Trying to make something fun implies that in your heart of hearts you believe it isn’t.
Which is why it never works. Not in the long run.
Think of the last diet you were on.
I know, you probably did your best to make it fun, to, how they say, “gamify” it into a long-term commitment. Maybe you counted calories, or set goals, or joined a club of fellow dieters where you applauded each other for each pound lost.
The same is true when you try to make studying fun, or math fun, or work fun. It never works. Because it’s been cursed. By you. By the sheer effort you’re putting in to making it fun.
I, personally, spend a lot of time washing dishes. And though I don’t do it for fun, I, as a matter of fact, have come to look on it as something bordering on pleasant. The feel of the warm water, the smell of the soap, the glint and sparkle, clink and splash – the happy-like moments of accomplishment as I arrange each clean dish to dry. And, finally, for the moment, that feeling of something like surprise I experience when the last dish (or utensil or something) is done.
Over the years, I’ve managed to see the meditation of it, how, in the process of washing dishes, I somehow can let my mind go unleashed while my hands and senses occupy themselves with the water and soap, sponge and towel, dish and utensil, pot and lid – only to discover my mind trotting happily back to the rest of me just at the finish.
And therein, for me, lies the fun of it all, in the leaving and the returning, and sometimes in between. The fun within.
The same is true, I think, of any discipline, any undertaking.
Go talk to a mathematician, maybe. An accomplished one, if you can find such. And ask her how she tricks herself into enduring all the strain and drudgery, and she’ll tell you, I bet, of the beauty she has found, the balance, the rhythm, the patterns, the music deep within the connections between numbers. Or a chemist, or a philosopher or a master of anything. Sure, sure, they’ve endured, they’ve beaten their head and breast and ego in their effort to break through the apparently impenetrable obstacles to the clue, the hint, the glint of clarity – only, ultimately, to be taken completely by surprise.
They have found the fun within. In the doing, in the play of the words or game or instrument, in the making of the art, the science, in the reaching for understanding.
This explains at least one of the eight Principles of Playwork:
“Play is a process that is freely chosen, personally directed and intrinsically motivated. That is, children and young people determine and control the content and intent of their play, by following their own instincts, ideas and interests, in their own way for their own reasons.”
It is not by trying to make something fun that it becomes fun. It is only in the discovery of the fun within.