At a recent mastermind meeting, my fellow blogger Mike Uhl asked what I felt about having crossed the halfway point of writing 50 M-F blog posts. Did I feel great about accomplishing that milestone? Was I having fun doing this thing? I've always had a tough time with "fun."
I was once asked years ago what I did for fun, and I really had no answer. I don't think I'm a drudge or mechanical person, but this was a question I never thought to ask myself. There are many things I enjoy -- reading, comics, museums, eating out, sitting on the back porch during a thunderstorm -- but "fun" is a different type of word that suggests abandonment of self, losing oneself in an exciting activity. I’ve always thought or believed that people were referring to roller coasters or white-water rafting or some other intensely physical activity when they referred to fun. It was just something I never really noticed in myself.
(Perhaps my life has been lived minimizing pain rather than maximizing pleasure? Discuss.)
So, let's overthink about this. I like the idea of breaking "fun" into "fun-fun" and "serious fun." This paper defines serious fun as "play with a purpose."
Serious fun goes beyond the apathy of strict order and the over-excitement of chaos to generate an ordered chaos that permits freedom within structure and fun within limits.
Fun-fun has no purpose beyond itself. Which is great. We need this. For me, that can be laughing till I hurt at a Flying Karamazov Brothers show or, from my distant past, performing in a play. The most fun I ever have, I think, is talking to friends, losing myself in conversation and connection with other people. My 50th birthday party last year was one of the peaks of 2011 and I enjoyed every minute of it -- the anticipation, the singing, and the remembering it later.
And while I enjoy watching a movie or TV show or most performances, I don't call that fun-fun. My years as a theater and movie reviewer, and as someone who enjoys thinking about writing fiction, have enforced a habit of judging, balancing, guessing where the narrative or performance is going, and then evaluating its execution. It keeps direct experience at an arm's length.
When I think about how I spend my time, I lean more toward "serious fun." I enjoy losing myself in an activity, but I want that activity to have a result. I can happily lose myself in emptying my bookshelves and then putting all the books back in some new ordering scheme. I can rename a folder full of PDFs so they sort just as I want, and time flies. I can also easily lose myself in writing, whether it's fiction or a blog post, and enjoy seeing what I produced.
I can't say that I have fun-fun writing these blog posts; there's no sense of physical abandon to the writing (more like stiffness and eyestrain).
But I have serious fun. I enjoy finding something out and sharing it on my blog. I enjoy taking an inchoate idea and surprising myself by shaping it into something like a mini-essay. I enjoy documenting the Byzantine curlicues of my baroque thought processes, though I am often dismayed at how complicated I make my life. I like documenting my little habits and routines; each post becomes a message in a bottle that I will look at years from now and go, "Huh. I forgot all about that."
Merlin Mann had this great P.S. to a 43Folders.com blog post:
Has anyone ever figured out that 90% of the posts on this site are actually (notes|pep talks|reminders) to myself? I sometimes think not. The site definitely makes more sense once you get this.
I enjoy losing myself in the activity of writing, in creating this object. The fun at the start of the writing, which is playing with the idea and being surprised at the words it collects around itself, eventually gives way to the more serious business of making this machine work. From the first paragraph, the reader enters a contraption from which the only escape should be the last paragraph.
The crafting of that machine, the polishing and fixing -- it takes focus and time. Even for short posts, I think about placement, context, wording, sentence rhythms, etc. What I hope is that, after I hit Publish, I can feel good about the time and energy I spent. The result of my efforts can be several hundred words of adamantine prose and unblockable metaphors, plus a feeling -- a satisfied feeling -- that my time was well-spent.
When I look at the calendar to the left of the post and see another day in bold italics -- signifying a new post -- I am pleased with myself for sticking to the plan.
When I peruse the finished object later in my feed reader, I hope to lose myself again in what I created -- this time, as a reader.
When I scan my ideas and drafts for the next post, I start feeling that little tingle of excitement -- what will I write next? What do I want to share? How long do I want it to be? What's interesting to me today? What idea has been ripening for a while and is ready to fall?
That moment just before I decide -- like the moment the curtain goes up just before the show begins -- is probably the most fun moment of all.