Challenge,  On Writing,  publishing

Having Fun Advice

On The Voice…

As always, lots of great advice that can be directly related to writing. But this week, Mariah Carey, who was advising all the singers at this level, told two young girls the following…

“If you are going to devote your life to a music career, you also need to devote your life to having fun with it as well.” Mariah Carey on The Voice.

I know many of you get tired of me constantly saying over and over to have fun with your writing. I know that goes against the myth that sitting alone in a room and telling stories is “hard work.” And that many of you have issues from your past about needing something you make money with to be work.

I got all that.

But making your writing work, making it special, making it difficult to do just leads to the critical voice eventually grinding you down to a stop.

And making writing work never allows the real you to show through your writing. And that real you is what makes your stuff different. Original. And sell.

The real secret to being a long-term successful artist is what Mariah Carey said. Devote your life to having fun with your art, be it writing or music or painting.

So sorry folks, I will keep repeating that “Have fun!” phrase with the hopes that a few might actually stop and wonder exactly what the hell I am talking about. And those few have a chance for a long-term career in writing.


  • Sean McLachlan

    Hear hear. I always write what I want to write (when I’m not ghostwriting, and even then I only accept jobs I’ll enjoy). Once I finish my WIP, I’m starting a Western. Everyone says Westerns don’t sell, and my first Western certainly has struggled, but I want to write a Western so I’m going to write one.
    This is yet another reason to be prolific. At 20,000 words a week, I have room to experiment. I have the freedom to start a new series when I already have three others going. I read a wide range of genres, so why not write a wide range too?
    Except dinosaur porn. I will never write dinosaur porn.

  • Melody

    Excellent post. If you don’t enjoy writing, why aren’t you out at another job? I think a lot of marketers that write to trend and wouldn’t even write if it didn’t give them any money are part of the reason so many believe this. Kudos for continuing to say it.:)

  • Janine

    Yes! This is well needed, especially when just about everyone else tells you that “writing is hard”. Many of those that proclaim this seem to dislike writing the first draft and love the ‘revision’ process and are also big time outliners. I fear that while they will come with a few books, they might not last long term.

    I’m saddened by that, because if I was having no fun at all writing, I would have dropped it like a bad habit years ago. I love creating stories from the word go. For me, it’s a way to spill my wild imagination out into something concrete. I’m also considered a strange one in my group of writers that have this great ambition for their stories to be this grand event that will change the world and won’t settle for less. I don’t want to spend my life doing things that I find miserable. Sure, parts of the business and industry is hard, but that’s a different story.

    • dwsmith

      Nothing in this business is hard, Janine. It is challenging at times and a learning curve, which tends to scare people, but nothing is hard except learning to escape the myths.

  • JM

    In some ways, you are the Bob Ross of fiction writing:

    “I have to paint fast on television because of the limited time, but I don’t want people to see what I’m showing them as work, something to worry and fret over. This is supposed to be fun.”

    He painted happy little trees; you write twisty little mysteries – both of you quite successfully.

    • Gai

      Interesting. I was watching Bob Ross the other day and thought of Dean as well!
      Except I think Dean is closer to Bill Alexander, the ornery German host of “The Magic of Oil Painting” that taught Ol’ Bob his entire schtick in the 70’s. He too painted happy trees and clouds in 30 minutes, but a lot more…aggressively?

      • dwsmith

        Gal, JM, both of you clearly are really, really confused and playing out of so many myths, I can’t even be that insulted by your stupid comments. First off, I am not a fast writer. I just write more than all of you because I spend more time at it. Not because I can type fast. (Being compared to either Bob Ross or Bill Alexander is the stupidest thing I have been called in a long time, to be honest.)

        And I create novels in the same amount of time as most writers, slower than some, actually. But again, I spend more time at it, and I have fewer myths stopping me, so I am called prolific.

        And clearly neither one of you have read a one of my books, otherwise you would never say anything like that. So I let both your stupid and myth-filled comments through simply because I wanted to show others how really bad the myths about writing fast equals writing poorly can get into a person’s head. I am prolific because I spend more time at it than most writers. No other reason.

        And before you call my work “happy trees” you might want to fucking read one or two of my books. Just saying.

        • Gai

          Wow. Touched a nerve, clearly.
          Glad it inspired you write a rant but I feel that maybe you misunderstood my comment. I really LIKE Bob Ross and Bill Alexander. Especially Bill Alexander. Millions do.
          Clearly you don’t. No accounting for TASTE, right?
          The part about these guys that made me think of you was their process. BIll’s idea was always to enthusiastically “Fire it in!”, to not hesitate, or sketch or overthink, but to just start and let your creative side flow through the brush.
          These guys wanted to break the myth that painting was a lofty goal only attainable by those with art degrees or amazing amounts of natural talent.
          They wanted to break the myth that one needed thousands of dollars in expensive gear in order to produce work.
          They wanted to break the myth that paintings needed to be agonized over for long periods of time to be any good.
          They wanted to break the myth that painting couldn’t be any fun.
          They told viewers to trust the process and simply create. They told viewers that there were no mistakes in art, only “happy accidents” and that often these accidents are what makes a piece soar.
          Just because you may look down on the work these guys created and dismiss it as “slight”, or “bad” doesn’t mean anything more than the painting isn’t to your TASTE.
          I stand by my comparison.
          I’m sincerely very sorry that you took such offense at my comment, but you took it in a way that I had not intended.
          And yes, I’ve read quite a few of your books. I drink the Koolaid – I’ve given you more money than I can afford to spend.
          Keep up the good work.
          And watch yer blood pressure.

          • dwsmith

            Gai, I also like Bill Alexander. What I realized was that your comment was coming from a myth and that was what I was reacting against, the myth. I think any writer, bar none, would hate having their work compared to “happy trees” and also I was reacting to the idea that I write fast. I do not write fast, never have.

            Maybe I need to do a post on the difference of writing fast and being prolific. Most writers I know who are prolific do not write fast. In fact, we are often fairly slow compared to many newer writers.

            Bill Alexander and Bob Ross were fast painters. And prolific. But in writing the two do not go hand-in-hand.

            So my reaction was to the idea of me being a fast writer and writing happy trees. I am a prolific writer, not a fast one.

        • JM

          I apologize.

          I have read half a dozen of your novels and over 50 of your short stories and enjoyed them.

          Obviously, I hit a nerve and, looking back at my comment, I realize that in attempting to be pithy, I didn’t show enough of the context that was in my head when I wrote that, and the quote itself didn’t convey the right tone for what I wanted to say. I could explain it with several hundred words of explanation but, at this point…

          You were the second person in 24 hours to call me stupid. I guess I am. I’ll just stop talking, except to say once more that I’m sorry.

          • dwsmith

            JM, apology accepted and no issue. The comments came out of a myth and it took me a while to understand that. I fight these myths so darned hard, I sometimes get carried away.

            I had one person tell me I overreacted and I asked if they would like to have their work compared to happy trees and that ended that conversation.

            Now I guess it is clear why I don’t read reviews of my work either. (grin)

            So we are good.

    • Raymund Eich

      How is bringing up Bob Ross a diss?

      I’d rather hang in my house a Bob Ross than a Basquiat.

      He earned millions of dollars a year and his estate is still worth $2-5 million.

      Most importantly, he enjoyed doing his art his way. Like Dean does. JM, Gai, can you say the same?

    • Charity

      I love Bob Ross! He teaches people to move past fear and trust their intuition. I can only see this comment as a compliment, so I’m surprised by the reaction here. :/ Bob Ross did amazing work, and he had fun doing it. Being the Bob Ross of anything is a great honor.

  • Kate Pavelle

    I want my stories to be compared to Bob Ross’ “happy trees” any day. I don’t want my writing to be serious and dour and all Mondrian or “figurative rendering is just so unsophisticated,” and other oh-so-avant-garde comments I hear at gallery openings. Bob Ross’ happy trees make me happy. I love watching him paint them, and even though I don’t use his technique in entirety I have learned a lot from him. He never lost his joy painting his happy trees, and I never want to lose my joy in writing my stories regardless of theme or genre or gore level (or gore absence.)

    Dean, your differentiation between “fast” and “prolific” is interesting, though. I’ll have to think on that. I’m glad something constructive came out of the unfortunate disparagement of my big painting hero Bob Ross 🙂