The release of the John Carter movie has me thinking about the element of fun in writing. When I discovered Edgar Rice Burroughs’ Mars (Barsoom) series I found what was, to me, the archetype of the sheer adventure story. I devoured the Barsoom books and looked for more, which didn’t exist in my small town library. I started inventing my own tales, although I didn’t write them down at that time.
I told myself so many stories throughout my childhood. I did it just for fun. I didn’t even think about sharing them with others. They were a personal pleasure. When I did begin to write stories, I did it only so that I could put them in a fixed form to remember, not because I thought about publishing them. I was having fun.
It probably seems as if I’ve repeated “fun” a lot. I have. The first book I wrote that got published was Swords of Talera. It was an unapologetic ode to Burroughs and Barsoom, and I’ve never had so much fun writing in my life. The sequels, Wings Over Talera, and Witch of Talera, were almost as enjoyable, even though I was living through a much tougher part of my life at the time. Here’s a little piece of “Swords.”
We turned south and hugged the coast in the intense heat of early afternoon, and in an hour we passed the jungle by and rounded a headland into a blue-steel lagoon. Three ships were there, all of black wood, with violet sails and two rows of ebon oars shipped in the ports. The ships stood with demon figureheads catching the sun at their prows, and black flags hung at the masts. Smoke rose from the shore beyond the ships, dark against the pale gold of the sky.
By the time I wrote “Swords” I was hoping it would be published, but that wasn’t the primary reason I put it all down on paper. I just wanted to know what happened next, and I wanted both the feeling of telling the story and of reading the story. Today, I sometimes write for the challenge of telling a new story in a new way. Sometimes I write for money, or for publication in a particular forum. But mostly I still write for fun. I write because there’s no other job that gives me the same kind of satisfaction.
I’ve often wondered if most writers start out writing what they personally want to read. I wonder if they start out writing for fun. And I wonder if that continues throughout their careers or if fun starts to take a back seat and finally falls out of the picture. Maybe the writers with us today can tell me their story. I’m listening.