Best Advice: Have More Fun (Stop Worrying and Obeying)

PhotobucketWe’re all taking ourselves too damn seriously.

What do I mean by this?

I mean that we’re so focused on …

• Being as productive as possible
• Crafting the best manuscript possible
• Building the best platform possible
• Appearing as professional as possible

… that we lose sight of who we really are and instead try to follow every commandment that comes along, and behave in a way that will be acceptable to whomever we think is watching and judging.

What’s truly paradoxical is that many commandments insist that you execute them in the most natural, authentic, and committed way possible. What a Catch-22! We must voluntarily and naturally do something we’ve been commanded to do!

It’s why (in my more humorous moods) I tell people that the best way to get published is to stop caring about getting published.

When you strive so hard and for so long, the whole reason you started writing in the first place—the real joy and motivation for it—gets completely lost. You’re so focused on the goal that you’ve forgotten the journey. You’ve forgotten to sing and dance, which is the secret of the wonderful and successful writer.

Yes, this is all very Zen. But I can’t think of a better philosophy for the writers seeking the best advice. You must, Joseph Campbell style, uncover the bliss in your writing life.

Unfortunately, most advice the experts offer (that includes me!) doesn’t help you take more joy. (Quite the contrary.) But joy is the one thing you have probably lost along the way, and didn’t realize was lost in the first place.

Go find it, and celebrate it daily.

Photo courtesy Flickr’s Waponi


About Jane Friedman

Jane Friedman has more than 15 years of experience in the book and magazine publishing industry, with expertise in digital media and the future of authorship. She speaks around the world at events such as BookExpo America, Frankfurt Book Fair, and Digital Book World, and has keynoted writing conferences such as The Muse & The Marketplace. She currently teaches digital media and publishing at the University of Virginia. Find out more.


  1. says

    I’m actually breathing easier after reading this post.

    Thank you for reminding me why I started all this in the first place–because I love to write, and I love history, and I love to tell stories!

  2. says

    I do think this is one of the hardest things to do. But I also agree that it’s what’s going to make writers the most successful. It’s kind of like how in high school, the girl that didn’t care about getting a boyfriend is the one who got one first; because she was being natural, herself, and that’s what boys (and agents/editors!) fall in love with.

    Thanks for the reminder!

  3. says

    When I started to focus more on my writing, I realized that I had truly found the place where I wanted to be. However, I also knew that I needed to step back from the process and demands of writing as you have discussed today.

    I adopted a strategy that works for me–Monday!
    I have designated Monday as a time for me! It is a decision that has been helpful, offering some release, freedom and perspective. Just this brief focus time adds to my creativity and to my life, I am convinced.
    It was invaluable this month as I am participating in the 30-Day Blog Challenge. a came in This month I blogged about it. Here is a link if you wish to read more at

  4. says

    I think we’re not focusing on the “as possible” part of things — instead, we’re turning them into “impossible”. :)

    I couldn’t have asked for a better pick-me-up than this today. Joy and bliss are definitely on today’s menu now.

  5. Rufus Twitch says

    Sage advice. It’s great timing for me to be reminded of this. It applies to more that writing. I started doing what I do because I enjoyed it. Time to rediscover the bliss.

  6. says

    What perfect advice as summer begins: let’s let our hair down, go barefoot, and really get in and do what we came to do. Freely, without censorship. Thx, Jane, for always be the gift of sensibility.

  7. says

    Yay, Jane–

    The further along this writing path I get, and the busier I become, the more I need this advice and need to remember it! I have SO many goals this summer, but one is definitely to remember that it’s summer, that my son is home from school, that it’s warm and bright outside and in, and that there has to be vacationy-down time.

    Here’s to skirts that twirl! :)

  8. says

    Great advice and at the right time, too. I just received my first proof copy and the smidgens of space in between words is driving me crazy. I’ve expanded and condensed, proofread,and edited trying to get to perfection. Your advice helped me to ‘step back’ and look at the big picture.

    I think I’ll spend most of the weekend creating the baby shower invitations for my son and daughter-in-law. The book will turn out just fine. I’ll make the necessary adjustments and remember not to over-analyze. :)


  9. says

    You know what? This doesn’t just apply to writing. I’m seeing this not only in my work but in my life. Thanks for reminding me that I should ENJOY what I’m doing (the good stuff) and not worry about how it’s going to turn out.

  10. says

    The more advice I read, the more I worry. But I try to keep the worry and work of being published separate from the joy of writing. It’s nice to hear this from you. Though the prospects of publishing are bleaker than ever for new writers, if it’s what we love we have to keep trying.

  11. says

    This is such great advice, and so very true! Even after publication, it’s easy to lose the joy because writing is now a real ‘job’! But it’s always essential to remember exactly why it has always been my dream job!

  12. says

    Ahhhhh. Love it. I do see so many people wrapped around the axle about all the Rules and Commandments and Don’ts and Nevers. This is a great reminder not to focus on all that. Relax!

  13. says

    Wow, Jane! You absolutely nailed what to me is the best Writer’s Secret ever! It truly is all about our journey as writers & the joy that keeps us filling page after page after page! Thank u for the powerful reminder!

  14. says

    That’s exactly what I’ve been thinking. I’ve been reading Writer Unboxed for a while, and while all the advice is great, it’s a bit overwhelming! I wonder, frequently, “Why can’t we just write our hearts out–write what we want, about what we want, and let the rest fall into place?” I mean, sure, there are definitely pieces of advice that are helpful and can be incorporated into a novel to improve it, but overall the core of it (your idea, thoughts, characters, plot) is going to be YOU.

    Sure, you can try to follow the latest trends, be most marketable, but to me, that’s like trying to be someone you’re not.

    That’s why this post is going to be linked on my own blog!

  15. says

    You are absolutely right about this, Jane. I always have to remind myself to enjoy the journey. I enjoy writing my joy moments in my journal each evening; I highly recommend it to all writers. Thanks for such a great post.

  16. says

    So nice to hear that my boat is not as lonely as I once thought it was. Guess I need to get out of my room and meet other passengers.

    On that note–I can’t even begin to imagine the time loss spent combing my current manuscript for all too “edgy” pieces or playing “let me be the reader”.

    Writing is a difficult endeavor when you are trying to create the perception of “what is purported to be right verse being yourself.

  17. says

    Oh I love this! Thanks for the reminder. It is rough to get all caught up in the haze of what is appropriate when pursuing publication, but your are right on target gal. Thanks a million!

  18. says

    I tell ya the funniest thing, and I can’t explain why it happens, only that it universally does. Often writers come to me, stymied. They know they’re floundering, and can’t quite put a finger on it. As I teach them the elements of great writing, and they learn the skills that then remain in their toolboxes to use at any time, the most amazing thing happens–it cracks back open creativity. Inspiration springs anew. And joy returns.
    All to say I think you can get back to the joy of writing via many avenues!

  19. says

    This reminds me of how I was growing disillusioned with my writing until someone offered a fresh perspective on my first novel and I remembered why I did it in the first place. Then I realized I had confused “publishing” with “writing.” Happy now.

    Scott Nicholson

  20. says

    I was eating at Jimmy Johns today and there was a poster that said. “Don’t be afraid to try new things. Remember it was a lone amateur who built the Ark. A team of professionals built the Titanic.”

    I immediately thought of your blog post! I’m planning to be brave and reckless tomorrow without a thought to the team of experts yelling in my ears.

  21. Deborah Taylor-French says

    Yes, Jane. The fun part is the best part. Following a character or a storyline as they jump off the page and head out, leaving my outline behind is a kick-in-the-pants adventure.

    Yes, Patricia, I’m having fun too.

    I plan to have fun sharing this post.

  22. says

    Maybe publishing is packaging; we want our gift to look nice, but what really matters is what’s inside.

    Thank you for your gift of wisdom.

  23. D. G. Hudson says

    The post confirms that you are a realist, Jane. Most writers know we can’t jump through all the hoops, so we pick and choose the ones we think we can handle.

    But — it’s so refreshing to have someone in the publishing industry come out and say ‘remember to have some fun along the way’ or don’t forget to have a life.

    Thanks for being human.

  24. Elizabeth Beechwood says

    Patricia and Deborah — I’m having fun, too! Maybe it’s a northern CA thing? What are they putting in our water?

  25. says

    Brings me back to a question floating around twitter last week: what books have had the most impact on you?

    Mine–Youngblood Hawke by H. Hesse. The main character is a writer who lives in the mountains and knows of no rule to obey, so he simply writes. And of course becomes a phenomenal success once discovered (I forget how that happened, perhaps a hiking publisher wandered by his cabin?)

    Have always remembered that book and have tried to create my own mountain without rules. Until I entered twitter 2 weeks ago.

    So thank you Jane for timely reminder to head back to my mountain. Your post is a wonderful gift.

    Thank you. Allie back on the mountain.

  26. says

    Don’t worry, Jane. I’ve been ignoring your advice for ages now.

    But it’s nice to know I have your permission.


  27. valerie says

    What a relief someone feels this way. It’s tiring to always read that as writers we must do this, and we must do that. It’s overwhelming to a new writer like myself because I feel like I get batted out before I reach first base. Thanks for posting this!

  28. says

    You are so right! I almost lost it there for a minute and I found myself floundering, unable to write like I had been. But I stopped and calmed down and I think I’ve found my groove, so to speak. So thanks for the reminder!

  29. says

    Absolutely! And it’s not just about writing, it about telling stories, because isn’t that what we really do? Somehow, we’ve become so wrapped up in “getting it right,” we forget the art of story-telling.

    Thanks, Jane!

  30. says

    Always trying to remember this. Although I’m a beginner writer, I acted for 20 years and forgot about the fun along the way. I’m sure not to forget it this time! Thanks for reminding me again. :)

  31. says

    Fun to read all these responses!

    Deborah Taylor French–yes, it was fun to read–I think it’s all about perspective!

    Ironically, I blog at and am just finishing participation in the 30-day Blog Challenge. Somehow, the feed link below is stuck on Fathers Day–if anyone knows how to fix this situation, I would be so appreciative to learn how to correct it. Some of the fun in blogging is being challenged! LOL



  1. […] With certain technologies, though, sometimes I wish I had jumped sooner rather than later. Twitter is a perfect example. I signed up for an account and then forgot about it. Then as Twittering became more integrated into every day jargon, I felt the urge to become more active with my account, so I downloaded the Twitter app for my IPod Touch. This led me to finding the nifty feature for finding tweets I might be interested, which led to following a couple of writing magazines. One of those magazines led to a Writer Unboxed blog entry entitled “Best Advice: Have More Fun (Stop Worrying and Obeying).” […]