Photo by JurvetsonYou know the image of the writer as a starving, tortured soul, each agonized word blurred on the page by sweat beads dripping from his brow. He writes in longhand, on a hand-hewn log desk, by candlelight, wrapped in rags against the wintry blast, with only a crust of bread to sustain his unworthy efforts, and page after page of tormented efforts are wadded into balls and tossed into the fireplace for a bit of added warmth. He makes frequent stops to sharpen the quill with which he writes or to fill the inkwell into which he dips that plume. He may occasionally resort to chopping kindling to gather his erratic thoughts, mind churning in sync with his stomach. In the depths of his heart, he knows these efforts will pay off. His words will be pressed upon millions of pages and stir the hearts of readers with passion second only to his.
You know the image. You may even relate to that image and fear to write because of it. I say to you now, forget it! It’s only a myth. Writing doesn’t have to be this way. Listen to your muse. Loosen up. Write for the sheer fun of it.
“Fun?” Your unspoken question reverberates even unto my heart and ears. Yes! I said fun. Joy. Pick up your pencil and take a joy break.
Maybe before you take write for joy, a little physical action is in order. When was the last time you zoomed around your yard, arms dipping and rising like an airplane? I admit this is not one of my daily activities, but I did try it last summer. I swooped around, dipping and diving, making airplane sounds. I marched like a majorette with knees rising high. I whirled and twirled, stopping just short of falling in a heap on the asphalt. After six or seven minutes, I felt loose as a goose, both mentally and physically. I felt young at heart, and considerably younger in body.
You can do the same thing indoors, moving wildly to magic music, something with a strong beat and lots of energy. For now, try it alone. Or blow some bubbles if you have a bottle around. Catch a few on your hand.
Now, you are ready to write. Start a story with “Once upon a time there was a little (girl or boy, your pick). S/he lived in ...” You take it from there. Make it wild. Transcend gravity. Fly. Swim under the sea. Leap tall buildings with a single bound. Be totally outrageous. Nobody is going to read this, unless you decide to share.
How did that feel? Why don’t you write this way all the time? Because your inner critic won’t let you, that’s why. Talk back to your critic (in my case, Gretchen). Say something like, “Gretchen, I know you have my best interests at heart, but I need a break. I need some joy. Please sit back, have some milk and cookies while I write. You can check it over later.”
By the way, your words will surely flow most freely if you write by hand, on paper, but that’s only one option. Do what feels write to you. Write it your way, with joy.
Start out with easy, childlike topics, and as you grow more comfortable, you’ll find it ever easier to write joy-fully, even about dark topics, knowing that your playful spirit will find the hidden blessing within. You’ll have a fresher attitude, less stress, brighter descriptions. You’ll knock away your blocks with a writer’s rush, and generally juice up your writing. Your writer’s voice will sing. But best of all, it’s fun!
Just in case you were wondering, this child-like joy writing originates on the creative, write side of your brain, not the reasonable, rational, linear left.
Write now: with joy. Follow the directions above and write something fun, like blowing bubbles and hopping inside one to travel away to a magical place.