The secret place where stories are made

It’s written in the biggest letters of all the tiny signs around my writing station: HAVE FUN. Because I know it’s the most important message to myself. If the writing isn’t fun, it’s harder.

The easiest writing is when your heart of hearts is bouncing with glee, the story is pouring out of your fingers faster than they can type, because the fingers are connected to your brain, but the real feeling is in your heart — your chest is busting with energy from the amazing story coming out.

That feeling isn’t there when the writing is a chore, when you have to do it, when you’re wringing the words out because it’s an obligation. The feeling is slightly there when you’re following a plan, when you know the story and you’re sticking to it because it’s a story worth sharing even if it has now escaped from the secret place where stories are made.

But oh, when the writing is coming directly from the secret place where stories are made, that is where the fun is. I wish I could be in that secret place more often than I am, because the tiny sign with the biggest letters is right: It’s FUN. And when I’m having fun, magic is happening.

Stories come out of that fun place, but then the wearing-down begins. The urge to rewrite, the editing, the preparation for publication, the second-guessing … Most stories that escape the secret place don’t hold the magic long enough to be properly shared. “Oh, that’s nice,” the world says at the finished final product, which no longer retains the “OMG THIS IS GREAT! THIS IS FUN!” that accompanied its birth, because too much has happened since the magic first escaped. Friction from the real world of process has burned and scraped it down.

Sometimes, in the very best cases, the magic is preserved in amber. Those are the stories we cherish, the stories we tell our friends and loved ones about, the stories we aspire to write when we sit down hoping to have fun.

Often self-consciousness undermines us before we can start. “OK, I am sitting down to have fun creating a story now. Ready, set, go, OK, I’m creating now,” and it keeps us from having fun. Once in a while, though, it happens. I smile as I write, I laugh at the escapades unfolding unbidden from the secret place. I look up at the little sign that says, “HAVE FUN,” and reply, “Why yes, I’m having some right now, thanks for the suggestion.”

The first rule of writing is an important key: “You must write.” If the magic only escapes a certain percentage of the time you are writing, then the more you write, the greater the amount of magic that escapes. The author who said “90% of everything is crap” may be overstating the case, but if mostly accurate, it means you must write 10 pages to attain one page that isn’t crap, and to achieve 10 good pages you must write 100, and so on, und so wieder, et cetera.

But it seems to me that the more I write, the more I make it a routine and not something I do when the time is right and the mood hits me, the better the percentage of stuff that is not crap. And the more I write, the more fun I have.

I aim to have as much fun as I can, because life is such a precious gift that it makes more sense to enjoy it. Sounds selfish, I know. But I’m OK with trying to enjoy my life, because I’m more useful to you if I’m having fun, if for no other reason than I’m not moping and bringing down your mood — and maybe you’ll have fun seeing me have fun, and the world will be a better place for both of us.

Published by WarrenBluhm

Wordsmith and podcaster, Warren is a reporter, editor and storyteller who lives near the shores of Green Bay with his wife, two golden retrievers, and an insistent cat. Author of How to Play a Blue Guitar, A Bridge at Crossroads, Refuse to be Afraid, and A Scream of Consciousness.

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