This is a common admonition I hear from my husband whenever I am about to turn an enjoyable and wholly voluntary endeavor—say, a sunny Saturday afternoon walk on the beach with the dog—into a task-laden chore by overthinking it, and fretting about everything that could potentially go wrong.
Husband (with cheery enthusiasm): “Let’s take the dog for a walk on the beach!”
Me (with genuine, yet cautious enthusiasm): “Great! I just need to find his leash. Oh, we should probably bring some treats for him. Did you put on sunscreen? I should change my pants. Are you bringing your phone? I need a hat. I’m wearing the wrong shoes. Do you need to go to the bathroom? Should we bring some bottled water?”
Husband (with waning enthusiasm): “We’re just going for an hour, tops. Let’s just go!”
Me (still genuinely, yet cautiously enthused): “Yes! Almost ready—should we bring the camera? Did you charge it? Do we need money? When’s the tide coming in?”
Husband (we all know what’s coming…): “Let’s just go! It’s supposed to be fun!”
At this point, I remind him that my ability to think of so many obstacles to our beach walk is actually a tribute to my imagination! And in my defense- we live in the Pacific Northwest where sunny Saturday afternoons are not the norm—so special preparations are in order. He usually mutters something about paranoia and then off we go on our fun adventure! As we finally start walking, I realize that I am so happy just to be there on the beach with my husband and doggie, even if I did forget my SPF 45 Chapstick.
Often, as I sit in front of my computer, wondering if my characters are sympathetic and relatable, if my story properly arcs, if my first paragraph has a good ‘hook’, if I should be using a different point of view, if my dialogue is realistic, if I’m following the “rules” of writing— I hear that familiar reminder (a.k.a. “attitude adjuster”) deep in the recesses of my feverish brain: It’s supposed to be fun!
I’ve spent lots of years writing in the course of my various jobs. I’ve liked it well enough, but I always wanted to try to write for myself— to see what would happen if I didn’t have an assignment, a deadline, and a predetermined outcome for what I was writing. Now that I’m finally the roaming the (somewhat dusty and poorly lit) corridors of my imagination, I find myself thinking about all the things I might be doing wrong—and that is no fun!
Luckily, I’ve found a couple of tricks that help me shift my perspective on writing from work to play. One is the NaNoWriMo approach. (If you have not heard of National Novel Writing Month and want more information, click here.) A primary NaNoWriMo philosophy is to give yourself permission to engage in crappy writing. Edit later, write voluminously now! I am currently in the midst of the June Camp-Nanowrimo session. This semi- structured, light-hearted approach to writing is a top-notch attitude adjuster. Another reliable trick is to do “morning pages” a la Julia Cameron’s The Artist’s Way. I love the morning pages/brain dump approach. Of course, I don’t always do them in the morning, nor do I write them every day. But it’s so good to know that this incredibly freeing tool is there to help ‘clear the decks’ and potentially unearth some fresh ideas. (For more tips to help get your writing moving, see Karen McHegg’s post on overcoming fear, and Michelle Feder’s post on battling writer’s block.)
Most importantly, when I am doing my best to make writing seem like a really, really hard job, I take a step back, and remember what this is all about. I want to write! I enjoy putting the puzzle pieces of a story together. I feel such a sense of accomplishment when I’ve written something. No one is making me do this- I’ve chosen it. So I’ll take the opportunity while it’s here. Let’s just go! It’s supposed to be fun! (And don’t worry about bringing the camera!)
Earlier this week, I was moaning to my husband that I had no idea what I was going to write for this blog piece. When he saw me pacing around and wringing my hands, can you guess what he said to help me get going?