When we were children, our every activity was guided by the hedonistic pursuit of pleasure. We felt fulfilled after a day spent colouring outside the lines, jumping over carpet-lava, and spinning in circles until we were dizzy and giggling. When we were forced to do something we didn’t like, we’d cry and scream as though putting on clean clothes was an internationally-condemned form of torture, then we’d go back to following our bliss—maybe by building elaborate space-ninja-pirate-castle-ships, or maybe by emptying the contents of the cutlery drawer all over the floor.
Then we grew up.
The first time we sat at a desk and complained that we didn’t want to do our homework, we were told that work isn’t supposed to be fun, but we have to do it anyway. The pursuit of happiness was relegated to weekends and vacations.
We heard it over and over. Work isn’t supposed to be fun. Fun is for children and hobbies.
But that was okay, because we had a hobby we loved: writing.
We slaved away at our unsatisfying jobs, content in the knowledge that when we’d finished, we could relax into the effervescent enjoyment of making up imaginary worlds. Writing was an escape and a pleasure—more akin to those early days of spinning in circles until we were dizzy than actual work.
Then everything changed.
At some point we realised that writing with the intention of publication was nothing short of W-O-R-K work. That old training reared its ugly head. Work isn’t supposed to be fun. Suddenly, it was much harder to approach writing with the same joie de vivre that we once had, because, as we all know, work is supposed to be brain-numbingly dull.
But we worked hard. We learned about voice and tension and the “evil” of adverbs. We joined writing groups, and reading groups, and devoted ourselves to reading books and blogs. We studied great works of literature, and modern breakthrough novels. Then we returned to our own writing and realised the unalienable truth:
Compared to our heroes, our writing is mediocre at best.
Perhaps we considered quitting. Perhaps we even did quit for a while. But eventually, we came back to writing. We couldn’t help it. We massaged our prose, trying to make it as perfect as it could possibly be. We reminded ourselves that work is supposed to be hard. Work isn’t supposed to be fun.