“When you’re making things, time goes fast.”Vera B. Williams, Scooter
I’m serious here.
Once upon a time I taught composition and rhetoric, and one of the things I’d tell my students is this: If you’re bored while writing your papers, I guarantee you that I’ll be bored while reading them. But if you are interested in what you’re writing, or even having fun—why, that quality will come through in your prose.
It can sound counterintuitive—this idea that our best work comes when we’re playing and having fun—but I’ve always found that to be the case.
If marrying the words “play” and “fun” to “work” sparks scorn, think of it more as showing the sort of keen focus and deep involvement that children show when they are playing hard. In his swell little book Keep Going, Austin Kleon talks about this: “They are deeply invested in their work. They focus their gazes like laser beams. They scrunch up their faces in concentration.” These kids may not sound like they’re enjoying themselves, but any parent can confirm that they are. Playing well is damn hard work.
Of course, not everyone sees work as play. I once published an award-winning writer who confided to me often and in earnestness that writing was extraordinarily difficult for her. Every sentence she wrote, every story she completed was pulled from the marrow of her soul, hammered from her pain, etcetera. Even the caper stories, she swore.
Well, fair enough. I am sympathetic, even though I have always found deep work to be the best fun.
Maybe not at first, maybe not those initial halting steps, but once you’ve gotten accustomed to keeping your butt in a chair? Once you’ve become an old hand at losing yourself in your story? Once you’ve opened that tap wide on your talent so that words and sentences spill out of you almost faster than you can dash them down? At that point you won’t know it, but if you stop to look at yourself, you may well find that you are …
Having serious fun.
“Practicing an art, no matter how well or badly, is a way to make your soul grow, for heaven’s sake.”Kurt Vonnegut
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