Monday, February 25, 2013

Reflections from the Well

On Writing Craft, Creativity & Inspiration

by Alexander Slagg

Is Writing Fun?

“Have a good time, all the time.”
   Viv Savage, deceased keyboardist, from This Is Spinal Tap


The trees swayed in the darkness on the far hillside. My eyes were closed, listening to the wind. The traffic had eased to a trickle down below our apartment building.

I held a glass of pinot noir in my hand, the last dregs tingling down the nether regions of my tongue. I had just finished writing for the evening, an hour squeezed in between my full-time job and the baby happily sleeping in the crib next to our bed, beneath the blue glow of my computer screen.

“Is it fun?” my wife asked, seated across from me on our deck. “Do you enjoy writing? You always seem tired and off in your own world when you’re done.”

“I’m not sure if it’s fun or not,” I remember replying. “But it’s fulfilling.”

We talked more about writing that night. She was not, and is not, a writer. What she saw was a husband juggling a lot of different and newly shouldered responsibilities. So why was he sitting down in front of the computer with his limited spare time to work on a novel? Her question drifted with me for a long time. I still think about it. Is writing fun?


Today, I still can’t say that it’s necessarily fun. There are moments where I hit upon an apt description or turn of phrase that elicits a chuckle—fun! But sitting down to write is not fun the way riding scooters with my kids or playing video games is. As a human being with a brain and thoughts about the past and the future—consciousness—the guiding light for my being is experience and growth, not fun. I’m here to embrace joyful and tearful moments—the full range of emotions. And I’m here to learn and grow from those experiences.

Is writing fun? Sure, sometimes it is and other times it’s a dreadful slog—just like life. I believe that the experience of writing is a mirror held up to life. It’s going to reflect everything that you experience in life, good and bad. Some days, gazing in the mirror is invigorating; other days, it’s a drag.

No one goes through life expecting hedonistic enjoyment all the time. The Jeff Spicoli school of philosophy, expecting nothing but tasty waves and a cool buzz from life, is exactly what it appears to be—adolescent dialogue from a fictional character in Fast Times at Ridgemont High. For whatever reason, we human beings crave this notion that any activity worth putting time into needs to be fun.

I tried to live the Spicoli life for many years, but ultimately it did not suit me because I matured. Bad things happened to me. And Jeff Spicoli offered me no guidance on how to navigate the all-to-common choppy waters of life. What did offer me guidance? Writing.

Thinking about how and why people do what they do; considering the themes that run through life like currents in a river; detailing the color, size, smell, feeling, and shape of the world and everything in it; setting the watch-like mechanics of a plot into place—these activities, the work of the craft, give me guidance and offer insights and a nuanced way to consider life, the good and the bad.

No, writing is not just fun. It’s also burdensome, sublime, frustrating, thrilling, dull, heartening, and capricious.  It is exactly the way I experience life. I don’t do it for a good time. I do it because it fulfills me.

Touching on various aspects of the writing process, Reflections from the Well is more than a rote column, it’s a literary lounge where writers and other creators are invited to share their own experiences. Share your comments with Alex for possible inclusion on the LWN blog or in his next reflection at