Monday, 21 March 2016

Writing Ramble: Is Writing Fun?

Recently I had an interesting discussion with a couple of author friends, Andy Knighton and Charlotte Courtney-Bond, that began from my admitting I don't find writing to be all that fun.

When Andy and Charlotte very sensibly asked why I'd do it,  I explained that there are plenty of things I do get out of writing.  I love the constant challenge, the intellectual stimulation, the way no two projects are ever even slightly the same, and the fact that I'm always learning, be it real-world knowledge to enhance my work or just how to be better at what I do.  Writing is always interesting and sometimes thrilling, but that's a different thing entirely to being fun.

After consideration, Charlotte decided that she largely felt the same way; Andy wasn't convinced.

But is writing meant to be fun?  Perhaps when it's purely a hobby, and I certainly remember getting a certain enjoyment in the early days just from the sheer act of flinging words together in interesting and unlikely combinations.  Yet the minute you start doing something professionally, in however small a way, that inevitably changes.  Writing becomes a job, and though jobs can and probably should be fun, they also need to be other things: productive, profitable, demanding.  And even if you're not aiming to make money, most people write with the intention of producing something worthwhile, which implies a certain level of graft.

In fact, I'd suggest that it's dangerous even to expect that writing should be fun.  Because, as we hinted at in our discussion, the minute you bring those expectations, you put it up against many other fun things: playing games, watching TV, ten pin bowling, shark wrestling.  And writing is always going to struggle to compete, because when done seriously and well, it's bloody difficult.  (Admittedly, the same can be said for shark wrestling.)  If you expect writing to be stimulating and emotionally fulfilling then it will rarely let you down, but when you're asking it to be fun you're bound to be disappointed, because at its worst it's a process of beating your face against the keyboard until a load of stubborn words that would rather you sod off and die than come out finally agree to play ball.  In fact, at its very worst, writing can mean dredging through experiences you'd rather not imagine or relive, and then trying to transfer those shattering emotions onto a blank page.  Whatever the word for something like that is, it surely isn't fun.

Is that to say I don't enjoy writing?  Not at all, and I do, maybe more so now than ever.  My point is just that there are plenty of different ways in which to enjoy something.  To use a tenuous metaphor, for me it's been a bit like the development of a relationship.  At the start everything was crazy and exciting, every moment was precious and every slight crisis felt like the end of the world.  These days it's more like being comfortable in the company of a clever, knowledgeable, witty companion ... maybe me and writing don't hit the town so much, but that's not to say we don't get plenty out of our time together.

Of course, no amount of writing experience has weened me off my fondness of crap metaphors.

Anyway, I'd be intrigued to hear other writers' thoughts on this one.  Do you find writing fun?  If so, is it always fun?  Would you give it up if it wasn't?  And if not then do you get the same things out of it as I do or something altogether different?  Have I just been going about it wrong all this time?

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