by Meg Dowell
“When I begin my work with a period of play … I tend to like the result.” – Monica Guzman, columnist (Hustle Economy, p. 93)
When you first started writing, you weren’t really writing. You were playing.
You don’t remember this well: you were a child then. But it happened.
Yes, technically, you were scribbling words on paper. (If for whatever reason you’re young enough to have started out writing on a computer without ever having to handwrite, I don’t want to hear it.) But really, you were more so playing a game. Writing was just a cooler way to play make-believe.
Then something happened. You grew up.
And with that growth, sure, came a lot of knowledge, and a lot of practice, and a lot of pretty decent stories, blog posts, poems, etc.
But you started worrying a lot more. Worrying about how other people would react to your work. About whether or not you’re good enough at this whole “being creative” thing.
Writing stopped being about play, and started being about work. Metrics, improvement, productivity.
You might not remember what it was like, writing when you were young. But I do.
I remember being seven years old, looking forward to every free moment I had to write in my diary.
I remember writing in school – what about, I’m not sure. I remember my teachers talking to my parents about how I wasn’t the best at reading out loud in class … but I could write.
And I liked it. Stories made me feel whole in a way I didn’t yet understand. Now, of course, I know that feeling to be the satisfaction I feel when I create. It runs deep; it’s embedded into my soul. It always has been. It always will be.
We wrote without shame, when we were seven. We didn’t let anything hold us back.
There is a time to be serious – a time when we need to say, “Writing brings me joy, but at this particular moment, this is business and I need to focus on doing this exactly right.”
But that only makes free writing all the more enjoyable. You don’t know what freedom is if you’ve never had to force yourself to spend time locked inside a box.
If you really want to earn a career in writing, this is how you do it. You learn to identify and take advantage of the moments when it’s OK to dive into a stream of consciousness writing session. Sometimes, you have to pretend it’s (well, in my case) 1999 again. You have an idea for a story. You’re not sure about most of the things that happen in that story or how to start writing it or who you’re going to show it to when it’s done. But you sit down and you just start writing anyway.
When you let your imagination run free, amazing things happen. Ideas explode (in a good way).
Really – what do you have to lose?
Meg is the creator of Novelty Revisions, dedicated to helping writers put their ideas into words. She is a freelance writer and an eight-time NaNoWriMo winner with work published in Teen Ink, Success Story, Lifehack and USA TODAY College. Follow Meg on Twitter for tweets about writing, food and nerdy things.