Reasons To Write: Write for Pleasure

Christina Katz

By Christina Katz
I had been teaching writing for about a year when I noticed something about writing for pleasure vs. writing for publication. Both intentions seemed to produce equally strong results for my writing students. In fact, when comparing writing assignments between the two classes, I often felt students in my writing for pleasure classes were producing superior results compared to my writing for publication students.

There was only one problem, and it was a big one. The difficulty came when it was time to match the strong writing with markets that would pay. My writing for pleasure students were ill prepared for the kind of strategic thinking needed to treat writing like a business. They were more often prone to magical thinking, which is fun, but tends to yield scant results. The magical thinking went like this: I wrote well therefore I will get published.

Unfortunately, putting wonderful words on the page won’t guarantee publication. An eloquent writer needs a whole list of professional skills to become a professional writer who can find the best publication opportunities for his or her work. Does this mean that writing for pleasure is a waste of time?

Definitely not! Writing for pleasure can help you flex many muscles as a writer. Here are just a few examples:

Strengthen your voice: When you write for pleasure you can let your voice rip. A conversational tone will assist you not only when you are writing for enjoyment, but also when you are writing on assignment or for pay. A knack for writing in an informal tone will carry over to whatever writing you do. And when you have a deadline, leaning into your voice to get a first draft down on the page can really help you get the job done. When you can’t seem to find your voice, forgo the computer and try writing by hand. Even if that means rewriting what you’ve already drafted with a keyboard.

Discover meaningful topics: What are you going to write about? When you can’t come up with fresh material, writing for pleasure can help you uncover ideas you might otherwise miss. A writer is only as prolific as her next topic. If you feel blocked, get out a piece of paper and start writing a letter to a close friend. Spill your guts. Tell your friend everything you want to say. This is a sure-fire strategy for making sure you never run out of material. Just make sure the “friend” is someone you trust, so you won’t censor.

Explore structure organically: If you struggle to make smooth transitions in your writing, writing for pleasure can help you get out of your own way. When you write quickly, without the self-consciousness that can come from anticipating your editor’s red pen, you will naturally create smooth transitions. Once you get the hang of trusting yourself and just letting one paragraph dovetail into the next, your words will flow. When in doubt, set your writing aside to cool off a bit. Then tweak for strong transitions.

Uncover deep thoughts and authentic beliefs: Say something fresh. Epiphanies and surprises are key to writing success. Readers really don’t want to hear the same old, same old. Say something you didn’t realize you thought. If it’s a surprise to you, chances are good that it will also be a surprise to the reader. If you focus on telling your specific truth, you’ll avoid the posturing, big words and overly formal language pitfalls that dog beginning writers. You’ve got something to say, so say it!

Enjoy the process: I don’t know about you, but the pleasure of writing was a primary reason I wanted a career as a writer. Writing can be cathartic. Writing can be an escape. Writing can be an exploration. Writing can be so many things. Why limit yourself to the drudgery of only writing because you have to, when you can also write simply because you love to write?

Writer Mama by Christina KatzOctober 2007 Family Fun Magazine is the author of Get Known Before the Book Deal, Use Your Personal Strengths to Build an Author Platform and Writer Mama, How to Raise a Writing Career Alongside Your Kids (both for Writer’s Digest Books). A platform development coach and consultant, she teaches writing career development, hosts the Northwest Author Series, and is the publisher of several e-zines including Writers on the Rise. Christina blogs at The Writer Mama Riffs and Get Known Before the Book Deal, and speaks at MFA programs, literary events, and conferences around the country.

4 Responses to “Reasons To Write: Write for Pleasure”

  1. 1 Bryan January 18, 2009 at 3:35 pm

    Good post! A quick question though.

    Do you necessarily need to have both skills? Or do they need to be happening at the same time?

    I feel like it might be overwhelming for a very creative person to be thinking about selling his writing when he’s so used to having fun. Perhaps he shouldn’t worry about it too much until he’s finished an entire draft, and then go back over it and pad it for professionalism.

    I know that for myself, in college I sometimes couldn’t help trying to have as much fun as possible while writing papers. Then I made sure one of my more level-headed friends took an editing crack at it before I made my final revisions.

    That being said, these are important skills to teach, so thank you for spreading the word!


  2. 2 bjkeltz January 20, 2009 at 11:43 pm

    I have to say I fall into the category of a “writer for pleasure” that doesn’t know what to do with her work afterward. It’s deep stuff, soulful and metephoric. If I can’t work it into a commercial area, I might have to create my own, and that is a whole other ballgame!

    Thank you for giving writers permission to just enjoy what they do. It is as important for the intense newbie as it is for the jaded professional.

  3. 3 The Writer Mama January 21, 2009 at 12:25 am

    Hi Bryan,

    I could definitely relate to your comment about trying to have fun writing papers in college. I often did the same thing…just to get myself to complete the assignments. 🙂

    As for do I think it’s necessary to work on both skills, I think there are actually about four primary skills for writers:

    Writing well

    Selling what you write

    Promoting yourself and what you write

    And growing your writing into a full-fledged career.

    I think if we want writing to be anything less, we’re setting ourselves up for a rude awakening eventually.

    But can these aspects be approached incrementally and as an evolving process? Yes, I think that’s the best way.

    Do all the skills need to be firing at the same time? I’d say, eventually, yes. But again, along they way, they have to be learned first and then integrated into the bigger picture.

    I don’t think there is any particular order that guarantees success. But I do think it’s a good idea to be willing to tackle each of these skills ultimately.

    We all have strategies we use to get our jobs done. Whatever works!

    🙂 C

  4. 4 The Writer Mama January 21, 2009 at 12:33 am

    Hi BJ,

    I hope “jaded” and “professional” don’t always go together!

    If so, that thought sounds like it could create a serious block to taking writing to the next level.

    Personally, I have a LOT more fun writing and in all aspects of my career than I did when I was aspiring. What’s more, I feel successful, productive and like my work really matters in the world. If that’s jaded…then so be it. But I don’t think it is. 🙂

    It sounds like you might like the books by Monica Wood:

    The Pocket Muse and The Pocket Muse Endless Inspiration.

    Let’s not artificially separate soulful from successful, either. It’s simply not true!

    Here’s to your soulful success!

    🙂 C

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