I hope you’ll enjoy this guest post by Lisa Romeo, a fellow alum from the Stonecoast MFA program. I was lucky enough to be in a humor writing workshop with Lisa and I was immediately struck by her modesty, and her sincere desire to help and support other writers.
Do you have fun as a writer?
Fun for one writer may mean tackling an intellectually challenging piece. For another it’s nailing a particular description or new literary device. Fun can be getting published, or reading back what you’ve written.
Is writing still fun for you? If not, why do it at all?
I’m talking about the kind of fun you discovered when you first started writing. Remember that, back a few years, or a few decades?
Of course you do.
But. Somewhere along the line, if we are serious about writing, we lose some of that fun loving feeling. We aren’t extravagantly engaged anymore. So what can you do to get the fun back into your writing life?
I don’t mean it should be a barrel of laughs each time you write. Writing is work, hard work. But certainly it should be fun enough that you want to continue to devote many hours to a task for which you are likely not earning very much (or anything). Thinking of writing as work is great for discipline, meeting deadlines, taking ourselves seriously, and convincing loved ones that what we’re up to all those hours at the keyboard is not a fling at fancy.
But it doesn’t inspire much joy, like fun does.
What do you find fun in your writing life?
I have a writing friend who thinks it’s fun to rise at dawn. and write while watching the backyard wildlife. Another makes writing fun by entering a contest every month. Someone else gets her fun dose by reading at open mics. Another finds it fun to hang out with a writing support group, while another ends each block of novel writing with a silly four-line poem for his grandchildren. Is National Novel Writing Month fun for you? How about canoodling with a thesaurus? Trying a new genre just because? Attending a conference? Writing to a prompt each morning?
Having some fun with your writing life can provide a needed diversion from your main writing project, and help rekindle the joyful fun of writing and being a writer in the world. An alternative writing mini-project is a way to experiment, to dip a toe into a different literary sandbox, and keep the writing muscle surprised, in a good, fun way. It may also enhance your craft skills and return you to the big project renewed.
About seven years ago I was having trouble with a long essay, and started…fiddling is the only thing to call it. I opened a new notebook and wrote out the most interesting lines and phrases from the essay, but in different, sometimes bolder, sometimes softer voices, and I slowly realized I was writing…well, poetry.
It was fun. I kept going back to that essay, pulling out more interesting lines, moving them to my new poetry notebook. Having fun. On one hand it felt like wasting time, but I was discovering something new about myself as a writer. And did I say this was fun? Several of those early poems have been (revised and) published, and I’ve gone on to write others. The original essay lives in a dead draft file, but look where it led.
Does this make me a poet? No. I’m a nonfiction writer who sometimes writes poems as a fun writing break from my essays and my memoir manuscript. I also tinker with song lyrics. I know nothing about musical composition, but I love to write what I (maybe naively) think could be song lyrics. For fun. Yes, I know real poets and true lyricists work hard at their craft and I deeply admire both. But for me – they are fun sidelines, a writing release valve.
Do you have one? If not, think about finding some place new to play as a writer, someplace to have more writing fun. Because, why not?
Lisa Romeo writes, edits and teaches writing in New Jersey and online. Her work has appeared in the New York Times, O-The Oprah Magazine, and numerous other journals, essay collections, and anthologies; she has work forthcoming in Under the Sun. Among Lisa’s many awards are a Vermont Studio Center Grant and a Scholarship Award from the American Society of Journalists & Authors. Lisa has an MFA from Stonecoast. She is at work on a memoir.
Her blog offers a wealth of resources for writers, on everything from submissions, freelancing, getting published (and rejected), journalism, revisions, life after the MFA, teaching, and living the writer’s life. You can also connect with Lisa via Twitter @LisaRomeo and contact her through her website.