To Fun or Not to Fun
Recently, I’ve heard a lot of indie authors touting the notion that writing should be fun…and if it’s not, get out, because you’re in the wrong business.
Every time I hear it, it’s like a fairy falling lifeless to the ground when someone doesn’t believe. Before I go any further, let me say this:
If you want to be a writer, never let anyone tell you to stop.
I majored in Anthropology in college with the intent of becoming an archaeologist. I had my whole life mapped out around that core career. And then junior year, I had a professor advise us all to get out and find something new to do because technology was going to make us obsolete within ten years. I trusted his experience, relied on his authority in the field, and took his advice. It’s been eleven years, and archaeologists still exist. They still dig, still study, still catalogue. The field didn’t fail because of technology, it diversified. Had I gotten into it back then, I’d have been ahead of the curve. As it was, I left school for a while to figure out what else to do with my life and didn’t get my degree for another six years. I gave up my chance to do what I loved because I listened to someone who was supposed to know what he was talking about, and I kick myself every time I see a new archaeological discovery in the news. Because there are things I can’t do at 35 nearly as well as I could have done them at 25, not least because I have a family to care for.
If you want something for yourself, don’t let anyone talk you out of it. Don’t doubt that you can do it, that you have the right personality or interest base. Make it work for you. Find what you bring to it and diversify. Because what they’re really saying is, “You can’t do what I think you want to do/what I do.” But chances are pretty good that you don’t want to do whatever it is they see ahead of you; you probably want to do what YOU see, and that’s almost never the same thing. That goes doubly for creative pursuits.
Okay. Important message out of the way.
This particular bit of bad advice has been driving me crazy for months, largely because I’m not the kind of author who always has fun when she’s writing. ‘Cause you know what? I don’t write a lot of “fun” stories. The first novel I started with the intent to finish, back in high school, was about a half-elf who lost his family and became reliant upon a strong mentor figure who was secretly using him for his own dark ends. The first novel I actually finished was about a teenager whose siblings essentially sold her to a sadist to finance a revolution. Heck, the book I’m working on right now is amazingly fun to write, full of awkward moments and sexual innuendo, but it still has painful elements that have made writing it an emotionally unfun experience.
Writing doesn’t have to be fun. Even fun books don’t have to be fun all the time.
At least once during every book I’ve ever written, I get so angry at it that I want to tear it into tiny bits with my bare hands, chuck it in a fire to watch it sizzle and burn, and then gather up the ashes to craft something else I can destroy. It’s part of my writing process. I used to follow a traditionally published author who said whenever she hit that moment, her family would respond with, “So you’re on the right track, then!” Because it was also part of her process, and she only ever hit it when the book was coming together well.
Personally, the best fun I have with a story is if it’s challenging. If it makes me work, makes me question how I’m writing it or why I’m writing it; if it makes me realize something about myself or the ideas I want to convey; if it’s hard, that’s when I love it most. I think a lot of writers equate “fun” with “easy,” like it can only be fun if you’re blowing through scenes like Bonnie and Clyde blew through banks and emerging from most sessions with an adrenaline high. Frankly, if that’s the only part of writing you experience, I think you’re missing out. But that’s just me; I’m in it because it’s who I am, not just what I do. YMMV (and should).
Basically, it all boils down to this: All writers are different. All books are different. What works for one won’t necessarily work for another. Find your niche, find your passion, find your process, and then cheer on everyone else.
And if you’re the one giving advice, don’t be the reason someone looks back ten years from now and regrets the choices they made. Uplift each other. Change up your perspective.