If it’s not fun, it’s just not worth it. You should work hard if you want to be a writer, but there’s a level at which it has to be fun for you, too.
So remind yourself:
- The things we do with our life should be self-satisfying, writing included.
- Of course our readers lose interest in our work if we don’t give a damn about it.
- If we give up on what’s fun for us to write about, we’re giving up on our personal style (what makes our writing unique and dynamic).
There are many reasons why writers forget sometimes how much fun they should be having with their work. I know, because I’ve let myself fall victim to just about every one of them. The one I’ve found most detrimental is feeling pressured to be perfect. I’ve felt most afraid of failing since I’ve been in this MFA program, and I think it has something to do with adjusting to this whole “I suppose I’m an adult now” thing, asking myself, Shouldn’t I be practical now that I’ve graduated college? Shouldn’t I put a legitimate career ahead of my writing? And the big one: Shouldn’t I try not to fail while writing this next story? The answer is: No, NO, and for heaven’s sake, NO!
If a writer is too focused on being perfect, they will learn less, and they will be boring to read, and they will bore themselves, because when we try to be perfect, we don’t challenge ourselves. Instead, in reaching for perfection, we eliminate challenge. There’s this great quote by Robert Creeley that’s long, but I’m going to share it with you anyway. It goes:
“Franz Kline said, “If I paint what I know, I bore myself. I paint what you know, I bore you. Therefore I paint what I don’t know.” He isn’t saying that he paints what he doesn’t know how to paint – but that he paints what he cannot conceptually enclose as intention. And he is doing it with consummate intelligence of the possibilities inherent in such an open situation – where what happens takes precedence over what ‘should’ happen – and with most alert perceptions. That’s the point, for me at least, that the world be let in, that all the range of the art’s powers of revelation, of doing something, be admitted.”
If we don’t worry about being perfect in that first draft, let things happen, see what becomes of it, we’ve given our work the availability to do something unique and interesting, and we’ve given ourselves the availability to learn more by working through the challenges inherent in writing that does something new.
Remember that failing and taking chances are important keys to learning. Remember that there is no point to do this if it’s not something you enjoy, so play and go with your instincts, and let things happen on the page even if you’re not sure why they are happening. Challenge yourself. This will keep you enjoying what you’re doing and will prevent you from becoming stagnant. A true writer never stops wanting to learn. Whenever I realize that I am scared to do something in writing, my next step is to do that thing (maybe it’s writing in a different genre or maybe it’s writing a story based in a place I don’t know well or a story from a child’s perspective or a story that experiments in form in some way). When I sit down with a task that terrifies me, I initially think I don’t want to do this, but in the end, facing something so challenging is fun. It often leads to my best stories, to a moment of growth in my writing, and to confidence. So play, experiment, make it fun for yourself, and push those silly fears of failure out of your head.
Christina Glessner is a third-year MFA candidate in Fiction at the University of New Mexico. She is Managing Editor for Blue Mesa Review.