Joss Whedon’s Writing Process: Make It Fun

The writing process
Eat your peas!

I haven’t seen much of Joss Whedon’s work, but there’s no question he’s a prolific writer and creator, so I loved these tips of his on the writing process.

Make Writing Fun

For me, the big theme here is the idea of making the work of writing fun. For instance, he rewards himself — not just when he completes a task but when he gets an idea.

He mixes business and pleasure by working with friends. (Hey, gang, come over to my house — we’re going to film a Shakespeare adaptation!)

He reads and watches things that have nothing to do with his usual genre. I’ve heard so many business people say they only read business books — especially those in their own field. They feel like fiction is a waste of time.

But you never know where your next great idea is going to come from. Whedon got the idea for Firefly from reading the Civil War novel The Killer Angels.

Eat Your Dessert First

But the biggest surprise to me is what happens when he’s faced with a fun writing task versus an onerous one: he does the fun one first.

Absolutely eat dessert first. The thing that you want to do the most, do that … I used to write chronologically when I started, from beginning to end. Eventually I went, That’s absurd; my heart is in this one scene, therefore I must follow it.

I think it’s a common tendency among adults generally and writers specifically to slog through the hard stuff first. Maybe we feel we have to suffer for our art. Gratification must be delayed. If we don’t eat our meat, we can’t have any pudding.

Or maybe it’s a more practical consideration. If we tackle the tough stuff first, the rest will be a breeze. And we’ll be better able to enjoy the fun stuff knowing we don’t have the yucky stuff hanging over our head.

But who knows when inspiration will strike again? Or if it will still be there after we’ve slogged our way through the conventional writing process?

My New Writing Process: Eat More Donuts

I remember my first day of nursery school. One of the teachers was standing there eating donuts right out of the box. And I thought to myself, “THAT is what being a grown-up is all about. You get to do anything you want — even eat donuts in the middle of the afternoon!” Freedom!

Yet as an adult I rarely eat donuts, because they’re bad for me and they’ll make me fat and clog my arteries. And if I do indulge in a donut (or three), it’s only after many days of eating healthily and exercising.

Is that what I spent all those years growing up for? To deprive myself of the things I want? To put off joy? You call that freedom?

So in my own writing process I’m going to try to figuratively enjoy more donuts. To dive into the fun stuff and assume the inspiration and momentum will carry me through the harder parts.

And now I really feel like a donut. Literally.

Image via Luciano Burtini