Some people say that the best writers are unhappy. They suffered unhappy childhoods, only to grow up to suffer equally unhappy lives, past, present, and future. (I suspect these are the same people who believe that optimists are not as smart as pessimists because, well, smart people know we live in a terrible world.)
I was reminded of this while writing my new book HAPPIER EVERY DAY: Simple ways to bring more peace, contentment, and joy into your life, which debuts today. One of the reasons I got the gig—apart from my “other” life experience as a yoga teacher and co-author of 5-Minute Mindfulness—is that I am, for the most part, a happy person. An optimist, critics be damned. And a writer.
If you’re thinking that even writers who start out happy end up unhappy given the trial by fire that is publishing, I hear you. But there are ways to be a happy writer, regardless of your childhood or your publishing experience.
Create a sacred space
Honor your writing time with a space all your own. Even if it’s just a corner of your bedroom, make it special (for creativity), make it specific (for your WIP), make it off-limits (to all but you). Alice Hoffman once said she paints her study the color of the novel she’s working on; Amy Tan uses objets d’art from the time period she’s writing about as talismans. I write mysteries surrounded by all things dog and Vermont—but I wrote Happier Every Day listening to kirtan and breathing in lavender.
Articulate your mission
Spend some time figuring out who you want to be when you grow up. That is, which writer whose writing and career you want to emulate. Study that writer’s path to publishing, note the ups and downs. Write a mission statement that articulates that mission. Here’s mine for the Mercy Carr series:
I want to be “Julia Spencer-Fleming with dogs.”
Indulge your curiosity
Let the work take you wherever you want to go: walking the Pacific Coast Trail, dancing at a costume ball in 18th-century Venice, exploring the outer rings of Jupiter. My books take me everywhere from the wilderness in the Green Mountains to the chakras of my own body, from the comfort of a loyal dog to the dark night of my heroine’s soul, from the sweaty heat of a New England Fourth of July to the blizzard conditions of bomb cyclone—and back again. Where will your books take you?
Seek out the company of your fellow writers and readers. Volunteer to read for the blind, help out at your favorite writer’s conferences, become a friend of your local library. Remind yourself why books are important, and why your writing is important, too.
Let it go
The slings and arrows that may beset you on your writer’s journey are many—rejection, bad reviews, cancelled contracts, agents who retire and editors who leave and publishers who go under. But this is life. Let it go…and keep on writing.
The writers who get published are the ones who 1) finish and 2) revise. And the ones enjoy long careers are the ones patient enough to 1) persist and 2) roll with the punches. This is the work for the brave, the tenacious, but most critically, the patient.
Have fun. Channel Ray Bradbury, arguably the happiest and most enthusiastic writer of all time, says it best:
“You grow ravenous. You run fevers. You know exhilarations. You can’t sleep at night, because your beast-creature ideas want out and turn you in your bed. It is a grand way to live.”
It is indeed a grand way to live. So don’t worry, write happy.
Join us on Facebook to discuss the joys of writing.