I was walking with a friend of mine on the beach yesterday (and a beautiful day it was, with the coolish water warming nicely by the end of our walk) and she was telling me about her new job that she was starting next week.
She had given herself a week in between the old one and the new one to focus on being happy before she headed into the new company. I remarked that she shouldn’t have to focus on being happy, which prompted her to ask me how I always seemed so upbeat.
It was a fair question. After all, I am not officially retired and have no job. My book sales have certainly not declared me as a writing success (or have they? More on that later). I was single, without a current partner, a state that is (in my opinion) antithetical to the human race. Outside of good health and an occasionally charming personality (if only the occasions weren’t spaced so far apart), what did I have that made me so unrelentingly “high on life”?
I related to her my theory, which I believe can work for everyone. Start with a positive attitude; attitude effects will; will effects accomplishment and accomplishment effects happiness.
Since it might be considered presumption to claim some guru-level certainty how this would work for everyone, we’ll use me as the guinea pig (much cuter than a lab rat) for our experiment today.
When I left my last job, I was tired of Corporate life. Climbing up the ladder, though not by my own design, turned out to be the exact wrong thing for me. I like working with people and solving real problems, not vague theoretical issues or entrenched company policies.
A deplorable side-effect of that mismatch of nature and position was the cessation of all pure creative activity. I wasn’t drawing anymore. I wasn’t writing, except within the confines of the company. I even saw my reading drop. Yoiks!
Immediately upon departing, I took a few weeks to “clean out” my head and rejuvenate my spirit. I played a bunch of tennis, fired up the barbecue most of the time and popped out to the beach a few times. By the end of those weeks, I was bubbly with relaxed enthusiasm and good cheer (my tennis buddies kept asking who I was). Attitude.
Once I was all hunky dory again, I decided it was time to finally write the novel that had been percolating in my brain for a few years. Quite honestly, several ideas had been percolating, but the current adventure was the one I wanted to do first for a number of reasons (a post for some other time).
At first, I had fits and starts. I couldn’t get a rhythm or comfort level. But I was excited and motivated and ultimately came up with the immensely satisfying writing-on-the-beach process I use today. Once that was settled, I was banging out chapters of the book at a startling fast pace.
When I finished the book, I next read it, edited it, read it again, edited it again, rinse, repeat. I sent it out to some select friends; half male, half female. I revised and re-edited.
I looked for an agent or a publisher. No one was interested in even seeing the manuscript. Either I wrote poor cover letters (which bode ominously for the 240+ pages of the actual book) or I just didn’t have good timing in my story idea. I decided to go with the latter.
Since I felt the book was a fun read (perhaps ego, but then, would anyone be able to write a book without some ego?), I determined to get the book published even if I had to self-publish it! Will.
And so I did! Finding a publisher who was not simply “vanity press”, I did what was necessary to get the book prepared for publication (from formatting the actual manuscript to writing the teaser and cover copy to working with the cover artist) and within a few more months my book was available for sale at many online locations. Shortly afterward, I added the e-book formats for additional reading opportunities.
It was a pretty cool day receiving my first copy of the printed book and seeing it up for sale at my publisher’s site and the big online book retailers. Within a month I had my first (still not cashed) check from real sales to real readers. Accomplishment.
Even more gratifying, though, has been the praise I have received, either online or directly, about how much readers have enjoyed the book. The clamoring for Book 2 is equally gratifying, if a bit challenging, in that it creates my first “professional” writing pressure to produce the sequel.
No doubt I suffer having no competent professional marketing of the book and the dearth of actual brick and mortar bookstores, but I feel the publishing of the second book will help drive sales for both and establish a reliable track record that readers can feel more comfortable with. Who knows, perhaps I’ll retry hooking up with an agent.
The bottom line is that I have reached people through my words and imagination and they have been enriched in some small way for the experience. How does that make me feel? Happiness.
I’ve used an extreme example to make my point, but this works on all things large and small. When I finish cleaning the house or cooking a new recipe, the process is the same and usually so is the result (there is some allowance when cooking just in case the dish doesn’t quite come out right).
Returning back to me and my friend on the beach, I simply told her that she didn’t need to “work on” being happy. Instead, just realize that she is in control of her happiness and in believing it she will create it.
It’s not exactly like making lemonade out of lemons, it’s more like not allowing lemons to show up in the first place.
Unless you like lemons, in which case, life really is what you make it!