A strange thing happens when you get older. The things you love to do suddenly become chores. This is a weird occurrence I’ve noticed within myself, as the years have gone on, and it’s getting worse and worse.
I love to write. That’s nooot exactly a secret. *grins* Fewer things make me happier than coming up with new stories, meeting new characters as they appear in my head and introduce themselves (because, really, that’s how it always goes, it’s so rare I “create” a character, they’re just…there, ready to take over my life and drive me crazy), creating new worlds to explore, thinking up fun concepts and crazy adventures to throw my characters in. That moment when I come up with that just right first sentence (after wailing about it for an hour) brings satisfaction like no other. Those times the words flow and I disappear into the story and forget I’m even writing are like no other. It is magical.
But at the same time? Writing is HARD.
You’ll see a thousand memes of it online, about how writing is 10% writing, 90% crying. See all the twitter posts about writers procrastinating and doing anything else but writing. See us spend waaay more time pinning pictures for our story on Pinterest than actually WRITING IT.
Because here’s the thing, writers don’t always like writing.
And it’s crazy! No on is making us write. This is our chosen profession or hobby or whatever. We could literally do ANYTHING ELSE with our lives. And it’s not one for the faint of heart. Writing is one of the most vulnerable careers in existence. We spend possibly years of our life poring over a single book, putting our heart and tears into it, just so random strangers can take a day or so to read it and possibly tear it apart. Plus, unless you’re name is J.K. Rowling, you’re not really gonna make that much money selling books.
So why do we do it? BECAUSE WE LOVE IT. But if we say we love it, why do we spend over half our lives complaining about it???
Well, that’s a question I’ve been asking myself for years. It’s a strange paradox that I firmly believe all creatives experience. Whether you’re a writer, artist, dancer, musician, whatever it may be, you don’t always love doing that creative thing you’ve chosen to pursue. Even though…you chose to pursue it.
When I was nine years old and randomly decided to write a book, I was enamored with the idea. I’d almost daily take my Lisa Frank notebook (‘cause I was a cool kid *puts on sunglasses*) and pencil outside, lay on the grass, and write. It was unlike anything I ever experienced, being able to come up with stories on my own, putting them on paper, seeing the images in my head come alive in words. The process was utterly fascinating and delightful. I couldn’t get enough of it. I carried that notebook eeeverywhere. I wrote in the car, at restaurants, on the couch, in bed and staying up way later than I should because I just couldn’t stop. And when I finished that book, I started another. Instead of flipping on the TV, I chose to write because I wanted to. Because it was magical and fun and I couldn’t get enough of it.
That magic stayed with me for a long time. But as I got older, and started studying the craft, and being more careful about how I wrote and what stories I told, some of that fairy dust fizzled out a bit. Because suddenly I wasn’t doing it as a chosen fun activity, but as something serious, as a potential career.
Next thing I knew, writing was a chore.
And I think that’s the answer to this question that’s been bugging me for years. Writing lost a bit of the magic because I was no longer doing it with reckless abandon for fun. When I was that nine year old, I didn’t care how the story turned out, I just liked putting words on page and watching it unfold. I wasn’t writing it for anybody, I was just writing. But as I got older, it became so much more than that.
I think there are multiple factors as to why writing is so often a grueling task for us.
WRITING FEELS LIKE A CHORE BECAUSE
Once we start seriously learning the craft, that inner editor gets bigger and bigger, and soon we stress over every single word we put on the page.
Often we put our own personal struggles into our stories, and putting our literal heart out for the world to see and judge and have opinions on is hard.
We’re told often that we should be writing regularly and making goals and having a certain amount of words written within a certain amount of time, etc., etc. and all this pressure turns into guilt that we’re never doing enough.
The writing world is a extremely comparative one, and seeing other people’s successes compared to our own makes us want to give up, or try so hard we wear ourselves dry.
There are many other factors, but those are some big ones I see, and all things I struggle with all. the. time. Serious creative killers, amiright?
So very, very often I question my life choices. Why am I pursuing writing when there are so many other outlets out there? When it causes me so much stress and overwhelms me? Because it’s not always just the writing that is hard, but the dozens of other things that are required of writing. I spend waaaay more time just networking and marketing than actual writing. Then there’s the research, editing, constant rejections, conferences, staying vigilant on social media, and on and on and on it goes. And it gets tiring. The work for a writer never really stops. As I talked about in this post, writers don’t really get to clock out like with a regular job. So again I ask WHY? Why do we torture ourselves?
I think the root of that answer is back to the early days of writing, those summer days laying in the grass with a Lisa Frank notebook and nothing but my own imagination holding me back. Because IT’S FUN. And I love it.
As I mentioned a couple of weeks ago, I recently started a new story just because. I haven’t really started a new story “just because” in years. Usually I have a goal in mind or am participating in NaNoWriMo or something. And usually I plot to great lengths and set deadlines for myself and work until my eyes bleed. But then I went to the Realm Makers writers conference, and I was surrounded by hundreds of writers. When I saw the enthusiasm and joy this crazy thing called writing brought to so many others, I remembered. I remembered back to my first days of writing all those years ago when I didn’t have a care in the world and chose to write. These days, it seems like I only write because I feel the need to finish some self imposed deadline, where really I’d much rather be reading a book or watching Netflix or playing a video game or doing anything else. And I hate that.
I miss choosing to write because it’s a task I want to do, not have to do. I miss throwing caution to the wind and just vomiting words on a page and seeing what happens because it’s FUN.
Now, with that said, if you’re writing because you want to make it a career, of course it’s a very good, not to mention important, thing to have goals. To learn to work on deadlines, and to study the craft and not write disastrous novels and never fix them. That’s what I did for years, and as a result I have a dozen messy drafts sitting in my computer and no publishing contract. But this year I started writing intentionally and am truly pursuing getting published. And that’s good. Sometimes we have to be career-minded if, ya know, we’re making a career of it.
But at the same time? We have to remember why we’re choosing this as our career in the first place. Not because it’s a high paying job. Lolololol. Sadly noooo. We do it because at some point in our lives, a story came into our hearts and we put pen to page or pencil to a Lisa Frank notebook or opened our laptops or even scribbled on a napkin in a restaurant, and we found joy.
And that should always be the root of why we write. Because it is something we find joy in, and can’t live without.
Realm Makers reminded me of that. It reminded me that writing does not have to be this chore I dread. It is an activity I LOVE. And though yes, sometimes I need to do hard work and take it seriously and be career-minded, that does not mean I can’t find the joy in the process.
And so one day a few weeks ago I opened my laptop and just started writing because I wanted to. Not because I had to, not because I had spent weeks carefully plotting out the novel, not because there was some goal in mind. But just because I felt like it. How I’ve missed those days.
And you know what? Sometimes those stories you write for the fun of it turn out to be the best work you’ve ever done.
Yes, writing is overwhelming and stressful. It’s laborious and competitive and takes an immense amount of patience and will probably cause lots of discouragement and tears. But when you’re feeling that way, remember back to your early days of writing. Remember those days of reckless abandon. Remember the joy you had stirring thoughts and words into a beautiful mess. And HAVE FUN!
In her closing note at Realm Makers, Mary Weber had this to say:
“Remember to have fun. After all, what do you have to lose? We have nothing to lose, because we’ve already been given it all.
That struck me so hard. Because she’s right. Through God, we’ve been given it all. And if we seek our writing through Him, what is there to lose? Making up stories is downright fun. Have we not been doing that since we were little kids playing in the backyard? When you’re a writer, you never have to stop playing pretend! You get to do it for a living. And you get to make up literally whatever you want. How is that not the most fun thing in the world???
I don’t want to forget that again. I want writing to once more be an activity I choose to do because I love doing it. Yes, I want to be intentional, but I also want to forever find the joy in this crazy art we call writing.
Because, let’s face it, being able to literally create people and worlds and insane plots and swirl them all into an actual book? That is AWESOME! Being a writer is the coolest thing in the world, guys. And I feel so blessed to have the joy of doing it.
TALK WITH ME!
Do you struggle with writing (or any creative task!) feeling like a chore sometimes? How do you combat that feeling and find the joy again? I’d love to hear your thoughts and opinions!