Two weeks ago, Natalie Whipple at Between Fact and Fiction created the Happy Writers' Society for those of us who are sick of angst. The post filled my head full of questions. I will be subject to self reflection for...oh...I don't know...the rest of my life. I was also wondering about her own experience and struggles, so A BIG THANKS to Natalie for
1) Creating the Happy Writers' Society
2) Answering my questions!
Here are her superbly helpful and encouraging answers:
When/how did you decide to take the challenge to be a happy writer and what led to that decision?
I feel like I'm constantly renewing my determination to be happy as a writer. This year in particular has been a challenge, and whenever I start to feel really down I try to snap myself out of it. I don't have time to waste feeling sad right now! I barely have time as it is. I've found when I concentrate on the important things, the stuff that make me sad don't matter as much.
What difference, if any, is there between being a happy writer and being a happy person?
Not much, I don't think. Crap happens to everyone, and it's up to us to decide how we're going to deal with it. Don't get me wrong, I think it's totally appropriate to mourn and regret and all that stuff. Just not forever. I definitely have my rough days, but when I do I try not to let them last long. I have a good cry, eat something awful, and then pick myself up and keep going.
When is it the most challenging for you to be a happy writer? What gets in the way?
I think the worst for me is comparing myself to other writers. I don't have this yet. When will that be me? It won't ever be me. That kind of stuff. It's totally stupid, but there it is. It's hard not to compare journeys, but then I realize my journey is my own and things will happen when they do. Just because there are people further along doesn't mean I haven't made progress. I should be proud of where I'm at, not constantly looking ahead.
When it comes to actual writing, revisions tend to get me down in a big way. For me, the first draft is a total free write. It's my chance to explore the world and figure out the characters and just enjoy the ride. Revision is taking all that and ripping it to pieces so it actually works. Most of the time that means lots of rewriting, which makes me feel like an idiot because I can't seem to get the story right. I know revision it necessary, but it totally brings out the mean perfectionist in me. I often wish my process was different, but when I try to be more organized I get down too! So I remind myself that this is just how I work, and that's okay. Luckily, there's no one way to write.
How does being a happy writer actually improve your writing?
I don't know about others, but my productivity suffers a lot when I'm down. I get into a really negative thought pattern that prevents me from getting words on the page or finishing edits. But when I'm happy? I feel like I could write all day! I want to write all day. The words flow, and if they don't I know they'll come. I know revisions will improve my work and do them quickly and confidently. I attack my ideas with passion, instead of poking at them tentatively with a stick. I like what I'm writing, and I think it shows. Basically, everything goes better when I'm happy, thus I try to be happy as much as possible.I really enjoyed that interview!! Didn't you? It hit me on a super personal level. The beginning of the week, I was doing so well, but then once I finished my rewrite, I hit a bout of bummed-outness. Here are some of the things that I've been thinking about/learning/struggling with...
I joked with hubby: "Why can't I be like a chill hippie chick who's like oh I just write all day and then you know I go to the beach. Sometimes I write at the beach. And I just cook and hang out and relax and write some more and just enjoy it. Instead of, oh my gosh am I going to write today? Is it going to work? I think I have to write today, but I have to cook. Oh my gosh I have to catch the bus. Oh my gosh, but I have to cook. Should I go to the beach? I don't know if I can write at the beach today. On no I have to eat. Ok yes. What am I gonna eat? Oh my gosh, I have to write."
Making the choice
I don't want to buy into the whole being a writer equals icky drunkenness and continued sorrow gambit. The crazies ain't goin' nowhere, but perhaps me and my Muse can entertain each other instead of engaging in hair-pulling and name-calling during that lovely little thing called my bedtime.
Not being afraid
All writers feel something when they look at a blank page. Something BIG. A jolt of electricity. A buzz. A high. Its up to us to decide how we're going to react to that feeling. Do we classify it as fear? This results in worry, feelings of inadequacy, and labeling oneself things like Crazy or Nuts. Or do we classify the jolt as excitement? With this option, we can smile and be in love words. We can feel good about the passion.
How to trust
My step-father-in-law/spiritual guru said to me, "Trust your heart. You know your heart is good." Everyone says to trust your process and give your self-permission and forgive yourself for your mistakes. These classic pieces of writing advice are valuable, but Trust your heart. You know your heart is good is so much more helpful for me. Whatever I do in life, this phrase can keep me from worrying, about the past and the future. This advice is all-encompassing to me.
Writing and life are not so different
We all know that it is no good to walk around wishing you had some Loeffler Randal pumps. (Instead I must be thankful for my Target flipflops.) It is no good to sigh in front of mansions or swoon over Ferraris. And so it goes with writing. We have to be thankful. I'm good. I'm pretty good for my age. I like what I write. I can do it. We all fall into the wishing well sometimes, but we have to "snap out of it" and give thanks. The simple act of writing is a blessing (in an angst-filled disguise.)
THANKS AGAIN NATALIE!!! Writers or not, you've given us all something to think about.
So what about you? Are YOU a happy writer?