Some years ago, I was at a party and was introduced to a friend's then boyfriend. He was the son of a relatively famous musician. The guy wanted to think of himself as a musician, too, but he made his living as a writer. That's why I was introduced to the guy. Even though I wasn't in a job where I was writing full time, I had just begun to pick up some freelance work, and I spent a lot of my time working on my crappy fiction.
So, when I met this guy, it was very obvious writing was NOT what he wanted to talk about (something I totally get now), but when he heard I made some money writing, he seemed to relax a little. I think he even gave me his card because he said he sometimes needed freelancers. But then I asked him what kind of writing he did for fun.
"Didn't you hear me?" he sneered. "I write for a job. There is nothing fun about it. You should know that. I play music for fun. Writing is work." At that he rolled his eyes at me, and I had a few choice thoughts about his arrogance as I walked away from him. At the time I thought how could anybody claim to be a writer and not have writing they do for fun?
Now that I'm writing full time, I think about this guy every so often, and I came to this conclusion about him. First, he was jealous of his dad's success and thought it was due to him by birthright. Second, he wasn't a writer. He was a guy who wrote for a living because he could follow the formula and put the words in all the right places.
I thought about him the other day, after I read a book by Elizabeth Berg, called Home Safe. Had I not been a fan of Berg's, I would have hoped it was a book about baseball, but I knew it would be about a woman searching for the meaning of her life. Which it was. What I didn't know the woman would be a writer, searching for her desire to write again after her husband's death. As I read the book -- in one afternoon because I couldn't put it down -- it made me want to write. It made me miss writing.
Which is kind of funny because I write almost every single day. Six days a week, I have to write a short assignment and send it off to an editor. And then there are the longer articles I do regularly. So how on earth can I miss writing?
I miss fun writing. I miss doing the free writing exercises I did with a friend, some that turned into essays that got published. I miss writing essays, where I could just let my brain wander until it found the right story to tell. Mostly I miss writing crappy fiction, where I create characters and their dilemmas, taking up my life frustrations with pretend people. I don't worry about anyone reading my fiction because it is really really bad. But I love writing it. It makes me happy, really truly happy. And fulfilled in ways my writing job doesn't and never will.
So I gave myself a goal for this summer. On Friday afternoons, whenever I possibly can, I am going to free my afternoon to write for fun. Because as I read that book, I was reminded, I am a writer, someone who happens to also write for a living.