I do wish writing could be more fun for me – I lost much of the joy during my own rush to publication and subsequent depression a couple of years back, and I'm still struggling to find it again.This is a subject that I've been thinking about a lot recently, especially with the change of year and the change of habits that implies. And it seems like I'm not the only one with this problem. Everywhere I look, I see articles encouraging writers to be playful or find the fun in what they do. It makes me wonder if these tough times have brought on an epidemic of joylessness.
However, just as you can't cure depression by telling someone to "cheer up," so you can't make writing fun for someone by telling them that it should be. In fact, such advice can have the opposite effect by making someone (i.e. me) feel guilty that they're not enjoying it! Part of my motivation for presenting the Museum of Me was to turn the clock back to a time when I was having fun, simply creating for the hell of it.
But is "fun" even the right word? It's a term that encompasses the lighter parts of the process but not the darkness or the emotional catharsis that writing can bring. Perhaps satisfaction is a better way to look at it: I want to be more satisfied by the process of writing.
It's not that I lack a writing routine. Every day I sit down at lunchtime with a pad or my netbook, but then I invariably freeze up. By the end of an hour, I will have a hundred or so words, but it will also feel like I've had to winkle each one out with a sharp implement. This happens pretty much every day except Thursday, when suddenly the words start flowing. Except they're not flowing into my book, but into this blog.
I'm driven to wonder what makes it so much easier for me to write a blog post than it does to write a novel. Is it the immediacy of the format, or the clearly defined length and schedule? Is it that I get to talk about something completely different every week with no need to get myself back into the world of a novel? It's been a weird thing for me to realise that I'm probably much more defined nowadays by my blog output than by my children's writing.
There was a great blog post this week on Finding Your Voice. It's aimed at illustrators, but a lot of the advice can be easily adapted for writers. The author suggests making a list of the things you like drawing, so you can include some of these to personalise your own work. I was inspired by the article to start a list of the elements I enjoy putting in a story. Here's what I have so far:
- Bad puns
- Jokes about Star Wars (these seem to creep in without me noticing)
- Bizarre action scenes
- Social comedy
- Tonal shifts (eg. from comedy to danger)
- Mental health issues
- Subversive behaviour
- Made up technology
Interestingly, pretty much all of these things feature in my work-in-progress, which leads me to wonder how much this list is influenced by what I'm doing right now. Clearly, I need to dig a little deeper and keep adding stuff, but it did make me feel that – however hard the process is – I'm on the right track with this book.
I'll report back in a few months on my progress at putting the satisfaction back into my writing life. I'm going to keep adding to that list of thing I like and also try to apply what I enjoy about blogging to the novel writing process. I will try new techniques as well, like writing in different places or dictating the story instead of typing it. Here's hoping that I can make 2013 the year that I start writing books purely for my own enjoyment again.