Your Writing Brain Needs Fun

Guys, my friend is getting married!

Probably yours is, too. Gotham instructor Rachel Simon (who got married April 9th—congrats Rachel!) wrote for the New York Times all about how 2022 will be the record-breaking “year of many, many weddings.

I don’t know how it’s going for you, but lately, when I should be working on my projects-in-progress about secondary trauma, disaster relief, and place attachment, I find myself instead burning an hour looking at pretty dresses. When I should be writing about disenfranchised grief,
I find myself instead calling my friend so we can talk about how we’re gonna dance and eat cake.

It turns out, that’s not only forgivable, it’s healthy, and necessary.

“The mental experience of stress, especially if it’s chronic and moderate to severe, gradually changes the structure of the brain so we become progressively more sensitive to stress,” says psychologist and author
Rick Hanson. “The brain is very good at learning from bad experiences but bad at learning from good ones. Good experiences kind of bounce right off the brain, meanwhile bad experiences sink right in.”

What this means is, your brain needs your help making the good experiences sink in. It needs you to have fun, to experience and savor joy, so that you don’t forget how.

How do you do this? When something good does happen, when you realize you’re enjoying yourself, when you have an opportunity for fun, or joy, seize it. Savor it. Stay in it as long as you can.

A season of weddings can be an opportunity. Watching a dog chase a stick in a park on a sunny day can be an opportunity.

Writing can also be an opportunity.

“I know we talk about writing as work, and it is,” the author Nick Flynn said in a Gotham memoir class a few years ago. “But c’mon. It’s fun, too.”

So let’s have some fun, writers. I’ve complied a few writing exercises here. Try them, and as you do, try to write in a genre that is not your current work in progress. If you’re hammering away at a novel, maybe try these exercises as a script or nonfiction. If you’re writing a memoir, write them as fiction. Try your hand at a bad poem.

Most importantly, if they’re not fun, don’t push it. Move onto the next one, and when you find yourself smiling as you write, keep going. If you feel the urge to stop, don’t. Write three more sentences before you put down the pen.

While you all work on have fun with those, I’ll be over here, dancing and eating cake. 

Kelly Caldwell
Dean of Faculty

3 Replies to “Your Writing Brain Needs Fun”

  1. Hey Kel! Saw your post on FB, followed the link and I am smiling while reading your words! 🙂
    Hope all is well with everyone and everything in your world, my friend!

  2. Funny I should see this post since my only real plans for the long weekend is catch up on reading and doing some fun writing.

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