Real Fun Is Subversive

(This column is posted at and Steve’s Tumblr.  Find out more at my newsletter.)

Real fun is subversive.

I’m not talking fun that offends. Offense isn’t subversive. Fun that offends is trapped by its need to offend, lacking the sense of sheer joy unbound that healthy fun has.

I’m not talking fun that is a “guilty pleasure.” A guilty pleasure requires you to have something to feel bad about – then not feel bad about. Guilty pleasures aren’t subversive, the very name suggests they’re less guilty, more pleasure

I’m not talking about doing the “big thing.” You may enjoy that, but also you might just be following along with the crowd, having fun because you have to. “Required fun,” as joyful as it is, still jabs you with that razor edge of control from outside.

I’m talking fun that’s just . . . fun. Sheer joy of something, the happiness in being there and enjoying yourself. It’s a kind of connection and expression that’s just being you. That’s incredibly subversive.

When you have fun you’re just being yourself, experiencing joy, doing what you like, living. It’s almost a meditative experience if you pay attention – fun is when you’re you. You just might be having too much of a good time to notice it.

Think about it. For the moment you’re truly having a good time, that one moment you’re you. You’re not what people told you you are – or told you you’re not. You might rebel against constraints of society by being the real you – or perhaps in joy discover social connections that real mean something.

Fun isn’t just subversive against society’s pathologies. Maybe your social ties and society are fine – but fun helps you discover yourself. Bad habits and unhelpful attitudes can vanish when you experience joy, in those moments you’re in touch with yourself. You might be bad at being yourself – fun can help you discover it.

Finally when one is enjoying themselves, you can find new ideas and inspiration. You’re open to experiences – or perhaps the kind of fun that limits your experiences so you’re thinking clearly is what you need. These are moments where you can become something better by being yourself, enjoying – and seeing what evolves.

This is one reason fun, joy, entertainment, is so valuable – when done in a healthy manner. Its moment of being oneself, a moment of clarity, and a moment of safety. In those moments we’re us.

Being us is pretty important. We might not even like what we find – but then we can deal with it. But, good self or bad, fun is one way to subvert what holds us back and disconnects us, and find something more we can be.

Steven Savage

In Praise Of Fun

(This column is posted at and Steve’s Tumblr.  Find out more at my newsletter.)

I’ve been writing (a lot) about fun and how we ruin fun, as well as how we ruin it for others.  So let me take a moment to praise fun in glorious detail.

Yes, it may seem strange to list out the value of fun, as if this is some psychic spreadsheet.  But this an act that not jut acts as a reminder to myself and others, but also lets us “short circuit” those times we or others try to be “practical.”  Let’s show the practical value of supposed “impracticality”


Fun is about us.  It’s pure expression of who we are.  When we have fun, we’re being true to ourselves – indeed we’re being ourselves.

When we have fun, we’re acting in life without friction, and we’re being who we are.  These moments are valuable, irreplaceable.

These moments may turn out to be less pleasant than expected – we may find out a lot about ourselves.  What we enjoy may be a pathological escape, or it may show some deep seated need.  At least then we know.

Fun can be tricky.


I’ve seen multiple ways of saying “when we have fun we’re really creative and open” so I just said it without embellishment.  When we have fun, we open our minds because we’re enjoying life, and we’re open to new things (or things we forgot).  When we’re happy, we can see further because the walls are down and our thoughts are going.

Fun also makes it so we’re receptive.  In a more relaxed state, an open state we can think new thoughts and take in new ideas.

Ask yourself how many times you had a great idea or dream or vision in a moment of entertainment or idle relaxation.


As much as fun opens our minds, it can also narrow them as well.  Hyperfocused on something, lost in the book or a game, our minds zoom in, becoming “open” in an intense way.  Like a laser, our minds become a point on what we’re interested in, powerful and direct.

This can be a great way to close out distractions, to silence troubled thoughts, or to go deep into something we like.  There we may find ourselves, find solace, or find new ideas that the noise of life kept us from seeing.

Fun can be narrowing and broadening.  Again, it’s tricky.


Fun can get us energized, and sometimes we need that.  We may need to get out of a funk, or just get reminded of what we like, or rally ourselves.  A game, a walk, a good book can all do those things.

Fun goes right for those visceral thoughts and feelings, charges us up, and reminds us who we are.  Ever have a cheesy movie or mindless but fun joke get you going?  That’s the power of fun, even supposed “trash” that’s sincere energizes us.


Just as fun can open and narrow our minds, fun can energize us but also calm us down.

When we’re having fun we can be open and relaxed, being ourselves, defenses down.  Even if our idea of fun is focusing intensely on a screen as our teammates in a video game do dumb things, that focus tunes out other stimuli.  We may be intensely into something, but that intensely has little room for disruptive emotions and thoughts, so we may be relaxed in our own way.

Fun, that trickster, can pump us up and calm us down at the same time.


When we have fun, we often shut down assorted parts of our personality and various habits.  With our anxieties and obsessions out of the way, with us in a state of joy, fun gives us a chance to be us without some of the baggage.  This experience is incredibly valuable.

We often view our problems and pathologies as set – if we even notice them.  To have moments when our issues and fears and so on stop is important as we can step outside of them, getting not just relief but a new perspective.  We also may see bad habits we didn’t know about until they were silenced – and we see life without them.

Silence is golden, and often helps us realize how much noise there was


Fun opens us up to new ideas.  There, outside of our usual concerns and thoughts, we can imagine more.  Able to make new associations in our joys, we can dream new concepts.  We can see things from other sides, say, in the form of an intriguing game or movie.

Admittedly the things that we enjoy might create new bad habits.  We can get obsessed about a game.  A novel may entertain us but introduce us to the author’s personal problems disguised as deep thoughts.  But life is risky . . .


Fun is also just, well, great.  Fun is being alive.  Fun is joyful.  Fun is happy.  Fun is part of being human.

So look, let’s have fun and support others in the same.  Let’s make it a support for real fun as well, finding what we like even if its not the next big thing.  Let’s encourage and share our joys.


Look, if we all had more happiness, we’d probably not mess up the world as we do.


So, yes, I analyzed fun and it’s value.  But it was worth it so we can think about why fun matters in, ironically, a practical way.  After all, fun is a hall of mirrors, so why can’t we see it from the other side.

Or maybe, the sides aren’t so separate . .

Steven Savage

Monetizing Fun

(This column is posted at and Steve’s Tumblr.  Find out more at my newsletter.)

After writing about how we destroy fun and how we sometimes monetize fun inappropriately, I’d like to address this question:

Is it Healthy to Make Money At What You Enjoy?

It would seem that this question is obviously “yes”, but it’s an uncomfortable one. I’m sure many of us have known people that turned fun into a job, many of us have done it ourselves, and it’s not an easy situation. Forget if you can make enough money, the stress the loss of joy, etc. can be enough of a pain.

It’s an uncomfortable question – could the idea of enjoying our job, of profiting from fun, be a bad one?

Let’s sit with that one for a moment. Go ahead, think it over.

Now that you did that, my answer is “yes, it’s OK to make money at what you like, but as long as you stay aware of your situation”

When you realize you can monetize fun, I’m bang along side it as long as you’re aware of the situation and pay attention. Check in with yourself when you start down this path, and check in reguarly and review where you are. I do this every month to every few months, often when I feel like my fun/work balance has gotten out of balance.

Here’s the checks you want to make:


Are you trying to monetize fun for a good reason? Will it advance your life and that of others? Will it make you happier? Will it, logically, make you enough cash to be worth it (if you care about it)?

Check in with yourself reguarly if you’re doing this fun-for-money thing for the right reasons, it can change. I’ve found cases where I was doing certain projects out of habit – not for any good reason.


There’s two questions to ask when it comes to the value of fun:

  • Do I know how much value my fun-for-money brings me or can bring me? That helps me understand if its worth it financially (and for the sacrifice of making fun more of a job).
  • Do I know the value of my fun without the pressure to monetize it? That helps me decide if its worth monetizing or I just want to hang out and have fun.

Know the value of what you’re doing both in money and personal fulfillment. Check in reguarly, because it can change . . .


Can you turn your “hobby-job” back to just a hobby? Can you, when you want, turn that “profiting from fun” switch back on? Can you just take a break?

Keeping this fluidity is important. It lowers the chance you’ll trap yourself, and helps remind yourself you have options – so you don’t feel trapped. Sometimes, after all, the worst trap is just thinking you are.

Personally, this question helped me realize I just like to write. I’d be doing it no matter what.


If you’re going to monetize your hobby, you’ll want to ask what the endgame is – when would you decide to not do it or decide you fulfilled your goals. Could it be “funning” your way to a new job? Being a paid author? Publishing so many books? Doing it until you die as you like it?

Have an idea of your long-term goals, even if your long-term goal is “just see if I still wanna do this.” When you have an idea of an endgame it lets you evaluate your progress towards it and prepare for transitions that may come when you reach that end state.

However, having an endgame also lets you know when to stop. Maybe the endgame won’t work and you change it. Maybe it’s not worth it anymore. Know what you want if only to know when it’s no longer a good idea.


So, go ahead, make money at your hobbies. Just make sure you have checkins to on these subjects to see how you’re doing on your goals, motivations, status, and so on. Be ready to make changes depending on your finding, and give yourself the freedom to do so.

This way you’re able to adapt and change and be happy – be it from making money, having fun, or a balance between the two.

Steven Savage