The day after my birthday earlier this year, I complained that I spent it working. I just looked back at that day in my journal — what I recorded was “wrote, made soup, called Mom”. Not what I’d call a fun birthday, but it was an okay birthday.
Still, it seemed to me that other people do fun stuff on their birthdays. So the day after my birthday I declared that the next month on that day and every month thereafter I would have a Lif Day, a regularly scheduled day when I would do only the absolutely necessary chores and I would stay offline so the rest of that day could be for myself. To have fun.
Every Lif Day since has been pretty much the same story. I’m a kind of workaholic. The To Do list is long and I’m always trying to get one more thing in. That tends to eat up a Lif Day. I’m not very good at taking a day off to have fun.
Last evening my friend Laura and I were chatting via email, as we do, and I reported to her that I had spent the day writing a story draft of almost 4000 words.
Me: I guess I had a lot of word pressure built up in me. I’ll let it sit for a few days then look at it again. I was offline most of the day because I was writing. It was heavenly.
Laura: A Lif Day in mid-month — what a concept!
Me: A Lif Day is supposed to be a day when I just relax and have fun. While I love to write, I want my Lif Days to be goof-off, do whatever days.
Laura: Writing isn’t fun?
Me: I love to write. It’s not necessarily fun. It is satisfying, it is necessary, it is what I love to do. But fun? Only occasionally — when the writing is going very, very well.
Laura: I have trouble matching “love to do” with “only occasionally fun”, but OK.
Me: Hmmm. It seems clear to me that there’s a difference, but how to articulate it? I’ll give that some thought.
So along with the 4000 word story, I let the difference between “love to do” and “fun” ferment in my brain till it was ready to come out. It didn’t take long. This evening I Googled “fun”, and that told the story.
Fun is something that’s “amusing, entertaining, or enjoyable”.
Reading is fun. I enjoy doing it, it’s entertaining, sometimes amusing enough to make me chuckle or even laugh out loud. So yeah, definitely fun.
Writing is not fun. It is not amusing. I rarely laugh when I’m writing, even when I’m trying to be funny. Writing isn’t amusing or entertaining to me, it’s work. It takes mental effort, and focus, and it’s something I do because I feel a powerful need to do it.
I could say that writing is enjoyable, in that it’s pleasing to come up with sequences of words that sound good to me, to come up with story twists that add to the richness of what I’m writing, and it’s so very satisfying to be done writing and have the feeling that I’ve written well that day.
The enjoyment factor is important — if I wasn’t able to write at least as well as I now do, I would be frustrated and unhappy, especially if I kept writing anyway and never got better. The reward for writing is when I read something I’m done with and I really like it. As for anybody else liking it — that’s pretty far from a given. Never knowing if my writing’s any better than only good in my own eyes is definitely NOT fun.
What writing is to me has little to do with fun, though it fills a deep need in me. I have to write. How different is that from, say, being addicted to heroin? I don’t know.
At least writing probably won’t make my teeth fall out or my veins collapse. That wouldn’t be fun at all.