorter and sillier and for younger readers. I typed the last 500 words or so one-handed with Clementine asleep in my other arm. It was slow-going, but I did it, and halleluja it was also fun because I was determined that it would be. That was my first priority: have fun. I'm working on that attitude with the novel, which is much more involved and less light-hearted, and more of a challenge for my new discipline. I'm going to do my best, though. I'll keep you posted.
Meanwhile, there were dragon sightings at Portland's Japanese Garden yesterday afternoon. No. It's true.
See? Isn't she terrifying?