The pages are still blank, but there is a miraculous feeling of the words being there, written in invisible ink and clamoring to become visible - Vladimir Nabokov

There is no agony like bearing an untold story inside you - Zora Neale Hurston

30 March 2010

Be Happy Right Now

I remember when I first started reading blogs, I came across a post by Nathan Bransford that warned writers (who tend to dream about the future as much as they dream about the imaginary lives of their fictional characters) to make life their priority and not sacrifice work or family for their writing. At the time, I thought: what's with the serious attitude? Are you trying to scare us fledgling writers off? You telling us we shouldn't hold out for a dream that may never happen? Well, I'm not listening to you buddy. I want this, and I'm not giving up!

I'm still not giving up--don't worry, that's not the object of this post--but I now understand where he was coming from. Writing and learning to write better takes a tremendous amount of energy and spare time (even time you can't really spare) and there are no guarantees you'll achieve authordom, let alone the success you imagine. I've often been tempted to slack off at work to sneak in a bit of writing time, and I even gave up a sunny potential-snorkeling day last weekend to work on revisions. But I'm learning to balance my writing obsession with my life.

I still scribble book notes at 3 AM like any other writer, because I'm willing to sacrifice sleep, but I'm not willing to sacrifice time with my husband. I read, go to the movies, snorkel (I spent the whole day at the beach a week ago), and I'm about to take a few guitar lessons, not to mention the IVF I'm planning later this year after seven years of trying for a baby...The point is, life has to go on, even while you're writing, and you have to be happy right this minute if you have any hope of being happy in the future.

Natalie Whipple (in her interview at Elana Johnson's blog) said, "You have to make the choice to live as presently as possible, and be okay with things not happening when you hope they will." This is a girl who's fairly successful, represented by Nathan Bransford, and she still goes through down moods where she's frustrated with the slow pace of building a writing career. I love hearing this sort of honesty from writers. I want to know it's not all sunshine and rainbows ahead. I need to know what to expect. I say, "Bring it on", but I know the way I've got to deal with it is to have a happy life on the side.

There is plenty of scientific evidence (wonderfully summarised for lay audiences on TED--I hope that's the right link) that we all have a preset happiness level. One man, a year after winning a $350 million dollar lottery, was just as happy as a paraplegic a year after his accident. What this means to me is I won't be any more content a year after I'm published than I am right now. Therefore, I must enjoy the process of writing, learning, and getting there. Happiness starts right now.

Are you happy? Is your writing stressing you out or are other aspects of your life to blame? Is there anything you plan to do to improve the balance?

Finally, a shout out to DL Hammons at Cruising Altitude for making me feel happy and loved with the Prolific Blogger Award!

I'm passing it on to some truly wonderful (and prolific) bloggers whose energy and up beat attitude I admire: Elizabeth at Mystery Writing is Murder; Dezmond at Hollywood Spy; Mason Canyon at Thoughts in Progress; and Elana Johnson. Congrats guys! Hope I made you a teensy bit happier ?


  1. Lorel, congratulations on the award and thank you so much for thinking of me when passing it on.

    I enjoyed your post very much. This is something we all need to do, writers and non-writers alike. If we focus on just one thing, we lose out on so much more. Balance is hard to maintain. Sometimes I think we just have to get close to it.

  2. Very nice post, Lorel. And, of course, you are so right. Enjoy the journey, no matter where it leads.

  3. Congrats on the award, and thanx for giving to HOLLYWOOD SPY as well :) It's a very thoughtful and inspiring award. I shall display it over in my award side bar :)

    I've discovered that happiness is when you create and make something, after it's created and made, you might enjoy the success, but you will feel a bit depressed because your work is finished and all done. That's when you have to start working and creating again in order to be happy again. I've never met anyone who doesn't do anything creative and is still happy. Happy equals creativity and working.

  4. Great post! Building a writing career takes so much longer than it seems like it should. And you make an excellent point. Some sacrificing is OK. In other places it might not be the right choice. While we all might feel like we need to write to live, it's important to live too!

  5. I'm much older (age-wise, not in spirit) than most of the men & women who are setting out on the path to publication, and fortunately I reached the point in my life where I don't need to sacrifice much because I've already experienced a lot. I can defintely see where this passion could put a strain on everything. I commend all those who struggle through it all and still persevere!!

  6. I enjoy my writing - a lot! - but my life comes first. Always. Always. Good advice :)

  7. Mason--You're welcome! I know what you mean about only getting close to balance. It feels like standing on one of those playground see-saws (do they even have those anymore?) and constantly shifting back and forth to keep it level (almost level).

    Alan--Thanks for visiting! I know you've been busy with blog tours and promoting. Good luck with the new book and enjoy *that* journey.

    Dezmond--You're welcome. I don't know of a blogger more prolific than you! And I totally agree that happiness comes from creativity. I was never more miserable than when I stopped writing for a period. Having that back in my life (even on top of all the other types of work in my day) makes me want to get out of bed in the morning.

    Portia--Thanks! Anything we really want to do takes sacrifice but, as with all things, in moderation.

    DL--It's tough no matter when you start! You're suffering just as much as the rest of us I'm sure.
    I used to think I'd begin a writing career when I retired, but I couldn't wait. And as it turns out, I have plenty to say right now.

    Jemi--Yes, writing is one of the things that makes me very happy too! I would never give it up, but sometimes I have to cut back and leave room for other aspects of life.

  8. Being on submission to editors has me absolutely stressed but I'm learning to cope. This is such a wise blog entry, I couldn't agree with you more. We can't sacrifice our family time, there must be a balance. Game night and computer time restrictions helps keep my balance!

  9. Congrats on the award! And this is a great post. Very important advice!

  10. Harther--Good luck with the editor submissions! Game night sounds like tons of fun.


  11. oops! "Heather" I meant. My typos are getting out of control lately.

  12. Congrats on the award!

    I agree. Living a full, well balanced life is they to happiness.

    Some days the balance is wobbling down a very narrow tightrope.

    Great post!

  13. This is a wonderful post, Lorel, and such an important reminder. It's too easy to get caught up in the sloooowww time warp of our writing dreams, forgetting the other important and fulfilling areas of our lives - family most of all.

    Have fen with snorkeling and guitar lessons. I will pray that you have success with your IVF! :-)

  14. Lola--Tightrope is a very apt comparison :)

    Shannon--Thanks so much for your prayers!

  15. Every day is a balancing act for me, because I need time to write. Fortunately once the kids go to school at seven, I have until three in the afternoon to write! My problems begin when I don't use that time wisely, don't also accomplish a minimum of housework or errand running in that time, so that when hubby and the kids are home I'm distracted and stressed. My non-writing life is so very important, and when I don't keep myself to schedules and deadlines, my life with my family suffers.

  16. Nicole--Yes, sometimes knowing you have a big chunk of time to write can be the worst thing because you procrastinate. A schedule is all important. I salute everyone who's balancing writing with young kids. I hope I'll be able to cope so well!