• Bridge Ladies

    Bridge Ladies When I set out to learn about my mother's bridge club, the Jewish octogenarians behind the matching outfits and accessories, I never expected to fall in love with them. This is the story of the ladies, their game, their gen, and the ragged path that led me back to my mother.
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The Best Things In Life Are Free

Today, my intern commented on how all the submissions I asked him to read were depressing, about trauma, death, pain, etc. And your point is? I asked him why he thought people were compelled to write. Because it’s fun?  he asserted. For a moment I flashed on what it might be like to experience writing as fun. Surely someone was having fun: the creators of Beavis and Butthead, James “seven books a year” Paterson. James Franco. It seems like Sedaris has fun though how could suffering not be far behind? I think Paul Krugman is having some fun. I think Russell Brand had fun ejaculationg My Booky Wooky. Tucker Max has fun. Fun? Do people really have fun? I explained to said intern that I was nicknamed the pain and suffering editor. That Al ROker called my memoir, the feel bad book of the year, and I took it as high praise. IDK. Writing isn’t fun for me. But then again, what is?

Et tu? Is writing ever fun?

81 Responses

  1. Wow, your timing is uncanny. I just told someone I was actually having fun writing this fluffy new WIP and then I reread the 20k words I’ve written in the past month and realized that it’s utter, utter shit. So…no.

    • I imagine a certain Author Who Must Not Be Named had LOADS of fun writing her runaway bestseller—and it shows.

  2. Of course writing can be fun.
    Of course, when it’s fun it’s also usually humiliating and messy and sad in its own not very special way, so that makes it kinda like sex, and maybe even life.
    It was fun to write this http://harryipants.wordpress.com/2012/02/01/luck-is-a-lady/
    and it’s pretty crap, but if it saves you from being ALL misery, surely it’s worth it.
    It doesn’t have to ALL be serious and miserable.
    Sometimes a bit of fun can save your life.
    Have fun people.

    • Harry-
      “Luck is a lady” is funny and I’m sure it was fun to write. You might be a sick-arse bastard, but I’m sure your bike loves you for it.

    • Harry, that was fall down funny. Well done, but looking at ass and riding a bike will never be the same.

      Seriuosly-well done, mate.

      • Seriously, serially, cereally, sureally, you get it….

      • You can not be cereal Frank!!!
        Sorry about that, but a year or two, you’ll get over it. I did.
        Maybe I could sell the bike. Maybe I could write one of those very short stories about it, like Hemingway supposedly did with the baby shoes.
        For sale. Well-loved bike. No seat.
        See you towards the horizon Frank.

  3. When I showed up for my recent worship in New Haven, where we’d all submitted our work in advance, all of my classmates said, “but you’re so much happier than we thought you’d be!”

  4. Define fun first. I’ve used snippets of actual, not-to-be-believed conversations and based (perhaps the better word is debased) less-than-favorable characters on actual people who deserve little more in several WIPs. Quite cathartic and entertaining for me as I slog through the other tasks – such as plot development and refining the voice of the story.

    PS: The youth of the intern no doubt limits his ability to connect with those overwhelmingly “depressing” submittals. Why would he appreciate trauma and numbing grief when he probably, secretly, believes he will live forever and serious health issues, violent crime and financial ruin only happens to Those Other People? Ah, to be that young again!

    • Fun. I think fun is any activity in which you stand to gain much and nothing (or very little) to lose. That’s why I don’t include skiing, hang-gliding, or whitewater rafting in my list of fun things to do.

      When there is much to lose, but also much to gain, that is called adventure.

      When there is little or nothing to gain, but much to lose, that is called duty, or sacrifice.

      And when gain is non-different from loss, that is compulsion or addiction.

      Of course, we exchange our precious time, our lives, for everything we do and have, so maybe it’s all a sacrifice.

      Perhaps this doesn’t make any sense, but it’s late and I’m musing. Feel free to counter with your own theories.

      • Interesting stuff, T, and stuff I’ve thought a great deal about.

        In the small boat world, it’s often said that the difference between ordeal and adventure is attitude. In police tactical stuff, they talk about risk and gain; high risk/low gain are not recommended.

        Duty and sacrifice can be difficult to distinguish from addiction or compulsion, but can have their moments of pleasure or relief, which feels like fun at the time. Those things, in turn, can be followed by thoughts of “What the fuck was I thinking?”, and when you can laugh at all that, it may not be fun, but it’s okay.

        Thanks for the tweak, T.

  5. Writing can be a blast, but it can also be a lot of things that aren’t, subjectively or objectively speaking, fun. At all.

    But if you don’t feel better after writing . . . something’s not right.

  6. Writing my column is funner than fun; it has to be because my editor wants funny, quirky laughable stuff. It’s hard to write funny and yet it’s the funnest writing ever. (I’m making up funwords and my computer’s dictionary is vomiting little red lines under everything). In each column I usually have one laugh out loud sentence. It’s not contrived it just sort-of seems to happen that way.
    Even the serious writing I do, fiction and some of the contemplative stuff, which is really moving…I think that’s fun. I can’t wait to sit down and write about heartbreak, death and remembering when life wasn’t so full of shit.
    Eloquently shedding sorrow is like having a good cry without the swollen eyes.
    See. That sentence, just made me smile because I think it’s good. If you don’t think it’s good, so what. It was fun to write. I’m having fun right now. Actually the only time writing has not been fun is obits; had to write one once for an aunt I hadn’t seem in twenty years. No…that was not fun not because she died, death was a good thing, her husband was gone, and she was very sick, I hated writing the damn thing because I was asked to. I don’t do requests well.

  7. Writing is not fun, but having written well is a joy, and getting published is bliss. Nobody likes labor, but the baby is worth it. All acts of human creation are a struggle against homogenization, a shove at an entropic universe. That’s bound to be painful. Tell your intern that he who is not busy being born is busy dying.

  8. Yes. Yes it is. When the two most beautiful words in the world are written. The. End. Or, you know, when there is vodka.

  9. Bwahahaha! Just a couple hours ago, after having several days of almost unfettered focus in getting a submission ready–not eating, not going in to work, not taking calls, welded to the computer, overcaffeinating, ignoring everyone and everything if it didn’t take place on the page–I thought to myself…this is so damn much fun!

    And then I became aware that my back is aching from hunching over the computer, my eyes are bleary, I’m sweating from the god-awful heat, and shaking from both the caffeine and lack of food, but even more so from writing some totally bleak stuff.

    The next thought was…Is this actually, truly…fun? Really? Is that the right word? Or is it maybe…Freeing? Compelling? Necessary?

    I seriously could not say. But for just one single unguarded moment, I thought, “This is so fun!”

  10. Writing is about as fun as the Scarsdale Diet. Or being trapped in a phone booth with a thousand mosquitos. And that’s on a good day.

  11. I enjoy writing and couldn’t imagine not doing it ever again. And when something is finished, I am happy and satisfied. But fun is the wrong word for it for me. Necessary is a more accurate description.

  12. It’s fun when it’s easy. But it’s hardly ever easy. I shouldn’t have started that sentence with a conjunction. I’m so ashamed.

  13. Fun? No. To ask if writing is fun is the same as to ask if apples have a conscience–it’s a category mistake.

    • The apple that bopped Issac “Fig” Newton on the head didn’t feel bad about it? Awwww…

      • omg, is that how the Fig Newton® got its name?! I never got that until now. This calls for one of my favorite TV commercials of all time:

      • No named after Newton, Massachusetts…where they were originally made I think.

    • Tet, what category is writing in? What’s the right question?

      • I don’t know the answers to your questions, Frank, so I’ll make some shit up, since I’m a writer and that’s what we do.

        Writing is in the category of compulsive communication, which is one of the defining characteristics of our species and is manifest in various ways. For instance, walk down a city street crowded with people and you may see many of them hunched over their portable electronic communications devices and you may hear many others speaking loudly into their portable electronic communications devices while all around you there are signs and yet more electronic communications devices spewing messages left and right and high and low and you may think, “These critters is insane.”

        As for right and wrong questions, affiant knoweth naught; however, more useful question than “Is writing ever fun?” may be, “Does writing help alleviate the stings of loneliness and death?”, for another of the defining characteristics of our species is to be alone and bound for death and to know it.

  14. Fun? Writing my women’s commercial book was fun, but that was a break from a long depressing novel I now have the energy to confront. But real writing, the rush, the timing, the fallout, the damage – and ohmygod the damned editing – is inspired and humbling hard work. Agony.

  15. Fun, as in “a source of enjoyment or pleasure?” Yes, of course. Why not? As a daily writer of genre fiction I enjoy writing most of the time, including rewriting. Not all the writing I do is fun all the time, certainly, but to see the work improve with effort, to find a way to make a stubborn scene cooperate and play as “a seamless dream” (to use John Gardner’s happy phrase), to arrive at a sense of getting somewhere in the story–all of these are regular sources of pleasure. Writing was much more difficult for me at one time, but perhaps old farthood and daily practice has helped make the activity seem more like a problem of craft and patience and less like a Huge Artistic Obstacle.

    • I suppose I should have said “have made the activity seem…” rather than “has made the activity seem…” I do hate it when I post somewhere without having read my work carefully, and yet here is another screw-up.

  16. “I hate writing. I love having written.”- Dorothy Parker

  17. Once I get past the enormous resistance I always feel before starting, writing is fun. I suppose I could write about some of the horrible things that have happened to me, but I don’t like to look back. It’s depressing. I prefer to write my brand of nonsense and laugh.

  18. It’s fun when it’s pouring out of me. When I feel able to eloquently express what I mean.

    My stories are always dark and depressing. I think the subject matter is irrelevant. (Except for memoirs, obviously.)

  19. Sometimes it’s fun. Tom Robbins seems to have made a nice career out of what appears to be writing for fun. I enjoy writing, but it is work and work is not supposed to be fun, at least not for long. It’s a tough call, my memoir focuses so much on suffering and death that it’s hard to squeeze any fun out of it. But I try.

  20. Fun by any other word would be something else. Another word. Fun in the sun, Fun yum. Like that. Writing is fun depending on whether you are the Marquis De Sade of the process. The torcharity if you will of pulling out the right words at your fingertips. Let’s say you enjoy, okay, it’s fun to sit on your bum and wrack your brain for just the right refrain. Kink your back for fifty shades of subtlety. Now that can be fun. There are degrees. Some achieve the black belt. Others bounce off the mental padded room humming inane little ditties. Rum Red, I’m going to bed. Put a pillow to my head. I can’t hear you. Lalalala.

  21. Pain and suffering all the way!

  22. Sometimes writing my off-kilter thrillers and mysteries is fun. There is certainly a lot of pain and suffering in many books. But all the great books don’t seem born out of agony. How about Faulkner or Harper Lee? I don’t think there was an inordinate amount of suffering there.

  23. Lola and I designed and built our home, with help from friends, who came to be known as the Samuri Carpenters, and the bank. Sweat, injuries, profanity, fuckups and setbacks, rain delays, while working a full time job and two part time gigs. But it was fun, and satisfying.

    The risers and treads for the stairs were from the same log, mortised while Lola carried our child. The lad arrived before the house was finished, but we celebrated his first birthday there with a keg party. He was in his mid twenties when we left there.

    Writing is, for me, like building and living in that house. If it wasn’t fun at times, I wouldn’t do it. But I don’t expect any part of life to be free of effort, inconvenience or pain. I’m a volunteer, though, and if it gets to be all angst and handwringing and bullshit, look for the fading sail.

  24. When people tell me they think writing is fun, I think, ‘You’re doing it wrong.’ And I write “fun” books.

  25. I’ve never thought of it that way. I suppose in a subtle sort of way, I could say, yes, it is. It sure as hell beats that other day job I did for 25 years. Besides, no matter how good or bad it’s going, I’m compelled to do it. So much so that, having just finished the second novel, I’m getting ready to send it off to my editor and already plotting/planning the third. Everyone says, “take a break, give it a rest.” Are they kidding? That’s like telling me to drive 55. I can’t. Plain and simple…or maybe it’s more like I won’t.

  26. Also – not sure if Averil will comment at some point (her blog announces this too)…check this out from Publisher’s Marketplace:

    Hilary Helton writing as Averil Dean’s dark psychological suspense novel about a woman who breaks into a man’s house to steal a worthless box of trinkets and, when he comes home unexpectedly and finds her hiding in his closet, becomes drawn into a labyrinth of terrifying sexual surrender to a man who is darker and more dangerous than she could have dreamed, to Michelle Venditti at Mira, by Folio Literary Management (world English). Translation/audio: Molly Jaffa and Jonathan Lyons

    Congrats to Averil – well done. I bet she’ll say writing is fun…!

    • Thank you! What a rush, seeing my names up there together like that. I’m having an out-of-body moment.

      • Congrats, Averil! Now’s the time for fun!

      • Congratulations!! That’s awesome.

      • It’s got to be surreal… We (those who haven’t had the baby yet – see above comment about labor…) can only imagine being able to type out the blog post “The Call.” I have my draft all ready. LOL!

        I didn’t know what that name “Hilary Helton” meant when I saw it, but Averil Dean was the one I was familiar with, and knew it had to be you…I’d bookmarked your blog a while back – so I thought…hm…let me check and voila! “The Call” had been posted July 16th. I hope you get a chance to tell us more. I.e. your “critical links”…How you got the agent, how long it took to sell your book, give us the scoop!!! Feel free to gush, gushing is allowed – especially now and going forward!

      • Averil, I’ve already come all over your blog about this so I’ll just add another simple congratulations here and I’ll zip back up.

      • I read “The Call” just now! Wow! That’s amazing – couldn’t be any more perfect. Congratulations!!!!

      • I am so very, very happy for you. How wonderful.

      • My gosh, look at all the love. Especially from Tetman. Washcloth, anyone?

        I’m embarrassed to gush in Betsy’s sandbox, donnaeve, but here’s the post I wrote three months ago about getting my agent: http://averildean.wordpress.com/2012/04/15/spike/

        I think it was a matter of being in the right place at the right time. And a lot of hard work to put myself there in the first place.

      • Wow.. That’s great! Congratulations. I’ll be reading it….looks fascinating.

      • I’ll throw in an extra gush of happiness. What’s that saying? The harder you work, the luckier you get. You worked hard, and well. Mind if I keep calling you Averil?

    • Congratulations!!

    • I admit, I’m fairly new to the blogosphere and its rules, but isn’t this kind of like “outing” someone? I mean, the book’s not even published yet. I hope it’s okay all around.

      • It’s absolutely fine. My pen name was not exactly watertight. I knew the house of cards was folding when my ex started referencing my blog.

        Thank you, everyone, for the support. And though this may come off like some awful acceptance speech, thank you Betsy. I wouldn’t be writing without you.

      • You will always be Averil Dean to me–one tough cookie who has that extra something special and can not be kept down.

      • I did hesitate, but then considered that the info was put out on Publisher’s Marketplace – and that’s just about as public as a billboard.

        Averil (like the others, you’re Averil to me) I’m glad it was okay and I didn’t overstep myself with the congrats.

  27. I don’t know that I would describe it as fun. Satisfying maybe? Even then only sometimes. The accomplishment of having finished, getting an agent, finding a publisher is fun…but that wears off and you need to do it again if you want to capture that high. Maybe when someone actually gets to read your book and they say they actually like it…that would probably be fun (but also kept in check by those who read your book, or half read it only to turn away in disgust, and then tell the whole Goodreads world that you’re terrible and you suck and should burn at the stake for writing dreck.)

    So if it’s not fun and only sometimes satisfying, why even bother?

    Why indeed. I still do it.

  28. eating is fun. sex is fun. reading is fun. conversation is fun. sometimes even breathing is fun. words are fun. stringing them together and rearranging them is fun. is that writing? Fuck if I know. sleeping is the funist.

  29. Nothing’s fun in this heat. It’s currently 56 degrees & cloudy in Edinburgh, Scotland. I need to relocate, asap.

  30. This is what’s fun about writing.

    I’m standing at the produce stand yesterday and I’m talking to the young girl at the register. We took a writing class together and we were getting caught up. The girl tells me she likes reading my column. Makes me feel kind of strange but I’m liking the compliment, then an old lady standing next to me tells me she likes my column too.

    “It’s the first thing I read in the paper,” she says, “I love it.”

    Everything sort of became, you know, blah, blah, blah after that. I’ve never seen the woman before but she recognized me from my picture. By then my head was the size of a watermelon and I’m ready to accept my Pulitzer. Shit, I HAVE A FAN.

    Which got me to thinking…I’m the most famous person I know. Shows you how boring my life is. Me and my big head need to get around more.

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