Writing for Pleasure
The phrase writing for pleasure is most often used in teaching, to express the idea of teaching children to love writing. The expression draws from the idea of ‘reading for pleasure’, long recognised as an important aspect of encouraging literacy. However, it also has connotations for adults expressing their creativity through writing.
In an age of social media, it is essential to think of writing as much more than putting pen to paper. Broadly speaking, the idea can apply to any text that we create—letter, email, blog, or social media post. Put like that, it is clear that writing for pleasure is very much a part of most people’s lives on a daily basis.
For the purposes of this page, we define ‘writing for pleasure’ as meaning choosing to create something in text form, whether electronically or on paper, as a leisure activity.
Our predecessors knew a thing or two about writing.
From diaries and journals to letters, the Victorians and Georgians filled page after page with their thoughts. Ladies and gentlemen of leisure kept diaries and wrote each other long letters. Travellers kept diaries of their experiences, at least partly as a permanent reminder, because there was no other way to record them. Now we might take a selfie or write a post on social media; then, they wrote a diary entry, or a letter to a friend.
For most people, therefore, writing served two main purposes:
- To remind the writer of the experience; and
- To share it with other people, both formally and informally.
If we define ‘for pleasure’ as meaning ‘a leisure activity undertaken voluntarily’, writing was certainly a pleasure for these people.
But what about creative writing? It is hard to generalise about this. Novelists like Charles Dickens certainly wrote as a commercial venture, publishing in newspapers. However, it is likely that for many poets, writing was not a commercial activity, but something that they felt compelled and driven to do. Would we describe it as writing for pleasure, exactly? It seems reasonable to do so, if they did it out of choice, and as a way of filling leisure hours.
In other words, writing for pleasure was simply a part of life for many years.
The Modern Meaning of Writing for Pleasure
Nowadays, the term ‘writing for pleasure’ is largely used in continuing professional development for teachers. It expresses the idea that just as we teach children to read simply for enjoyment, so we should teach them the same attitude to writing.
This emphasis appears to have developed as a backlash to a rigid approach to teaching literacy, especially in the UK, in the early years of the 21st century. A focus on grammar and the parts of a sentence meant that children had a much better understanding of the mechanics of writing. They were also able to write many in different forms, from reports through to creative writing. However, there was a general sense that few children took pleasure in writing, or chose to write for themselves.
A new approach has therefore developed, grounded in research about the teaching of writing. It centres on fourteen principles, including building a community of writers, treating every child as a writer, teaching the processes of writing, and encouraging reading for pleasure. You can find out more about this approach in the book Writing for Pleasure, by Ross Young and Felicity Ferguson.
Other writers and teachers suggest that encouraging writing for pleasure may be as simple as providing the time for children to be inventive, and then providing the creative inspiration. In other words, a little imagination on the part of the teacher can give children the freedom to explore ideas, and choose when and what to write.
Beyond Pen and Ink
It seems likely that even in the era of social media, the use of writing for pleasure has not changed.
We may not write letters anymore, but we communicate with colleagues, friends and family by text message, and email. We do not write journals, but many people log their lives through social media posts and personal blogs.
All these are forms of writing. Some may be considered ‘duty’ rather than ‘pleasure’—and work emails would certainly come into that category. However, some would certainly be considered writing for pleasure, including much social media use and personal blogging.
In other words, when thinking about writing for pleasure, we need to look beyond pen and ink, and think more about expressing ourselves in words. Even hashtags could be considered writing for pleasure in the right context.
Put like this, it is clear that many of us write for pleasure a lot of the time.
Writing for Pleasure – Some Tips and Ideas
If you want to start writing for pleasure or leisure, here are some ideas and tips to get you started.
1. Find the right medium for you
You don’t have to want to write a novel or poetry, or even write creatively.
Writing for pleasure is all about finding a medium that inspires you.
That might be a novel—but it might also be a blog, social media posts about things that amuse you, or a text correspondence with friends.
2. Do it when it suits you
The whole point of writing for pleasure is that you do it when and if it suits you to do it.
You don’t need to force yourself. If you want to write, then write. If you don’t want to write—then don’t. It is very much a matter of choice.
3. Be yourself
Writing for pleasure is about you, not anybody else.
You are writing to please yourself, not because of your audience, or for social media ‘likes’. Write about what interests you, and because you enjoy it, and maybe someone else will be interested too.
Enjoy or stop!
Finally, it is important to say that if you don’t enjoy your writing, then you are not getting any pleasure out of it. This rather defeats the point of trying to write for pleasure, by making it into a chore.
You don’t have to do this. It is a matter of choice.
Enjoy your writing—or stop trying to do it!