Whether you’re kicking off 2021 with a writing routine that’s a well-worn discipline or a shiny new year’s resolution, one of the biggest, best-kept secrets to staying with it is the same—and it doesn’t have anything to do with gluing your butt to a chair or watching less TV or any of the other grinds you hear about every January.
It has to do with fun.
Yes, you read that right: Fun!
After all, the best way to not only keep working at something, but improve and grow with that something is, simply put, to enjoy it. To embrace and seek out moments and approaches that help us remember to like writing and not just—in the wise words of Dorothy Parker—having written.
I’m not saying you need to plan a retreat week at the beach (though, let’s be honest, that does sound pretty good!) or write only about light topics. But no matter how serious your subject or how untropical your office, there’s plenty you can do to keep yourself smiling at the words on the page. Try these five fun tricks to start.
Hide Easter eggs.
I once had a neighbor friend drop off some fresh baked peasant bread on a night when my husband was on a business trip and I was home alone, writing. I joked that I was so grateful, I was going to write the bread into my story, and she perked right up and said, “Oh, will you really?” (I did—my protagonist bought a loaf with her grandmother at the farmer’s market—and that manuscript later became my debut novel, Almost Missed You, subtle mention of the bread and all.)
Which is to say, you don’t have to be a bestseller—or even published at all—to hide little mentions for future readers who are paying attention. Your grandma’s famous oatmeal cookies, the old dive bar that went out of business, the inside joke you used to have with your brother: You can give seemingly innocuous nods to places, people and things that will hold meaning only for you and anyone else who knows.
Write what you should have said.
I’m dating myself here, but there’s a brilliant classic episode of “Saved by the Bell” where Zack and Slater get into trouble with their girlfriends and apologize with an elaborate staging of “What I Should Have Said Theatre,” where they reenact their recent arguments with happier endings. It’s the kind of thing that stays with you because we all wish for re-dos now and then.
But having fun with fictional dialogue doesn’t have to be about winning past verbal battles (or conceding them more gracefully). The best thing about imagined dialogue, after all, is that our characters can be more clever than us, more quick, more witty, more confident or savvy or lovable or even (on the flip side) more daring or infuriating.
Write what you wish you’d said, or what you’d never have the nerve to say, or what you’d say if you were always your best version of yourself—or if you were not yourself at all.
Name your babies.
We all have our own creative methods for naming our main characters, sure. But what about the walk-ons, the extras, the one-offs? Assigning arbitrary names is easy enough, but leaves out all the fun. Why not give the curious bystander the same name as your old crush, the neighbor’s baby the name your spouse vetoed, the antagonist the name of your most dreaded ex? Your childhood dog, your worst roommate, the first celebrity whose poster graced your wall—they can all make innocent, first-name-only appearances in the pages of your novel. No one needs to know but you… and that’s half the fun.
Write about where you’d rather be.
Been forever since your last vacation? Put your characters on a plane to an exotic locale. Tired of shoveling snow? Send them somewhere warm. Had an epic cross-country drive after college graduation? Find an excuse to relive a favorite stop on the page.
Write what you wish.
This one is a fun flip side of writing what you know, and will infuse your writing with enthusiasm. Wish you could have scraped together the money for that Audi? Let your character drive one! Wish you didn’t have such a fierce pet allergy? Let your hero live blissfully congestion-free with your dream dog, or cat, or both.
What are some other tips you’ve tried to wake up your writing, stay loose, even crack yourself up? We want to know! Visit Career Authors on Facebook to continue the discussion.