Shelley Widhalm

The fun side of writing (plus a little structure)

In 52: A Writer's Life, Shelley Widhalm, Writing on July 14, 2013 at 11:00 am

Sometimes I wonder why I write when I could be out playing.

As a journalist by day, I conduct research, interview sources and write feature and news articles, spending at least half of the 40-hour work week writing.

After work, I want to write some more, or at least I think I do. I have the usual excuses of I’m tired, I don’t know what to write about, I’ve already been writing all day and I want to be doing something else. Anything.

Recently, I’ve learned two things about writing outside of the work life.

First, it’s important to schedule time for writing. One of my writer friends came up with a great plan that isn’t stressful, while freeing her of the guilt of not writing. She agreed to write for one hour two times a week and for two hours once during the weekend, or four hours a week.

“You can get a lot of writing done that way,” she said.

I am trying that plan, writing or editing three times a week. As for hours, I let it be open.

Second, writing should be entirely about having fun, at least before you’re published and have to consider the needs and requirements of your bosses that include your agent, editor, publishing house and readers. A published writing friend told me that though she still gets joy out of writing, she has deadlines and has to treat her writing like a job.

So, when writing is just about the process, here is what I consider makes writing fun, a joy and my passion:

• I get to use the thesaurus, think about word usage and play around with language.
• I come up with ways to describe things that I wouldn’t normally think about through simple observation. When I write down words for a description, they build on and contrast against each other, so that I discover something in the object, landscape or whatever else that I wouldn’t have noticed through only my senses.
• I learn things about human interaction and behavior I wouldn’t have otherwise through only living life without the written reflection. I get to pause and reflect on how people act and engage in dialogue with each other and spend time alone in order to develop my plot and character arcs and storylines. (For example, dialogue in writing requires conversation to be shortened to quicken the pace of the story by leaving out the uninteresting, non-telling bits that slow down the telling.)
• I learn new facts in a variety of subjects, from history to biology, as I research details for my stories.
• I experience life in ways that are different from three-dimensional living by going into two dimensions, writing out what could be lived if the characters I created were real.

Finally, the more I write on paper, the more I go about living writing in my head, so that my thoughts are richer, more interesting (at least to me) and help me grow into a more reflective, thoughtful, creative and imaginative person.

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