Many of us loved writing as children; we saw it as a pastime. At the same time, a good number of motivational speakers tell us how to find our passion—“Turn your hobbies into a career,” they say. That saying possibly, nudged us into following a career in writing.
However, no one warned us about the likelihood of questioning the career choices we have made based on our hobbies and passions. Sometimes, it would seem, our dreams of spinning careers out of our hobbies insidiously morph into nightmares when we start perceiving writing as a chore.
From interacting with different writers, I realized writing only becomes a chore when we approach it from a place of defeat. Joan of Arc said, “All battles are first won or lost in the mind.” Easy tasks are only difficult in the mind. A defeatist mindset makes us think, “Oh, this looks so hard! How am I ever going to start?”
The mind holds on to this first impression we have, and you know what they say of first impressions: They last forever, and it is hard to change them. This negative first impression runs in the background while we ruminate on the job at hand. Instantly, we decide we don’t like it, and before we know it, we find ourselves procrastinating on the task.
Then there comes anxiety because a part of our minds is aware of the deadline. Eventually, imposter syndrome enters the group chat. We find ourselves doubting our abilities. The horror of it all!
Writing was fun while we were younger because we mostly wrote things we loved while there were no deadlines or pressure. However, these two variables are absent in the course of writing at our jobs. To remedy how writing was becoming a chore for me, I found myself coming up with ways to find joy in writing.
In this post, I will share with you tips I used to find joy in writing. Of course, these are not set in stone. I encourage you to borrow elements here and there from my experience, look inwards, and fashion healthy methods that would work in your personal context.
When it comes to creative tasks, having fun can be a good motivator, bringing out the best in us.
Learning new things is fun for me. By reading new material or talking with people about something we are about to work on, we find ourselves learning new things. These new ideas can then reemerge in conversations we have with people in the future. Knowing we will come across as knowledgeable and consummate conversationalists can be such an ego-booster.
I remind myself that, in writing, I am staying true to my purpose and connecting with my Inner Child, the part of me who loves writing. I make a mental note not to pressure myself in any way. We can’t always wait for other people to cheer us on; it is something we need to do for ourselves. Words of affirmation are not only for other people; we can use them on ourselves.
Of course, I have not always written things I loved writing. On such occasions, what I had to do was convince myself that I would be breaking out of my comfort zone to learn something new, something which would increase my knowledge.
You too can find a way to convince your mind to enjoy things that are not fun. It’s simple. We have fun writing things that are familiar to us. I always tell myself that time is the distance between unfamiliar and normal. As I continue with the task, I find myself immersed in it, and it soon becomes familiar.
Having fun while writing also means that I focus on the non-monetary benefits of writing.
In an episode of Netflix’s 100 Humans, “How to Be Happy,” two groups were divided into ten teams and asked to build tall structures out of 20 pieces of uncooked spaghetti, a yard of string, a pair of scissors, one marshmallow, and one yard of masking tape.
In one group, the subgroups were offered a $400 reward for the team that finished the task first. In the other group, all the teams were told just to have fun.
The fun group finished more structures overall and had taller structures than the reward group. In addition, the fun group worked more collaboratively and with less stress, while things got intense for the reward group.
Why? On the show, Zainab Johnson simply says, “Happier people are more productive.” Author Daniel H. Pink says, “We think that if we just dangle money in front of people, they’ll perform better. That’s true in some cases, but for creative tasks it’s actually less true than we believe. We do things because they bring us psychological pleasure; they help us grow.”
This resonates with how we had fun while writing. Knowing we were writing for fun, even when no one was giving us monetary remuneration, was all it took to boost productivity and creativity.
From my experience, I have learnt thinking of the money coming can be counter-productive. It puts a kind of pressure on me, because I have it at the back of my mind that I ought to churn out impressive work that merits what I’m getting as payment.
Here is another way to look at it. A part of our minds desires rewards. In a bid to get that gratification in the shortest possible time, we find ourselves rushing through things.
When you bring this into the writing context, it explains why we put unnecessary pressure on ourselves when money is a part of the equation, because we desire that money in the shortest possible time.
Or it could be that the fear of losing our jobs is keeping us in line. Fear and joy don’t belong together.
Another important thing I do is that I make sure to demystify the task. I try to approach the task from a positive mental space. This way, it does not look scary.
As I mentioned earlier, we have a tendency to overthink an easy job into something difficult. In understanding the assignment, I get to know what is required of me. Is it something that requires me to pace myself over a period of two weeks? Is it something I can complete in one sitting?
In understanding the assignment, I find myself getting familiar with the job at hand. Along the line, I find myself coming up with more ideas due to me being exposed to the topic.
It’s almost like seeing people do a yoga pose that your mind perceives as difficult. Until you make attempts to get into the pose, you’ll always tell yourself it is hard to do.
Until you immerse yourself into a project, take it one step at a time, you would stay thinking it is difficult and tedious.
Then again, what happens when the task at hand seems hard, even after giving it a go? I explain the remedy in the next point.
Whenever it seems as though I could not “understand the assignment,” I decide to take a break. This way, I don’t overwhelm myself with the task. By taking a break, I distance myself from the task. Meditating, listening to music, and reading are some of the things that relax me. In doing these, I am able to see the task ahead with fresh eyes.
It would seem as though I were procrastinating. We call procrastination bad, but taking a break isn’t “procrastination” in the sense of how we have come to ideate the word. It is not bad to step away from a task and give your mind a rest.
You can recharge in the way that works for you. It could be being around loved ones, having a night out with friends, or meditating. I recommend you do activities that make you feel relaxed.
Writing is fun when you take away deadlines. After all, we did not have to race against time when we enjoyed writing as kids.
What I do is set a deadline before the already set deadline.
I know this might come across as counter-intuitive. You might wonder, “Shouldn’t a stricter, albeit self-imposed, deadline make it worse”?
In a way, giving myself a strict deadline makes it feel like I have given myself a responsibility, a duty. The Peter Parker Principle says, “With great power there must also come great responsibility.” Interestingly, when you flip this adage around, it goes, “With great responsibility there must also come great power.”
I like to think of this as a “power move”. Setting my own deadline makes me feel as though I were working with my own time, on my own terms. It has a way of making me “sit up”. Knowing that I put the strict deadline in place is like telling myself, “You chose this; you’re not allowed to blow it up.”
Many of us are so focused on doing something worthwhile that we over-stress ourselves trying to do everything. We validate our lives and experiences by always being busy and stressed.
But if the amount of busyness does not translate into tangible productivity, there’s something off. We can’t keep saying “I’m busy, I’m swamped” but when asked what we have to show for it, we stare into space like a character in a telenovela having a flashback.
I have learnt to effectively apply the 80/20 rule (also known as the Pareto Principle) to the way I go about work. The 80/20 rule says that 20 percent of your activities lead to 80 percent of results.
According to the 80/20 principle, you have to “identify inputs that are potentially the most productive and make them the priority.” In other words, is the task you’re about to work on important enough to be in that top 20 percent? If that task isn’t part of that 80 percent of results, it’s not a priority task.
I pace myself to get the best possible results in little or no time. Most times, people are busy all day because they are working on low-value tasks, while procrastinating on the tasks that would make a positive impact on their work.
I know this idea might sound New Age-y, but it works for me. I fast-forward myself to that moment in the future when I have completed the task. I allow myself to stay in that feeling. By visualising, a part of my mind becomes aware of that possibility. If it is possible, then I can do it. As a result, I’m propelled to work towards it, while understanding it is not a big deal.
These steps work for me. As always, I try to encourage people to look inwards and find the things that work better in their contexts. “Know thyself.” Understand your process and find ways to hack your way around life in order to achieve the best.
For me, intelligence means understanding your life’s context and coming up with ways to make it easier and peaceful. What is the point of having all the degrees in the world while experiencing unnecessary drama and stress?
A good number of the stresses we experience all begin in our minds when we allow fear in all forms gnaw at us: from having impostor syndrome to procrastinating because we think the task is too tedious.
Our passions and hobbies, such as writing, can stay fun, even when we make careers out of them. Writing does not have to be a chore. You can boost creativity and productivity when you have fun while writing.
It is important you find joy in the act of writing, knowing that you are staying true to your Self and your journey. This can happen when you approach writing with a positive mindset.
If we can change our mindsets into one that makes us embrace our jobs with love, we would find ourselves more productive. Remember that happy child who loved to scribble cute stories. Remember that teenager that had so much to write in the school newspaper. Most importantly, remember to have fun!
Cisi Eze works as a freelance journalist, writer, and comic artist. She makes comics and writes on issues she feels strongly about – mental health, feminism, and LGBT+ rights. Her works are on platforms such as Academy of Medical-Surgical Nurses, African Women in Media, Signal Horizon, Bloody Women, LAPP – The Brand, SOLRAD Magazine, to name a few. Her first book is titled, “Of Women, Edges, and Parks” (2019). More of her random musings are on her blog, ShadesOfCisi.