No Pressure – Just Play Time: Ten Tips to Add Play to Writing

I’ve written a few posts that have to do with the importance of play, but it would seem I wasn’t taking the advice myself. I found myself the past few months almost frozen with self-imposed rules, expectations, and pressure to succeed. So, I decided that what I really needed to do was remember why writing is fun, and why I want to write (other than to eventually make money at it, too).

As a writer – and the same goes for most other kinds of artists – we often need to be internally motivated and driven, our own bosses. But, hanging out with a demanding boss all the time can suck all the fun out of everything. Thus, here are my ten tips to add play back to your writing.

  1. Compose a “why I can’t stop writing list” [See previous blog on this]. Sure, this might be one of those only-if-things-are-really-bad moments, but it could also remind you that there are other reasons you started writing, or whatever it is that currently has you stymied. What did you really love about it? What brought you back again and again? How can you recapture those feelings?
  2. Write a short story. This isn’t the “hard” short story that you studied back in school, but a quick work of fiction. Whether this is extremely short (flash fiction, ~500 words or less) or something bigger, that’s up to you – but don’t worry too much about that. These are not necessarily stories to share with the world, but just playing with words, ideas, techniques. Start off with prompts, or start with the following point, what “what-if” list.
  3. Reconsider your method. If everything is working for you, and you’re happily producing lots of work, than leave things alone. However, if you feel change maybe warranted, than make some. Consider your learning style, what works for you, what doesn’t. Do you meticulously plot everything? What if you plotted a bit less? Do you never plot? What if you started with at least a brief plot map? Different methods work for different people, from listening to music / needing silence, pictorial story boards, index-card plot points (a favorite of mine), writing in noisy places, etc. Maybe something would work better for you, too.
  4. Take a shower. Or do whatever you know gets thoughts percolating. For me, taking a shower frees my brain for some reason, and if I let it, my imagination can take flight. Maybe a shower isn’t for you, but what about a walk? Meditation? Find what works.
  5. Start a “what-if” list. This can be a new, blank document, or as I did, a page in the “idea” book, scribbling down ideas. Don’t worry about the feasibility, your level of interest, how it fits your genre, marketing potential – no worries at all. This is brainstormed list of play; you never have to look at it again if you don’t want to, or it could foster some great brain-sparks.
  6. Build on the “what-if” list and increase the possibilities. If you play with one idea, what about it’s opposite? What if everything we thought was true, wasn’t? Okay, than the opposite might be: what if everything we thought was true, was? Again, no pressure, no worries – just write down whatever comes to mind.
  7. Write some hook-line-and-sinker first lines. Just open a blank document (or again, pen and paper if you prefer) and just start writing. These can be first lines to some of the ideas on the “what-if” list, or they can be something else. I’ve found that some of these first lines also have the potential to be the hook for the book. Plus, it’s actually a lot of fun. If you start writing more than a first line and really get going, follow through! Don’t stop now! 🙂
  8. Remove the formatting and the preconceived notions that go with it. Personally, I’m a linear writer, and I start with the same formatting I always use, and “Chapter 1” blinking in the middle, and write in chapters through the book. What helped for me was to get rid of all the formatting – including chapters, double-spacing, etc – and just write. It helps to eliminate notions of where I am in the novel, how long it has to be, etc. Try it. Maybe it will work for you too.
  9. Write something for fun. Consider the possibility that not everything you write has to have the potential to be the “break-out novel” you’ve been working towards. What about some idea that you’re just toying with that may have nothing to do with where you want to go in your career? Or an idea your spouse had that sounded like fun? Try it. Don’t worry about how long it has to be, where it’s going to be, anything – just write, enjoy the process, see what you learn from it. Maybe it will someday become something significant, maybe not. But for now, none of that matters.
  10. Stop worrying, start playing. Easier said than done? Of course it is. That’s why it gets listed separately. But the important part is that you make a conscious effort to play; when it’s been awhile, it may be hard at first. But, the more you allow yourself the freedom of play, the easier it gets.

So, have you started playing yet? Did any of these ideas have potential? Or, did you try any of these ideas and they worked for you? Please, let me know – and if you have other suggestions.

Thanks for reading, and have a great week. Happy writing!