Writing Diary #13: Make Writing Fun, Again?

My sabbatical starts tomorrow, so I have some time to get some work done. It feels like I can focus on the Makeshift draft. Yesterday, though, I tried to work on it all day, and after two hours I lost steam. Got grumpy. Tried to push through. Got nowhere.

I’ve been writing this journal for a few weeks now, and I’ve found that part of the trick is to make it a habit. It takes about 30 minutes to write a post, and I’ve been doing it. It’s been fun. I’ve been able to do this and also work on Makeshift. I’ve been able to do this, because it’s a different voice and because it’s plain old fun.

Which leads to me to ask: Can writing be fun?

But I’ve been thinking about how I tried to do too much on the book yesterday. At some point, my focus left me. In previous projects, I would work harder—more coffee, more time, and more effort. But this morning, as I leave for vacation and wait at the mall for family to finish shopping, I wonder if I should borrow a technique from Alan MacFarlane and David Graeber.

Graeber, an anarchist anthropologist who died in September 2020, once tweeted that he worked by having multiple projects on the go. (Of course, I might have misremembered, as I can’t find the tweet. But no matter.) Graber had the thing he had to do (Project A), the thing he wanted to do and was procrastinating on Project A by doing (Project B), and then all the things he didn’t want to do but had to do, e.g. reference letters. I may have misremembered all this, but the gist of it is that he would cycle between projects when one got hard. I like to think, when one got not fun. But, maybe I’m wrong.

Alan MacFarlane has an excellent video on all of this, and talks about doing the easy stuff first—I think he’s drawing on C. S. Lewis’s comparison between writing and eating fish. (The trick, do the easy stuff first.)

What about doing the fun stuff first? What about only doing the fun stuff?

Is it possible to get serious writing done by only doing the project when it’s fun? I’m not sure. But, I’m going to try it for a while.

For now, I’m going to set aside the mornings for writing. But instead of feeling obligated to write only one thing, if one project gets hard, I’ll switch to another. Making writing a chore just leads to grumpiness. And I don’t want to be another grumpy middle-aged white man. There are enough of those.…