The Happy Writer

Failure in writing is not:

  • Still having a lot to learn.
  • Being unsure if you’re good at this or not.
  • When one person doesn’t like your story (It might just not be for them).
  • Making mistakes.
  • Admitting you were wrong, then fixing it next time.
  • Reaching a certain age and not being published yet.
  • Unexpected things getting in the way of writing. Life happens. We cannot predict everything.
  • Watching other people succeed while you don’t.
  • Needing a break now and then.
  • Weeping at how good another writer is and that you’ll never write like that. (Hard truth: you won’t, because you are uniquely yourself)
  • Realizing that a public author life does not or will not make you happy.
  • Deciding this current path is not for you, and picking another one.
  • Finding out your true passion is elsewhere.
  • Writing only for yourself, or only to show friends.
  • Not getting an agent.
  • An editor rejection.
  • Being imperfect.
  • Finding this hard. It is hard.

 

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The Happy Writer

Every morning I turn on my computer, check my email, log on to Twitter, and get sucked into a vortex of horrors. It’s been really hard to stay positive and hopeful lately. I know more than one person who’s found it hard to write because there’s a constant barrage of terrible news.

There are numerous studies like this one, that correlate hearing/reading/viewing bad news with a decrease in productivity and overall happiness. In other words, if you read bad news in the morning, it can keep you feeling down or anxious for the entire day.

I think I curate my social media pretty mercilessly. No auto follow backs. I will check out profiles and tweets before following. All retweets are off unless you’re someone I know and trust. I sort almost everyone into private lists, so that I can only view minor controversies when I have the mental stamina for it. A few weeks ago I installed Self-Control in my browser (because I have none) so I limit my social media time.

Regardless, when the world’s gone mad, you can’t avoid the world. I hear coworkers talking about T*mp in the lunch room, or in the desks across from mine, at the next table when I go out for coffee. CNN is on the TV when I walk into the kitchen to get TV at work.

But the opposite of despair is hope.

Sometimes I fall into despair because it feels like I have no control over my life or the world. Finding something small I can do can give me back one fresh breath of air to suck on before I go under again.

Today my one tiny first action was to make a list of all the things I can do to help make the world better, now and in the future. It was just a list of possibilities, but by their nature, all possibilities are hopes.  Now I have a plan, a direction to move in, a light to turn my head towards. It’s a small step, but it’s going somewhere.

Sometimes you only need to wedge the door open, so that a little light can spill through.  It doesn’t take much to let the hope in.

So I hope you scrape, claw, write, your way back to hope, because every small step is still a step towards something new. There are still things worth fighting for. I still have hope.

(And when you do find that light again, it’s time to get to work)

Additional reading: 

  • Productivity in terrible times. “All of our work is capable of enabling righteous acts.”
  • Small Protests via Kristan Hoffman “Art reminds us of our humanity. Art broadens our humanity. Because art strengthens our empathy.”

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The Happy Writer

Maybe you planned to do NaNoWriMo or maybe you didn’t. Either way, maybe you’re not getting as many words in as you wanted or planned. Maybe you’ve been super busy and feeling guilty about it. Maybe you feel like the whole bloody world is falling apart and it’s too hard to write.

You’ve probably also heard the mantras “Real writer’s write” and “butt in chair”.

Well friends, I’m here to tell you that while that may be true for some people, it most certainly isn’t true all the time.

Life is messy. Life gets busy. Feeding yourself and taking care of family members is a much more pressing priority. Taking care of yourself and your mental well being are not only important, but can help you have a longer career as a writer.

Good health, and strong hands, the mental fortitude to deal with the craziness of the business, are nothing to sneeze at. You sometimes need to take care of all that shit going on in your life, before you have the energy to pour into creation.

Sometimes writer’s block isn’t about the words at all: it’s your subconscious telling you it’s tired, or maybe that you’re in need of a little rest and refueling. Sometimes it’s depression. You have to honor that feeling, and figure out why its happening, before deciding whether or not you need to push through it or respect it.

True confession: When I tried writing every day, it wasn’t long before started hating writing and dreading my writing time. It didn’t work for me.

You need to do what works for you. Find a schedule that allows you to come to the page with joy. Find what allows you to write without sucking the ‘why you love this’ out of it.

And sometimes, even when we do figure it out for a while, life can change, and we have to figure things out all over again.

That’s life. It’s messy. It’s wonderful. There are ups and downs, and you will sometimes have to deal with the world you live in before you can inhabit a fictional one. Very possibly, the fictional can help you deal with real life (that’s what motivates me).

But the whole point of this is: sometimes you can’t write. That’s okay. Forgive yourself for being human and not a machine. If you can’t forgive yourself, then maybe it will help if I forgive you?

If you call yourself a writer, you’re a writer. Don’t let anyone tell yourself otherwise. There is usually a long haul before anyone will see your words, but that doesn’t make you less of a writer.

If you didn’t make your writing goals, you still wrote more words than none. If you survived a rough week, family emergency, or are looking for ways to change the world through activism (and not just words), just look at how strong you are.

Don’t worry, the words will come when you are able to again.

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