In this episode, you’ll hear about the stories I wrote in high school, featuring popular singers like Simon Le Bon from Duran Duran. The reader got to insert her name as the love interest in fill-in-the-blank adventures like “The Medallion of Kilimanjaro.”
It was all just for fun, no grades involved. My friends seemed to truly enjoy them, so I wrote more. I wrote for the joy, with no pressure.
But maybe you received ridicule or rejection for your own version of “The Medallion of Kilimanjaro.” Maybe you lost your joy.
The Pressure of Serious, High Stakes Writing
At some point, maybe in college, maybe as a young adult, you realized if you’re going to be a writer, you’ve got to get serious about it. So you studied the craft and maybe the business of writing, and you launched your career and you’ve been steadily progressing…each stage feeling more and more important and more and more intense. The stakes seem higher and higher. And you’re putting pressure on yourself to perform, to produce, to avoid any misstep.
Or maybe you had a different response to those early rejections. Maybe you gave up and went into another career. You did something else for years, and then something stirred in you, reminding you of your early love of writing. You’ve waited so long, you, too, feel like the stakes are high. You feel like you don’t have any time to waste, so you’re putting pressure on yourself to succeed straight out of the gate with your first attempts, your first submissions.
Wherever you’re at on that spectrum, the possibility of rejection feels intense. You might feel like it’s going to make or break you as a writer. For some, this acceptance or rejection may feel like your one and only chance; for others, you might feel like success has an expiration date and this might be the day your idea or your career gets tossed aside. If this editor or agent or publisher says no, you’re doomed.
Friend, that is a lot of pressure.
There’s a time to take your work seriously, but the pressure? It’s too much. You can’t survive that over the long haul.
Please, please don’t do that to yourself.
Write for Fun
Instead, find a way to capture some of that thrill and joy of writing for fun—write for your own fun, because it feels like play, because it makes you laugh. Or write for someone you know will love it even if it’s goofy, even if it’s sappy—maybe because it’s goofy and sappy. Find these outlets and you are going to have a much healthier writing experience when you dive into the more “official” work.
We can talk about the business part of writing in another episode, but I think we need to be reminded more than once…if you find the fun, you’ll be taking risks and growing.
And with freedom from pressure, the words will flow and the story will engage. You’ll be far more likely to explore ideas and techniques; you’ll end up sharpening your writing skills and developing a more confident voice.
Here are a couple of suggestions to lighten things up:
Freewrite with Five Minute Friday
Remember freewriting? You might have learned that technique in high school, college, or at a writing workshop. Well, my friend Kate Motaung hosts Five Minute Friday. The idea is to simply turn on a timer and write for five minutes on a one-word prompt Kate provides each week. If you want, you can post your resulting piece on your own blog and link up the post at her site. As Kate says, this freewriting exercise means “no editing, no over-thinking, no worrying about perfect grammar or punctuation. Just write.”
Make a Game of Submissions
You can make other aspects of your writing process fun. Tweetspeak Poetry published an article about a poet who made a game out of submitting articles to literary journals. She tried to land one in every state. As of the article’s publication in December 2015, she only had one state left: Kansas.
Those are just two ideas you can try. Or simply grab some writing prompts and do what you can to lighten things up.
The Joy of Writing
Let’s release the pressure, friends. Let’s make writing fun again. I hope you do have some assignments or goals that feel high stakes, because I hope you are reaching and stretching yourself.
But I also hope you are…finding joy.
Click on the podcast player above or use subscription options below to listen to the full episode.
- Five Minute Friday, hosted by Kate Motaung
- A Foolproof Guide to Getting Your Poems Published—While Having Fun!
- #29: The Energizing Work of a Playful Writer
- #45: You Don’t Have to Do It All
- #47: Don’t Be Afraid to Evolve
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Featured image design by Ann Kroeker.