Of all the virtues we can learn no trait is more useful, more essential for survival, and more likely to improve the quality of life than the ability to transform adversity into an enjoyable challenge. —Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi
Whenever I speak to kids about being a writer, one of them will invariably ask, “What do you like about writing?” Once, I shocked some poor kid by replying, “What makes you think I like it?” The fact is that I don’t like writing; I love writing. That makes it sound like I like it so much that I triple like it! That’s not what I mean. I mean that I love it the way I love my daughter—I love it even when it’s not behaving. I love it even when it’s frustrating. I love it unconditionally.
I explained to the students often, writing doesn’t seem like much fun. Eating ice cream is fun. Going to DisneyWorld is fun. “But writing,” I explained, “is a different kind of fun. Have you ever had a really hard math problem...one where you worked really hard on it and you figured it out? Or have you ever run really fast and really hard until you were out of breath? Writing is fun like those things are fun. It’s not easy fun. It’s hard fun.” The difficulty—the sense that mastery is always just at the edge of our ability—is what keeps it interesting.
When I tell myself that I only have to write for a short time, I find that I often want to write longer.
Easy fun, like eating ice cream, is easy to initiate. It can be trickier to get ourselves to start on hard fun. Then again, hard fun is what leads to flow, the state in which the mind is so fully engaged that we lose our sense of self and forget what time it is. This is why it can be helpful to trick ourselves into starting. When I tell myself that I only have to write for a short time, I find that I often want to write longer. Because, by the time I’ve written for a few minutes, I’ve finally become interested in something. And nothing can stop a mind once it’s gotten curious.