I’ve always been serious about writing, but at times have taken it too seriously. In other words, I’m so passionate about the craft, I sometimes forget that (for me) writing is fun. Until last September, I had never been a published novelist. At times that thought crippled me with fear and it would almost prevent me from moving forward. How could I succeed at being an author when I had no idea how to be one? I had many conversation with my friend Kate about this. And so together, we created the writing game. No, we didn’t know how to win at being authors, but we were damn sure going to have fun trying.
What is involved in the writing game? Well, for one thing it means trying different things even if you find them scary, especially if you find them scary. Such as getting a cell phone. Yep, that’s right. I’ve had a cell phone for less than a year. I looked upon them as though they were some kind of technological nightmare. Six months later, I appreciate all my phone offers especially when it comes to connecting with people. Turns out they’re not so scary after all.
Being in the game, means a willingness to fail. To have the courage to release your book into the world, and trust you’ve given it enough love and attention to walk on its own. It means learning to be imperfect, embrace mistakes and laugh and learn from them. And when something isn’t working, it means not quitting, but being wiling to take a step back and see what can be done differently.
Being in the writing game, means asking for help, support, or a hug on those rougher days. So many writers don’t take this step (and I have been one of the guiltiest). For some reason we’ve got it in our heads that as writers we must go this path alone. My friend Kate wrote a post on Creative Collaboration and how nothing we’ve accomplished in life has ever been accomplished alone. Recently, another author friend, Matt Hader, contributed a chapter to a book titled Seek Your Peak. In it, he promotes the idea that the life of a writer can be defined by cooperation, and not competition. That talent is not limited, but abundant. And the more a writer helps another, the more they themselves are given. The archetype of the reclusive/starving/suffering writer has got to go — mainly because in terms of a career? It doesn’t sound like a whole lot of fun. And besides, I’m pretty sure Shakespeare had a few laughs in the Renaissance.
All of this doesn’t mean I’m not serious about my craft, constructing the best stories of which I’m capable, and constantly pushing myself to do better, reach higher. Far from it. But I spent many years, taking life too seriously and as a result created blockades where none existed, talked myself out of opportunities because I was scared and chose not to take action in case I failed.
That is not a life. That is a straight jacket.
There are very few careers where you have the luxury of inventing a world and populating it with your creations. And what is that, if not play?