Writing Wednesdays

Writing Wednesdays

Is Writing Fun?

By Steven Pressfield | Published: May 12, 2010

Let’s kick off this new site on an unequivocal note: Yes, writing is fun!

You might think I’d be the last person to make such a statement, given the hardcore, iron-discipline ethic of The War of Art and my endlessly-reiterated doctrine of the struggle between Will and Resistance. But yeah, for me, writing is fun. I love it.

Let me count the ways:

1. Work is fun

Angus and Evelyn McCall have a farm in Golspie, Scotland, and they have a border collie named Jack. Jack herds the sheep. To see Jack at the crack of dawn, leaping up behind Angus on Angus’ four-wheel ATV, and heading up to the pasture, is to witness the expression of pure joy. Jack is off to work—and he is having a blast. All day Jack drives the sheep from pasture to pasture, brings them down to the pens, herds them, rules them, protects them. He’s absorbed. He’s present. He’s in the flow. He gives 110% and can’t conceive of giving anything less. At day’s end, Angus ruffles his head, says “Good work, Jack,” and sets out a bowl of kibble. Jack’s feet have never touched the ground.

I’m like that when I work. You don’t have to pay me. I don’t even need a pat on the head. Like Jack, I’m doing what my deepest primal instincts impel me to. If happiness is making the fullest possible use of one’s faculties, that’s me. I’m using the gift I was given at birth, and all I want is the chance to keep using it.

Is this demented? There’s a great Henry Miller quote that I can’t find (help, anyone!) where he says something to the effect of, “That thing which other people call ‘life’ has never held much interest for me. What matters to me is what I’m doing right now (meaning writing.)” The full quote is a helluva lot better than that, but you get the idea. Maybe Jack and I are twisted, but work is fun for us.

2. The world of the imagination is more fun than the real world.

I know painters feel this way, and actors and dancers and entrepreneurs and adventurers of all stripes. The sphere of the project we’re working on has a juice and an immediacy that can’t be duplicated in the regular world. To the storyteller, the characters in his tale are not fiction. They’re real. They’re fun. He’d rather hang with them than with just about anybody. Their antics entertain him; their preoccupations are his as well. They teach him and inspire him—and they help him discover who he is.

3. Work produces authenticity.

Who am I? How do I find out? For me, it’s through work. I don’t know what I think until I sit down and write it. (That’s true for this post right now.) But once I’ve written it, I do know.

I have a recurring dream. In the dream, I’m moving through my house and I discover a room I didn’t know was there. A basement with a pool table, a library, a gallery for entertaining. That’s myself, that’s parts of me that I didn’t know existed. The artist or entrepreneur uncovers these elements of herself all day long as she choreographs her program, designs her video game, composes her album. What could be more fun than that?

4. Creative work makes you feel like God (or at least a minor deity).

There’s a wonderful, obscure little book called The Kybalion. It’s about Hermetic philosophy, the first of whose seven primary tenets is that “the universe in mental.” What the Hermetics mean is that nothing in creation has a corporeal existence. The stars, the planets, you and I, and Jack on the farm, are all mental incarnations of the Supreme Intelligence, a.k.a. God, or, in the Hermetics’ phrase “The All.”

The analogy that the writers of the Kybalion employ to explain this is Charles Dickens. Just as Oliver Twist and Pip and Mr. Micawber have their inception and existence entirely within Dickens’ imagination, so do you and I have our (only) being within the mind of The All.

Now, this belief may or may not be true, but consider how it feels to Dickens. He’s God. An entire cosmos has sprung full-grown from his head—and it’s not a boring, static cosmos but a dynamic, ever-changing, ever-evolving one. Wow. That’s fun!

5. “What do you do for fun?”

I’m sure all passionate artists and entrepreneurs get asked this question. Friends or strangers are curious what we do in our off-hours. What’s my answer? Skiing? Sky-diving? I’m more like Woody Allen. I like a nice dinner out, a good movie. But that’s not my real fun.

My work is my fun. Yeah, sometimes it kicks my ass. Sometimes it feels like I’m wrestling an alligator. Resistance never sleeps; the battle must be fought and won every morning. But in the end, I’m like Jack the border collie. I’m a working dog. Let me ride up to the pasture on the back of Angus’ ATV, let me chase those sheep till the sun goes down, and leave me a bowl of kibble at the end of the day. That’s my joy.

That’s fun.

Posted in Writing Wednesdays

33 Responses to “Is Writing Fun?”

  1. May 12, 2010 at 5:45 am

    Thank You. Just what I needed!

  2. May 12, 2010 at 12:07 am

    That needed to be said!

  3. May 12, 2010 at 1:23 am

    Hear, hear. Unfortunately you do need to get paid!

  4. May 12, 2010 at 4:06 am

    I think I love Jack. V inspiring image.

    Also psyched to be starting a new habit of visiting your site on Wednesdays. As an experienced writer/editor but new freelancer, I can use all the help, inspiration and discipline reminders I can get. This helps, along with The War of Art sitting on what passes for a current coffeetable (always in eyesight, in other words). Thanks for what you do.

  5. May 12, 2010 at 5:37 am

    Stirring post. And exciting new site. I’m in.

  6. Annette Mencke
    May 12, 2010 at 6:02 am

    And of course there is this imense satisfying feeling when you know you’ve had a good day’s work. No pay cheque can give you that.

  7. Cheryl Dolan
    May 12, 2010 at 7:02 am

    Yes! Asking WHY we do it connects us back to our purpose – that’s when it becomes pure joy again.
    Thank you.

  8. May 12, 2010 at 9:56 am

    You know, I was laying in bed this morning thinking about what brings me joy and came up with the same answer. It was no surprise to read your post when I got up (my Weds ritual). So often you’re dead on with what I’m thinking or need to hear. Have noticed that’s the case with many of us. So nice to not feel alone. Thanks for doing, and sharing what you love.

  9. Harold Hildebrand
    May 12, 2010 at 1:23 pm

    Love my work? I’m not sure I’m quite there yet. But I do know I love your work Steven. For me, your stuff covers the four basic food groups: military history, a deep exploration of personal creativity, golf, and a gentle sprinkling of spiritualism ( I think it’s fair to say that there is a bit eastern religion/philosphy in your work; sometimes obvious like Bagger, sometimes more subtle).

    I tend to be put off a bit by political activism and at first I kind of filtered out the Tribes thing, but over time your approach has opened my eyes quite a bit there too. I mean I’ve always been a supporter of the troops and in fact I just recently I sent a large care package with a bunch of my hobby stuff ( I’m into historical wargaming ie Toy soldiers) to a group of soldiers over there who share the same interests ( I threw in a paperback copy of Gates by the way), but I didn’t really use much of the old cerebellum trying to understand what’s really going on over there. But I believe I now have a greater appreciation of the situation from your writing.

    So once again thankyou and I intend on bellying up to the food trough here often to get my fill.

  10. Vaughn Roycroft
    May 12, 2010 at 1:58 pm

    Cool new site, and great kick-off post. As Kathleen and others above have often said, it continues to amaze me how timely your messages seem to be. Today, I really needed to be reminded how much joy my work brings to me. Thanks again!

  11. May 12, 2010 at 2:26 pm

    Yes, this is true. Even when it’s frustrating it is stil ‘fun’. Being in those other worlds with the character you have brought to life on the page is fun and saying goodbye to them in the end is always sad (even the characters who weren’t particularly nice). Often I just wish there was more time to spend having fun like writing. And in the writing groups or classes I instruct, I always stress that writing should be ‘fun’ and generally it is!

  12. May 12, 2010 at 4:52 pm

    At least for me… it’s not the task that is the fun part, but the challenge to plunge into the subconscious to discover your infinite self, through the art you practice. But it’s the small tasks that create the opportunity to be submerged in the muse, so naturally I love the whole process.

  13. May 13, 2010 at 5:18 am

    I love it. So true too. Inspiring post! My problem is fitting everything into a life where what I “do” isn’t what I “love”. So I do my job for 8-10 hours a day and then try and find time to do my calling. Of course, it’s my calling, so I fidn the time, or it finds me. I suspect that I’m not alone.

    • Osborne
      May 13, 2010 at 8:08 am

      Joel,
      I, too, must work all day to support my family and myself. I have found it helpful to use the same techniques I use in overcoming resistance to my writing during my work-for-money. In doing so, I have found it strengthens my resolve to do my work, once I have brought home the bacon. Good Luck.

      PS I went to the Cannes film Festival, as a tourist, in 1997. I calculate that if I had written just one page per day, since that visit, I would have 50 screenplays done (90 page average)

  14. Paul
    May 13, 2010 at 5:39 am

    Writing becomes fun when mistakes become so routine that they fail to matter.

  15. May 13, 2010 at 6:39 pm

    Wonderfully stated, Steven. Once I get past the resistance, yes, it is very fun. I create my own friends. All the characters I’ve brought to life for my books are still alive. Some of them died in their stories. But it doesn’t matter. They’re still alive in my mind.

    I really get strange looks from people when I reveal that all of my characters are part me. Even the women. Even the psychopaths. Gee, I’m starting to freak myself out.

    But that’s the fun of it, right? When I become the killer, I feel what he feels when he squeezes the trigger. I see the bullet coming toward me (as the victim) in slow motion. I know I can’t possibly move fast enough to avoid that bullet. I’m a dead man.

    I also feel the love one character has for another. The embrace. The kiss.

    Yes. Is is fun. Extremely fun.

  16. A Friend
    May 13, 2010 at 7:20 pm

    Steve,

    Love the NEW site!

    I will be a regular….

    STRENGTH AND HONOR, baby!

    Sent from somehwere in South Carolina….

  17. May 14, 2010 at 7:23 am

    This post made me want to go write…now! Thank You.

  18. May 18, 2010 at 8:29 am

    Agreed with every point. It relieves stress for me- even when it seems like I’m rushing to finish and can’t find the right words. I lose myself in the moment. It’s fun!

  19. May 18, 2010 at 11:09 am

    So true. So well stated. Thank you.

  20. May 18, 2010 at 2:55 pm

    Ah yes the Writer’s Life!! Creating new worlds is fun! And getting even on paper is fun too. Responding to difficulty in an article is great! It is the Writer’s Life for me!

  21. May 20, 2010 at 4:50 am

    I’d definitely agree with all those points in various proportions, but I’d also add (and this might only apply to me and people like me) is the feeling a achievement – of having built something. Sometimes it’s like climbing a mountain (something else I like to do on occasion!): it’s hard work, it’s fun to be doing it, but when you get to the top… wow, that feeling. See that mountain? I climbed that. See that book, on that shelf? I wrote that.
    Sometimes, when it’s not fun, it’s that expectation of satisfaction that keeps pen to page.

    Another inspiring post, thank you!

  22. Maggie Philip
    June 5, 2010 at 3:24 pm

    Thoroughly enjoyed my first dip into your site – a real lifter! Thanks from Maggie

  23. July 31, 2010 at 7:52 am

    like ur post !

  24. July 31, 2010 at 7:28 pm

    Like this information !

  25. September 8, 2010 at 5:57 am

    One of the great joys of mine is creating ideas in my head and playing around with characters in fantastic worlds. I could spend hours in bliss, setting up various scenarios, molding dialogue in my head, and so on.

  26. September 16, 2010 at 11:11 am

    Writing is fun, the imagination is a great place to develop ideas and run through scenarios. The problem lies in not sharing the great ideas that we have conjured up. Thanks for the post!

    Joshua Leach
    Dodworld.com
    Dod Consulting

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    September 18, 2010 at 7:43 am

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  30. September 9, 2011 at 9:46 am

    I am never going to have anything more to do with politics or politicians. When this war is over I shall confine myself entirely to writing and painting.

  31. Stacey Rogala
    May 4, 2012 at 4:40 pm

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  32. September 20, 2013 at 12:35 pm