Most writers feel pressured to make money from their work. It’s no wonder, as our culture values monetary rewards above all others.
Current research shows that three out of four American college students consider it “very important” or “essential” to become “very well off financially.” That’s nearly double the numbers from 1970.
Add to that the desire to “look good” in front of our peers, the tendency to judge our writing even before it’s finished, and the fear of failure, and you have a situation ripe for discouragement and writer’s block.
What happened to writing just for fun? Surely that’s what you did when you started out. Maybe you’re missing that carefree creative feeling.
If so, below you’ll find five times it’s okay to let your guard down and allow your imagination to run free.
1. It’s Okay to Write Just for Fun If You’re Just Starting Out
This is the best and easiest time to write just for fun. No one is expecting anything of you. If you’re writing in secret (and haven’t told anyone yet), so much the better, as no one will know what you’re doing.
It doesn’t matter if you publish, make money, or win awards. This is your time to simply write for the enjoyment of it, so take advantage of it!
Motivating Tip: Realize that many experienced and successful writers may envy you! Once they have publishing deadlines to keep, marketing tasks to complete, and too much to do, many long for those early days when they were free to just write without worry.
When you start thinking about publishing and all the rest, stop yourself and take a step back. You have time now to explore your writing nature. Allow yourself to fully inhabit this part of your journey. The other parts will come soon enough.
2. When You’re Not Ready to Publish, Write for Fun
You may feel pressured to publish right away, but no matter what your friends or peers may think, it’s always best to wait until you have a lot of words under your pen.
It’s a more common mistake to publish early than it is to wait too long, so don’t feel like you have to justify the time you spend writing right away, or even within a few years.
Take the time you need to discover your author’s voice and the types of stories you want to write. When you are ready to publish, you can begin to pursue that goal, but give that desire time to grow until you’re ready to face the challenge.
Motivating Tip: Writer’s guilt is an affliction that plagues many writers, particularly when they’re learning their craft. You may feel guilty for the time you’re spending alone in a room with your laptop when you could be doing something else more “useful” or practical.
Remember that you’re writing for a reason. It may be a fun hobby for you, but you may also be answering a calling or following a lifelong dream. Honor your reasons, whatever they may be. Writing is a beneficial practice for many reasons, and as long as you’re enjoying it and are committed to it, there’s no doubt that you’ll benefit from it, no matter whether you ever publish or not.
3. When You’re Stuck on Your Current Project, Switch Gears
You’ve been working on your novel for a while now, and you’re struggling. The plot isn’t coming together, or maybe your characters are acting, well, out of character. The pacing is off, or you can’t figure out how you want to end it.
If you've been banging your head against a wall for a time on your current project, it can help to switch gears and write something different just for fun. Try a poem, a short story, or a children’s story. Write a magazine article or a slice-of-life story.
Don’t worry about how good it is or whether or not you’ll publish it. Allow yourself to write purely for the joy of following your imagination, and see where it takes you.
If you succeed at leaving your inner editor behind, you may discover the solution to the problem plaguing you in your novel. It's amazing sometimes how loosening up your writing chops can bring your creative muse back to the table.
Motivating tip: You know that if you spend too many days in a row doing hard workouts, you’re eventually going to push yourself too hard, risking injury.
The same can happen with writing. After working hard on a project for a long time, you need an easy day to step back and allow your creative muscles to recharge. Writing something entirely different with no pressure to publish can help you do just that.
4. If You Don’t Like the Idea of Publishing and Book Marketing, Write for Fun
Today’s publishing market is very competitive, and it’s not easy to gain a foothold among all the other great writers out there. Most writers want to try, but you may not be one of them.
Maybe all you want to do is write your stories in peace. You can share them with family and friends, and that may be enough for you. If so, there is no reason to feel like you have to do more.
Motivating tip: Writing can provide several benefits to your life that you may not have thought about. Even if you never publish or receive a dime from your work, writing can help you heal, express yourself, explore hard questions, recover from trauma, and reflect on experiences.
When you maintain a regular writing practice, you may also experience other benefits such as boosting your creativity, increasing your brainpower, improving your ability to communicate with others, and getting to know yourself better. All of these reasons are more than enough to justify continuing to write for the fun of it.
5. Make It Your Goal to Write Just for Fun More Often
“Is this book good enough? Will it sell well? Will anyone want to read it?” Questions like these can leave you anxious and stressed, and those feelings chase creativity away. Yet we often allow ourselves to get caught up in these sorts of thoughts when we’re writing our stories.
When we write for fun, on the other hand, our work tends to be more creative and inspired. It’s when we get bogged down by deadlines and marketing that we can start to write formulaic and cliché-ridden stories.
You need that spark inside you to fulfill your potential as a writer, so whenever you find that it’s fading out, make a point to do what you need to do to get it back. Often that involves play, so go have some fun!
Motivating tip: Take yourself on a writing date. Head out to your favorite park, café, library, or other location, armed only with your pen and notepad or laptop. Allow yourself to just be for a few minutes, then write whatever comes to mind.
Observe the people around you and make up a story about them, or choose a picture you see and write about that. Be outrageous in your writing and allow yourself to push the boundaries. Go farther than you normally would, and just enjoy the experience.
When you finish writing, close the notebook and return to your life. Later, you can look at what you wrote to see if you want to do anything more with it, but don’t expect anything. The exercise was simply for fun. Anything beyond that is gravy.
When do you allow yourself to write just for fun?
Note: For more on overcoming self-doubt and deciding to be a writer no matter what, see Colleen’s new book, Your Writing Matters: How to Banish Self-Doubt, Trust Yourself, and Go the Distance. Get your free chapter here!
About the author: Colleen M. Story’s latest release, Your Writing Matters, helps writers determine once and for all where writing fits in their lives. Her previous release, Writer Get Noticed!, was a gold-medal winner in the Reader’s Favorite Book Awards, and Overwhelmed Writer Rescue was named Book by Book Publicity’s Best Writing/Publishing Book in 2018. Her novel, Loreena’s Gift, was a Foreword Reviews' INDIES Book of the Year Awards winner, among others. Her next novel, The Beached Ones, is forthcoming from CamCat Books in spring 2022. Colleen is the founder of Writing and Wellness (writingandwellness.com) and Life and Everything After (lifeandeverythingafter.com). Please see her author website (colleenmstory.com) or follow her on Twitter (@colleen_m_story).