Tag: fun

When It Isn’t Fun

Somebody recently made the comment that “if people aren’t having fun, they’ll stop showing up.” They were talking about Toastmasters, but I’ve been thinking about it in other contexts. What should I do when things aren’t fun?

Obviously, there’s a lot of life that isn’t going to be fun. Dishes, laundry, sweeping, mopping, and cleaning toilets aren’t fun jobs. No matter what Mary Poppins says, some days there just isn’t a game to make the job fun, and I still need to get it done anyway.

But what about the the things I do in the time when I’m not doing the have-to jobs? Learning a new skill can often be un-fun. Training my fingers to play scales on the piano was frustrating. Just five minutes of meditation seemed impossible at first (and still does on some days). It took me weeks to mix up a skin tone that looked like it belonged on a human and not a tree frog.

And now, after years of piano lessons and meditation and painting, I still am very much a beginner. I have a lot of bad days where things seem to be more mistakes than anything else. Mistakes aren’t really fun. So, why do I keep showing up?

I think that it’s a matter of expectations and intentions. If I was watching a television show for entertainment, and I was completely bored, I’d turn it off or watch something else. If I was watching a painting workshop to learn more about painting and the presenter was talking about mixing paints and it wasn’t really interesting to me, I’d continue to watch hoping to learn something new anyway.

I’m not painting or playing piano to entertain myself. I’m still learning, and I’m expecting mistakes as part of the learning process. I have hope that as I improve, there will be less mistakes and more times when things go well.

When things go well, or I get lost in the practice and lose track of time, that’s fun. Seeing improvement, that’s fun too. Finishing my practice for the day, knowing I didn’t skip a day, can be fun in its own way too, regardless of how well I did during practice.

In the past, when I had less time and more stress, I wasn’t consistent with what I did when I had time for not-have-to things. Not doing any art at all felt a lot worse than doing art poorly. Entertainment didn’t fill the need to create something.

There are sometimes days when I ask myself, “Why am I even doing this? I’ll never be as good as this or that professional artist. Why even try? I’m not having fun.”

And then I remember how it felt to not do any art. And I remember that I’m not doing art to have fun or to be famous or amazing or better than other artists. I’m doing art because I’m an artist and that’s what I do. I’m improving, I’m creating, and that is good enough.

Is art sometimes not fun for you? Why do you continue when something isn’t fun? Have you ever stopped showing up for your art? How did you feel?

Flashback Friday: Buckets of Fun

This story was originally posted on May 4, 2017. This is the first of a series about Grandpa and his tall tales and the vaguely scary baby Carrie. They’re a lot of fun to write. I hope they’re fun to read, too.

“Wouldn’t you like to ride that roller coaster?” Jim asked as they drove past the fair. “It looks amazing.”

“I’m sure it would be buckets of fun,” Grandpa said.

“Fun doesn’t come in buckets, Grandpa,” Lynn said. “That’s silly.”

“It did when I was younger,” Grandpa said.

“Oh good, a Grandpa story,” Jim said. He shook his brother’s arm. “Neil, wake up.   Grandpa is going to tell a story.”

Three sets of eyes turned to watch the back of Grandpa’s head. “Is everyone ready?” he asked.

“Carrie’s asleep,” Lynn said. “But she’s too little to really understand what we’re talking about anyways.”

“Don’t wake up Carrie,” Jim said. “She’s really grumpy when she doesn’t get enough sleep. It’s kind of scary.”

“Go ahead and start the story, Grandpa,” Neil said. “Please.”

“All right then,” Grandpa said. “Long ago, when I was a lad and the earth was young…”

“You make it sound like you’re as old as dinosaurs,” Lynn said. “That really can’t be true. People don’t live that long.”

“Well, sadly, I’m even older than dirt,” Grandpa said.

“How can you be older than dirt?” Neil asked.

“When I was young, the earth was still covered in packing peanuts, just the way they sent it from the factory. The dirt came later when everyone got busy and fell behind on washing up,” Grandpa said.

“Where did the dirt come from?” Jim asked.

“Out of nowhere, like it always does,” Grandpa said.

“Dirt is mostly made up of minerals and decayed things,” Lynn said. “And no one is older than dirt.”

“Let Grandpa tell the story, Lynn. We still haven’t heard about the buckets,” Jim said.

“Fine,” Lynn said. “But it’s not a true story.”

“Stories don’t have to be about things that really happened to be true,” Neil said.

“That doesn’t even make sense,” Lynn said.

“Shall I continue?” Grandpa asked.

“Yes,” Jim said. “Please do.”

“So, when I was a lad, no one liked to do anything. We all sat around and looked at each other when we weren’t out poking through the packing peanuts for something to eat. I once spent ten years digging a hole in a rock with my big toe for something to do.”

“And then what happened?” Neil asked.

“And then someone found the fountain of youth,” Grandpa said.

“Is that how you lived so long?” Jim asked.

“No, the fountain of youth doesn’t make you old.” Grandpa said. “Of course not. The fountain of youth made things fun.”

“How did that work?” Lynn asked.

“Well,” Grandpa said. “Fun used to be dispensed twice a month in buckets. You would pour it over the activities that needed it the most.   Eventually it soaked in and people liked doing strange things like being scared or sitting around listening to noises.”

“People don’t like doing things like that,” Lynn said.

“Sure they do,” Grandpa said. “They ride roller coasters and go to haunted houses and tell scary stories. They put together strange contraptions made of metal and wood and people sit around and listen to the sounds they make. They call it music.”

“I guess when you say it like that,” Lynn said.

“Where are the buckets now, Grandpa?” Jim asked.

“They don’t need them anymore,” Grandpa said. “People know how to have fun.”

“Where is the fountain of youth?” Neil asked.

“I forgot,” Grandpa said. “Old people forget things all the time, you know.”

“Grandpa, you aren’t really that old,” Lynn said.

“How old are you, Grandpa?” Jim asked.

“Oh look,” Grandpa said. “We’re home. Everybody out. I’ll wake Carrie.” He never did answer the question.