Enjoy Your Writing, Enjoy Your Life

I’ve been thinking a lot about happiness, enjoyment, appreciation, and gratitude lately.

As someone who tends to be prone to seeing “what’s wrong with this picture”, it isn’t particularly easy for me to remember to see the positives in my life and enjoy them. I habitually look for the next thing to fix and improve upon. Then throw in some sleep deprivation and a fussy toddler, and the trip down the rabbit hole into the darkness and negativity can be a short one. ;)

However, I’ve been making some subtle shifts in this department that are adding up to be rather huge.

I’ve never been a fan of gratitude lists or journals. I mean, they SOUND like a great idea, and I BELIEVE in the idea of being grateful, but when I’m stuck in feeling overwhelmed, negative, or down about my life, it feels impossible to get into that space of gratitude and appreciation.

But what’s oh-so-cool right now is that I’m noticing that by making these simple shifts in the way I’m approaching my life and what I’m doing, gratitude and appreciation have become by-products of my experience. I love that!

This all started when I decided to participate in Dr. Jessica Michaelson‘s online journaling program about minimizing online distractions. Just freeing myself from my small but pernicious online addictions has created a huge sense of relief and space in my life.

Then I went on and joined her Finding What You Didn’t Lose program, which I’m also loving. 

Here’s what we’re doing, on a very simple level, that I’m finding so very helpful.

  1. Setting an intention for how we want to approach the day ahead in a way that’s connected to what’s most important to us (like being present or being adventuresome).
  2. Getting clear on the three main things we’re aiming to do in a given day (I’ve written in the past about “three big rocks” for the year — this is about picking them for the day!).
  3. Noticing where we can build in connection, use our natural talents, and find sensory pleasure in our days.

This is all based in research about happiness,* which shows that we need to experience connection, meaning, pleasure, flow, and accomplishment in order to feel happy in our lives. 

How to translate this into enjoying your writing

One of the biggest challenges in long-form writing (a novel, book, screenplay, for instance) is that it can feel endless, like we’ll never reach the finish line of “done”. Living immersed in that context can be disheartening at times and downright discouraging at others.

To keep ourselves feeling fresh — and happy — we need to stay connected to several things, like:

  1. WHY we’re doing it. When we’re clear about how important writing is to us and believe it is our calling, we stay connected to its meaning in our lives. Some days writing is hard, some days it’s fun and easy. But in the big picture, we care deeply about it, otherwise we wouldn’t be doing it. We can even go a little more deeply into the Big Why behind our writing. Perhaps we have a message or vision to share, or we’re hoping to shape, change, and influence people’s lives. When we give thought to our Why, it’s easier to keep on writing.
  2. Small, short term goals. If a long-form writing project, with all its requisite rewrites, is a long-term deal, we need to make sure we create a short term feeling of accomplishment for ourselves right now in addition to our big picture aims. This is easy to do when you set attainable, daily goals. When you start the day with a plan, like “today I’m going to write (one new scene, 350 words, for 15 minutes, etc.)” then you KNOW when you have done it, or not. And when you keep the goal attainable, so you KNOW you can do it, it’s easier to push through any resistance and make it happen. Then you’ll get the satisfied feeling of accomplishment that’s so important for your sense of happiness. As a bonus for this, doing the writing early in the day will only make the rest of what you get done that day a bonus. :)
  3. Other writers and other people. Hang out with other writers who 1) get what it’s really like to write day in and day out, and 2) have generally positive and supportive attitudes about writing. (My Called to Write Coaching Circle is a positive, supportive place for writers, for example.) Be mindful about hanging out in groups of writers who will only tell you how hard it is to break in. Instead, look for people who are finding ways to write and ways into the business that work for them, their lifestyles, and their temperaments. ALSO spend time with non-writers too: Your loved ones, family, and friends. Life is rich, and our writing is richer when we are connected to it.
  4. The rest of life. Writing doesn’t happen in a vacuum. As writers, we tend to be hunched over desks and computers more than average. We need to get out and enjoy the world and take care of our bodies too. Turns out that sensory pleasure happens mostly in the real world, so give yourself some gifts in this regard. I’ve been savoring the simple things, like walks in the beautiful weather, delicious tea, snuggling with my littlest one while he goes to sleep and with my eldest one while I read to him at night, taking Pilates classes, and blowing bubbles for the kids in the sunshine.
  5. Our writing itself. Writing, by nature, can produce the wonderful state of flow that’s part of the recipe for happiness. When we’re writing, we’re in the flow of using our innate talents. So if you’re having trouble getting past the natural resistance that comes up around doing the writing, get support to get into the flow. A working writer is a happy writer.

Here are some power questions to help you put what I’ve written about today into practice:

  • What’s important to you about your writing?
  • What short term writing goal can you set and achieve today?
  • How can you connect with other writers today?
  • What can you do to experience pleasure in the real world today in your life?
  • What support do you need, if any, to get into the flow of your writing today?

Use these questions to make simple shifts and enjoy your writing (more!), and your life. You deserve it.