Does anybody remember the famed DC vs. Marvel comic book series?
I was hardly a superhero comic book kid. I enjoyed Batman, but I wasn't really interested. I was more of an Archie Comics kid.
Still, the DC vs. Marvel series was an event, and if you were young and even remotely interested in superheroes, you knew about it. Here's the setup: through a bunch of galactic events that I couldn't remember if you paid me to, the superheroes from the two major comic book companies squared off in a crossover battle for the ages.
- The Flash vs. Quicksilver!
- The Silver Surfer vs. The Green Lantern!
- Batman vs. Captain America!
- Superman vs. The Hulk!
- Wolverine vs. ...uh, Lobo?
The idea was exciting, but the farther I read into the series, I thought... Is this what comic books do? This is getting really stupid.
From Wikipedia's entry on it: "Although the victor of the fight is unknown, the new character of Access, a man capable of traversing between the two universes, infuses Batman and Captain America each with fragments of their respective universes before the Spectre and the Living Tribunal attempt to create a compromise by fusing the two universes together."
It got weird in a hurry, and I lost all interest in the concept when they started randomly assembling people, like the DARK CLAW, which was a fusion of Wolverine and Batman. Who asked for this nonsense?
This was 1996, so I was only 11 years old at the time. And in my boredom, I grabbed a notebook and started jotting down ideas for a book I was going to write... with better match-ups.
That's right. I was going to rewrite the whole DC vs. Marvel storyline, with no fusing universes and no weird amalgams of characters. Just a bunch of superheroes beating each other up for ultimate supremacy.
I know a lot of writers who have all their old stuff saved from when they were kids. I'm not one of them. The notebook I used for this story was thrown out decades ago, my genius idea of rewriting characters that I hadn't really ever gotten to know lost to history.
But you know what? I had fun with it. It was stupid, silly, not creative... but it was fun.
Remember when writing was fun?
We all got into writing because we enjoy it, right?
Building worlds, creating characters, unraveling plotlines. It's fun to do!
But in the age of the internet, we lose focus of the fun. I don't know about you, but every week I find myself getting lost in a sea of blog posts and Instagram photos about being more productive, building spreadsheets and tracking word counts, adjusting to being an early riser to get more writing done, making writing better and stronger, increasing click-through rates and conversions, and...
I'm not against bettering yourself as a writer. That's what ProWritingAid is all about, and it's important to find ways to improve yourself.
But my goodness, it is so easy to forget about the fun.
The fun is what makes writing worth doing. It's what jazzes you up. It's what makes you excited to sit down at the keyboard and bang out a few hundred words.
In our focus on productivity and being better, we've stripped the fun out of our writing. It's time to get it back.
How to make writing fun again
When I wrote that horrid DC vs. Marvel story in that notebook at eleven years old, the last thing on my mind was word counts or my audience or whether or not I was writing to market.
I was just having fun.
And there are ways you can make writing fun again for you:
- Find a private place to write. I don't mean a home office. I mean a place where you never have to worry about anyone reading your writing. Not everything you do has to be made public. Create a folder in Google Docs that is just for these goofball stories. Don't worry about posting it to your Wordpress blog or syndicating it on Medium. Just create a place where you can play, away from prying eyes.
- Write a short story per day. Pick something random. Start with stupid ideas. Use writing prompts. Who cares? Write about what happens when a 35-year-old father gets sucked into a Polaroid picture on his desk. Or a 15-year-old who gets drafted to be a quarterback in the National Football League. Or a superhero whose superpower is the ability to lick people to death. None of these ideas make any sense, but I bet you could have fun with them.
- Take the Bird By Bird approach. In this excellent book, author Anne Lamott talks about writing down your memories and exploring them. Close your eyes and go back to kindergarten. Think about eating lunch at school. Just start writing and see where your brain takes you.
- Tweak something you've already been writing. I don't mean little tweaks, either. I'm talking about big, ridiculous ones. What if the detective in my series was a talking billy goat? How would that change the dynamic between him and his partner? The amazing show Sherlock took the story into modern times, but then, for one long episode, put them back in Victorian England. It was great, and I imagine the writers played around for a while with it.
- Freewrite, freewrite, freewrite. Just put pen to paper or fingers to keys and see what comes out. Don't prep, don't plan. Just set a timer and let your mind wander.
"This is stupid."
No doubt you'll have this reaction at times when you go through exercises like this.
And that's the point.
When you were a kid, writing stories and drawing pictures was never stupid. It was fun. There's still a little kid inside you.
Forget about being literary. Be silly. Be goofy. Pretend you're making up a bedtime story for a little kid. At some point during this exercise, you'll smile and discover that joy that you haven't had in a while – maybe years.
Who knows? You might even get a usable idea that you could pursue for later. Or you'll just reignite the fire inside of you once again.
No matter what, you'll start having more fun. And that's the point.