The last time I posted here I was sweating in the (relative) heat of the British summer, now I’m sipping tea and wondering whether I can afford to put the heating on for an hour to take the edge off the cold. Things change quickly, sometimes they change without you noticing.
I appeared recently on the This Is Horror podcast to chat with Michael David Wilson and David Moody about writing and books. While I was on there, I stumbled upon a nugget of truth I wanted to expand upon here. The truth I wanted to talk about was – finding the joy in what you do. As with everything I do or talk about, it came back around to writing. I’m always looking (or stumbling into) opinions or experiences that will inform my writing. I found one when talking on the show.
Earlier this year, I took up playing snooker again. My grandad and my dad used to play when I was a kid, I played as a kid. Since my grandad died, I’d stopped playing – perhaps it made me miss him too much, who knows? But I got back into it, playing with a friend a couple of times a week.
At first we went down, racked up the balls, and played with the wonky, chipped cues we found at the club. We were terrible. Really, really bad. But it was so fun and freeing to get back into the game. We’d miss easy pots and laugh about it. We’d have sessions where we’d pot very little beyond the white ball. But we’d have a chat and a laugh and just enjoy playing a very difficult game very badly.
But then things changed. We enjoyed it so much we bought proper cues. We started thinking about shots and technique and position. Started watching the professionals with more of a critical eye.
It became more about winning and playing well and improving every session rather than just playing for sure.
We got to the point recently where we’re grinding our teeth over narrowly missing shots we’d have had no chance at all of potting even six months ago. There was a point one or both of us would go home pissed off on account of not winning or not playing well or not bagging the shots we thought we should.
I’ve circled round the point here like Ronnie O’Sullivan guiding the cue ball into position… I lost sight of the fun of it all. I wanted to improve and play better and I forgot the reason I started playing in the first place. To enjoy myself. To escape from work and some of the rubbish things in the world. To have an hour where I lose myself in something and just forget to worry.
Snooker is of course the same as writing.
I started writing for fun. I started writing to tell stories to frighten myself or create little scenes that made me laugh or cringe or fret that I’m actually a terrible person. I started writing to entertain myself and if I admit it – entertain others too. But I wanted to sit down at the keyboard and enjoy myself when I wrote.
I think somewhere along the way, I lost sight of that fact entirely. First it came with wanting to improve as a writer, then get published in small presses, then publish my own work, then get and agent and become traditionally published. Ambition overtook me and created a level of stress a hobby shouldn’t generate.
(NOTE – I hate referring to writing as a hobby as at this point it is basically a vocation for me, but since I don’t make much money from it, I can’t really call it a job.)
So 2024 for me will be about reclaiming the joy in what I do when I write. I’ll be letting it all hang out – writing the stories that light me up. I’ll be working on projects close to my heart and trying to channel some of the moments where I’ve just enjoyed what I’m doing.
I figure the more I can let myself enjoy the process and enjoy being in the moment of writing, the better writer I’ll be. It shouldn’t be improvement at the expense of fun or vice versa, one can lead to the other. But from now on, no more stressing, no more grinding teeth.
Back to basics, time to enjoy what I do.