I was in a Twitter chat earlier this week on writing process. During the discussion, the topic came up that writing couldn’t be fun. In fact, there were two people who absolutely insisted it could NOT be fun. Me? I always play when I write. I have to have fun or the writing will not work — and it shows in the writing.
I think the “Don’t have fun” concept comes from two different areas. The first is there is a lot of talk about ‘butt to chair’ and word counts per day. There is some truth to this, because you have to write to finish a story, and you can’t just write something today, wait six months and write the next chapter. Word count goals are supposed to help motivate that, but the focus can shift to making the goal rather than doing the writing.
But having fun is a motivation for writing. If the story is a joy to write, it’s going to be a lot easier to motivate yourself to write. Granted, there are going to be some scenes that are always an aggravation to write, but the entire book shouldn’t feel like you’re torturing yourself. I liked James Scott Bell’s method of word count goals: Set a weekly one, not a daily one. It gives a little structure to the fun, but at the same time if life intrudes, you’re not in danger of actually falling behind.
The second reason is The Rulez. Writers like rules because it gives them a boundary of what they can and can’t do. And it puts a stranglehold on the story and having fun with it. I keep hearing people said, “You have to follow the rules to break the rules,” but no one ever defines what all those rules are. So we end up with writers afraid that the Rule Police are going to come after them armed with a paintball gun to zap adverbs or shoot and destroy commas. When I was in a critique group, we had one writer who was convinced he could not use any adverbs and adjectives. He would spend a great deal of time revising them out of his writing, and it showed in the writing. If he’d finished the project, he would have likely hated it — but he would have been pleased that he’d followed the rules!
Rulez are the fastest thing to suck the life right out of writing. They put artificial — and sometimes unnecessary boundaries — on the writing. A lot of times they keep writers from trying new things that maybe they should be trying.
Borrowing a tweet from my father:
You cannot be good at anything unless it is fun.
Make sure artificial influences like word count goals and The Rulez don’t interfere with that.