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Can Writing Be Fun? -- by Joyce Barton

 I was having lunch with a non-writer friend when she asked “how’s your writing going?” Into my second week of CampNanoWriMo and struggling with my word-count goal, that’s how. “At this rate, it’ll take me six weeks to reach my goal,” I complained.  She leaned in with “But it’s important to have fun, too, right?”

Fun? Fun writing? Does she think this is a hobby? She just doesn’t get it, I thought, and switched the subject.

Days later I was scrolling through Etsy for a one-of-a-kind gift and stumbled upon upcycleVINYL : vintage recycled record album jackets filled with 100% recycled paper, spiral bound. My old music gods and goddesses, transformed into a tool of my craft! Notebooks, for me, are where the bodies are buried.  Some writers connect best with their keyboards (or smart phones), but notebooks—pen to page—is my best ‘way in’.

So on that day, I gifted myself three notebooks:

Joni Mitchell (Hejira, Joni’s road album; songs inspired by ‘the sweet loneliness of solitary travel’—if that’s not a metaphor for writing, what is? A great place to start.)

Sly Stone (who reminded me each morning that ‘everybody is a star’);

and Bette Midler (ah, the Summer of Bette; ‘cause ‘ya gotta have friends’).

Truth, at first I was anxious—I was used to writing on lined, 6x8” pages and these were unlined and 8 ½ x 11”. All those large, blank pages—could I fill them?

Page one of the Joni notebook: address the elephant in the room. Wow, no lines! A bit intimidated but will get over it… less traffic, no shoulder, lots of curves, great scenery…see Joni, patron saint—you’re already influencing me…. And a few pages later: So far, these wide-open pages make me feel ‘expansive’; unrushed. Like I have plenty of room to make all my mistakes, and then some. No regrets, coyote.

“All you have to do is fill pages, spend pens,” I told myself. Just keep writing. Shitty first drafts, Anne Lamott (Bird by Bird) reminded me.

And fill them I did. Joni, Sly, Bette; then Stevie Wonder, Todd Rundgren (Utopia days), early Talking Heads. And when words wouldn’t come, I’d draw (I hesitate to call my scratchy little renderings, intelligible only to me, ‘drawings’) because I had that large, blank page, that desert of a canvas and license to do anything with it.

Writing on a larger blank page tapped me into a different flow; personalizing my notebooks with upcycled album art makes coming to work a joy—a simple change in my process that helped me increase my daily pages.

So this summer, it’s Carly Simon (No Secrets), ‘cause I haven’t got time for the pain. What makes you write more, and enjoy doing it? Feel free to share, below.


Posted by Joyce Barton 30 Aug 2019 at 01:21
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Responses to this blog

Cwotus 29 Sep 2019 at 01:38  
Oh, writing ... longhand? Yeah, that's about as much fun for me as dental surgery, but at least I get good painkillers from the dentist. Plus, dental surgery generally leads to a reduction in pain, not an increase.

I'm glad you like your journals, notebooks, whatever. And I appreciate the craft that goes into making them. (I appreciate all kinds of crafts, including ones I would never do, such as calligraphy and writing legibly by hand.) Not for me, thanks just the same.
Zenithknox 29 Sep 2019 at 03:16  
I haven't journaled in a notebook since the advent of the smart phone. I keep an MS word file of my writing ideas in the cloud. The wallpaper on my phone serves as graphic inspiration that I change out every now and then. Right now, I have up a collage of celebrities that I casted as the characters for my story for inspiration. I don't miss the days of typewriters and whiteout.
Tammerung 13 Oct 2019 at 04:07  
Journaling in a notebook has always been hard for me, and as much as I've wanted to love I just can't quite get into it. I'm quite jealous that you are able to approach writing in the longhand style! What makes me enjoy writing is setting small goals and meeting them. Not a 'I'm going to write a novel' type of goal, or even a 'I'm going to finish that short story' type of goal, but more a 'I'm going to write about a dragon' type of goal. I have long term goals, don't get me wrong, but it feels good to actually do something I've said I wanted to, even if it's just writing a description of my favorite library. Thanks for sharing, I enjoyed the blog post!

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