The Writer’s Guide to Happiness

Fetr-fitr-ramadhan-53473-hWhat does it take for you, the writer, to be happy?

This is a question much on my mind lately.  What does it take for me to be happy?

Does having my novel about to be published make me happy? Yes, very.

Does not having time to work on my next novel as I finish a big editing job make me happy?  No, not at all.

Would I sacrifice the editing job in order to have time to write?

Now that's a thorny question, because its the editing job that is paying the bills this month.  Ah, thorny questions.  Don't we love them? Yet in the process of pondering and answering these questions, I've come to some conclusions about what makes me happy as a writer, which I offer below.

But before we go there, let me remind you of one thing: the Dalai Lama himself says that the purpose of life is to be happy.  Ergo, the goal of being a happy writer is an important spiritual motivation.  So quit feeling guilty about it and see if you agree with what it takes to make a writer happy:

Process.  Or, to put it another way, writing.  Being involved in the actual process of writing is the single most important thing to make a writer happy.  Obvious, right? I know, I know.  But sometimes we get so engrossed in the peripheal stuff that we forget this.  If you need some help writing regularly, I've got seven practices that will help.

Balance.  Sitting at the computer and writing all day makes Charlotte a dull girl.  And a broke one.   I tell myself I'd love nothing better than to write all day, but when the opportunity presents itself, I procrastinate.  I need variety–a little of this, a little of that.  Working on a huge editing project makes me long for my novel writing.  And vice versa.  It's all about the balance.  There's also the idea that writers need something to write about–as in a life well lived.  You've got to do a bit of both, with the trick being not too much of any one thing.

Support. The writer's life can be a lonely one.  Something that can help it not be quite so lonely is finding a community of like-minded writers.  I wrote about this topic last week, in a post you can read about here.  Never underestimate the happiness that connecting with other writers can bring.

Joy.  What brings you joy?  And why do I ask?  Because joy feeds writing.  For too long we've believed the opposite, that only angst-ridden writers produced deep work.  It's time to put that outdated paradigm to rest.  Joy is what gets my creative juices flowing. And having my creative juices flow makes me happy.  So what brings you joy?  Watching the sunrise through the trees? Taking your dog for a walk? Spending time with your family? Swimming in the ocean?  Only you know.  And only you can make sure you spend time in doing what's joyful for you.

Rest. A rested writer is a happy writer.  An unrested writer is a cranky, anxiety-filled disaster waiting to happen.  Don't buy into the old, stupid paradigm of the over-the-top writer staying up all night only to crash for days after.  Rest–eight hours of sleep at the least–fuels a consistent writing practice.  And that will make you happy.

So, did I get it right?  What would you add or subtract?  What makes you a happy writer?

**The one thing that makes me happier than anything is writing novels.  My Get Your Novel Written Now class starts next week, join me?  Read more about it here.

Photo by Hamed Saber

, , , ,

15 Responses to The Writer’s Guide to Happiness

  1. Don 08/30/2011 at 10:30 #

    This is a test of the system. It is only a test. If this were a real message it would say something other than ‘this is a test’.

  2. Charlotte Dixon 08/30/2011 at 10:40 #

    Oh thank you, dear Don! Now I know people really can post on my blog, others were having trouble.

  3. Don 09/01/2011 at 07:52 #

    All that you wrote is sooooooo………… true, so true!

  4. Don 09/01/2011 at 07:54 #

    I have absolutely NO idea I’d posted the above, if in fact I really did?????

  5. Charlotte Dixon 09/01/2011 at 10:35 #

    Well, somebody named Don did, but I think its a different Don, so you can rest easy that you’ve not been commenting in your sleep. And I love all Dons that read my site! Glad that you agree with me.

  6. Patrick Ross 09/01/2011 at 13:00 #

    A great post, Charlotte. I did find myself thinking, however, of some famous writer’s quote about how he loved being a writer but hated the actual act of writing. I think of writing as giving blood; it can be painful when you start but can also create a temporary lightheaded euphoria.

  7. Charlotte Dixon 09/01/2011 at 17:17 #

    Patrick, The worst part about writing is getting to it. Once you’re into it and the words are flowing, its fantastic. And then when you finish its even better!

  8. J.D. 10/03/2012 at 04:33 #

    You got it right. Those things make a happy writer, but I don’t know that happiness makes one write. We have control (maybe) of what we do, but others and fate and God sometimes change things. I have had every thing I ever wanted, only to find it was not what I thought.

  9. Charlotte Dixon 10/03/2012 at 08:00 #

    And I would also submit that what we do control is our reaction to things.  Yes, stuff happens to us, its what we do with it that counts.  You sound as if you have a very interesting story to tell, J.D.

  10. Sandra / Always Well Within 10/03/2012 at 13:46 #

    Hi Charlotte,

    It’s a relief to know that you also feel this tension between jobs to pay the bills and time to write! I’m not alone! Guess this fits in the category of “support”, which your blog brings to me time and again! Yes, I think you got it right. I might just add a great spiritual dimension adds to my writing and my life.

  11. Charlotte Dixon 10/03/2012 at 13:50 #

    Oooh, the spiritual dimension is a great addition, Sandra!  Thanks for weighing in with your ideas.

  12. Liz 10/04/2012 at 09:33 #

    It seems like everyday lately I am reading something about happiness – in life, in work, in love and now in writing. I believe Oprah would refer to those as “whispers” – the universe is telling me, “This is important stuff. Pay attention.”

    I agree with you wholeheartedly, and the Dalai Lama too. The purpose of life *is* to be happy. Only then can you truly live up to your potential and your purpose in all areas of your life.

    I don’t have anything to add to your five processes, except to say that I think “Joy” is especially important. That’s where my best inspiration most often comes from.

    On an almost completely unrelated note, I will be hearing the Dalai Lama speak live and in person next week in Charlottesville, Va., leading a panel about health care. I am happy about that beyond words!

  13. Charlotte Dixon 10/04/2012 at 11:27 #

    You're so lucky that you're going to hear the Dalai Lama!  I got to hear him once years ago here in town, and have been wishing for another opportunity ever since.  Plus, I love Charlottesville (and not just because of the name).  I like to remind myself that the purpose of life is to be happy–because its too easy to get all serious about it otherwise.  Thanks for chiming in, Liz!

  14. Sophia Chang 10/11/2012 at 04:19 #

    UGh, don’t I know it. Work’s taken over my life and I’m a miserable writer right now. Trying to cut down and to not work 7 days a week (why are we insane??) Very timely post! With that, I should take your advice and go to bed too :)

  15. Charlotte Dixon 10/11/2012 at 07:11 #

    Isn't it funny how we writers are miserable when we're not writing?  Every thing else can be going great, but if we're not writing, forget it, we're unhappy.  Try writing even for five minutes–it'll cheer you right up.

Leave a Reply