There isn’t a lot I do just for the fun of it.
Remember swinging? You pumped and pumped your legs but didn’t get anywhere. What do you do that’s like that?
I just finished National Novel Writing Month. A not for profit of the same name encourages people to sign up to write 50,000 words of a novel in 30 days. “What happens if you don’t finish?” friends often asked when I lamented how many words behind I had slipped. “What do you get if you finish?” they asked when I celebrated a great day of writing. The answer to both was “nothing.” No great honors for winning, no fines for not finishing. It was just for the fun of it.
I’m sure it’s been good for my writing to put butt in chair and write most days. I’m sure my “sticktoittiveness” muscles got stronger. But the real reason, at least in the end, that I stuck to it is that it was fun.
Most of what I do has a “so that” attached. I exercise so that I can get in shape. I cook so that I can eat. Doing something just for the pure joy in it is the definition of play, and a critical part of Sabbath. It’s what children know how to do.
I want to finish my novel and go back and edit it. I’d like to see where the story takes me. I do have the occasional fantasy about what it would be like to have it published and be on the New York Times best seller list and get interviewed by Oprah…but if that’s why I continued to work on the story then I would have quit long ago. The “who do you think you are?” demons would have silenced me right from the beginning. Doing something just for the fun of it gives you permission to do it because it doesn’t have lead to anything meaningful.
It’s been close to ten years since I went downhill skiing, but a recent dream brought to mind how much I enjoyed it when growing up in Colorado.
I had a ski instructor who encouraged us to not hover at the start of the run, but to just ski right from the lift, over the edge, and down the mountain. I remember the thrill. I couldn’t see what was coming next – a patch of ice, deeper powder, a large mogul. It was about committing to the run. Our instructor said it would make us look cool (I’m fairly certain I felt cooler than I looked). I think he really wanted to push us to the edge of our skill level and boost our confidence. I remember how it felt to not hesitate and trust that I could handle whatever was just over the edge.
With that dream lurking in the cobwebs of my mind I signed up for the National Novel Writing Month. I have committed to writing 50,000 words in 30 days. 1667 words a day! I’m flying by the seat of my pants. I have a couple of story ideas but no plot outline, developed characters, or clear location. It feels a bit like running the marathon without training.
I may crash and burn. It could be a total yard sale. I’ve given myself permission to flail around, not look cool, and do it “wrong.” It’s okay if I don’t actually write a novel. Entries may not be connected to each other, I may start down my first idea and get stuck and so start down another path.
I want to plunge in more in my life — to just go for it, to not hold back or worry about the consequences. I’m ready to take risks and dare failure.
 A “yard sale” is a crash where the skier’s or snowboarder’s equipment, hat, goggles, etc. are strewn all over the mountain.