A New Approach
What makes you happy?
I've asked myself that question a lot, particularly during the dark times when depression had a stranglehold over my every thought, word and deed. So, you'd think it would be easy to answer.
I know what I love and what I like and the kind of things that can put a smile on my face without much effort. But what makes me happy? As in, if I surround myself with it or do more of it or dip into it when needed, it will make automatically make my life better?
How much time have some of us spent looking for that?
To be honest, I don't think there's any such a thing. At least, not one individual thing. For starters, when has anything ever been that simple? Quests are called quests for a reason. The dictionary definition is 'a long or arduous search for something', emphasis on 'long' and 'arduous' for many of us. Myself included.
Along the way, I discovered I'm a 'happiness is a state of mind' girl. Or, to be more specific, as was stated in an Elite Daily article back in 2013, I strongly believe, 'happiness isn’t just one state of being; it’s a mentality. It’s the ability to take what life has given you and to personalize it in a way that benefits you.'
In other words, happiness is a choice.
That conclusion arrived incrementally. It wasn't a sudden blinding flash of clarity. The first choice I made, long before that, was to get out of bed. Then I chose to make my bed. To get dressed. To set an alarm and get up and do those things every day. Baby steps. But each one brought me closer to where I am now and further away from where I was then, which made it more of a one small step, one giant leap scenario.
Choosing to be happy took a much bigger effort. A lot more time. A kick or six up the butt. And a great deal of soul searching. It was by no means easy. Some days, it's still hard.
With that in mind, the most pertinent part of that quote became, 'personalize it in a way that benefits you'.
It took a while to realize what that meant.
I'd got what it meant from the point of view of expressing more gratitude and finding joy in little things and being determined to smile at least once a day. I'd got it from the point of view of letting things go and walking away from the people, things and situations that weren't good for me. I'd also got it when it came to doing more of the things I love and prioritizing my happiness, if not at a level above, then at the very least equal to, the happiness of others. But one of the biggest revelations didn't hit me until recently.
Last month, I took a break from social media and stayed away from the internet as much as possible. During lockdown it was a lifeline. But my reliance on it was getting a bit addictive, and the pervading 'mood'... well, let's just say it wasn't uplifting.
Back in the day, I could have argued it was necessary I stayed on there for work. But if I don't have any new books to sell...
During my hiatus, as well as making more time to write, I thought about what I want from my writing. For a while I couldn't write. Then I pushed myself to write through the pain. At times I had to persuade/bribe myself to write. It was a similar journey to the one I'd made climbing out of depression. But while I'd questioned if I still wanted to write - and was relieved the answer was a resounding yes - and examined whether it was something I still loved - again, a resounding yes, at least on the days when the words are flowing - it occurred to me I hadn't revisited what I want to achieve.
Starting out, the goal may be as 'simple' as finishing your first manuscript. For most writer's, the next goal is to be published. After that, you may want to prove you're not a one hit wonder. Then there are great reviews to strive for and a best-seller status to achieve and awards to be won. You may want to hone your craft, for the next book to be better than the last, to learn from your mistakes and solidify your brand and, and, and...
We've all been there, right?
In terms of a goal, I've been rudderless for quite some time. I based all my decisions on what the practicality-motivated, news reading, obsessively-over-researched left side of my brain thinks I should be doing, instead of following my heart, and letting my write brain take us back to our creative happy place.
Why spend so much time actively choosing happiness in every other corner of my life if I'm just gonna ignore what is making me unhappy? This whole damn part of my journey started with writing problems. I was struggling to produce what I thought was needed instead of writing what I wanted. And the reason I decided to go the Indie route was to free me from any 'restrictions'. So, why have I been writing like I'm still following a set of guidelines?
Striking a balance between creativity and the practicality of everyday life is a problem for every artist, and there still seems to be a 'sell out' mentality if you aim for commercial success rather than artistic merit. But I'm not gonna debate that here. I'm gonna cut through the crap and say, right this minute, I'm not aiming for either one. What I'm doing is going back to basics. I'm gonna create. I'm gonna write the kind of stories I'd like to read.
My goal is to finish them. And when I say 'them', I'm talking about the seven unfinished manuscripts on my hard-drive and the ten outlined books I haven't started yet. I'm not gonna think about where they might fit or how I could pitch them when they're finished. For now, everything will simply go on Wattpad, in full or in part, to get some feedback while I make up my mind what I want to do with them. I'm not gonna follow the market or the trends or obsess about the next big thing. I'm just gonna write. And if at some point I write something I think an editor I know might like, I'll send it to them.
It's a personal choice and not one I would recommend to everyone. It's also worth mentioning the decision was made from a better-educated, experienced, and more self-enlightened position than any of the other writing-related decisions I've made in the last five or six years. I have twenty-four books and two short stories under my published belt. I've been in this business for eighteen years. The last decade (and particularly lockdown) has involved a lot of soul-searching and some harsh home truths. And I recently closed a chapter of my life I'd been hanging onto for way too long. So, the timing feels right.
Setting my own pace, nurturing my creativity and forging my own path are things I need to do for me. Part of choosing to be happy involves being more selfish, and to be honest, it's the part I've struggled most with over the years. But I like to think I'm getting better at it.
Do you have writing goals? How do they fit in with your other life goals? Have you chosen to be happy or is finding happiness something you struggle with on a daily basis?