Later this week, I am going to write a bummer of a post on how moms are almost excluded from a work-and-write lifestyle. Next week, I plan on reviewing Conan Doyle and sharing how I am mad at the internet. So I thought we should have a bit of uplifting, first, and talk about the sheer joy of writing and publishing.
It’s insanely easy to forget to enjoy something. Just a few repetitions (in fact, sometimes even on the first time ’round), and many of us are caught up in the “grown-up” side to things. The money. The time spent. What else we should be doing (the guilt). The competition. The comparison. The details. The execution. The cons. The complications.
When we were kids, we didn’t have any of these things on our minds when Christmas approached, or we left for a family vacation, or we got a new toy. He just felt happy. We were in touch with our positive emotions and very little severed us from them. Then we grew up, right? We came to understand too much, and we shouldered our responsibilities. As a bonafide adult, I just don’t see things the way I used to. In some ways, I am wiser. But I have long wondered just how much of our carefree spirit we can take with us into adulthood, or how much child-likeness we can cultivate, there.
A couple years ago (actually, maybe it was last year, time is getting more confusing to me the older I get), the head pastor of our church did a series on enjoying more. For a few months afterwards, I went about my daily life asking myself the question, “How can I enjoy this more?” When I was driving on my way to carpool: How can I enjoy this more? (Answer: Notice the scenery and the sky, turn on my favorite tunes, bring along an iced tea.) When the school called a snow day: How can I enjoy this more? (Put down that to-do list! Build a fort with the kids and sit in it with them. With popcorn and hot chocolate. And board games.) When finishing up a novel for review: How can I enjoy this more? (Answer, get comfy, slather on some chapstick, and remember that I like reading, not that it’s a race to the finish.)
That last example and last answer is what I’m getting at. Yes, it is extremely helpful to switch things up a bit to calm ourselves down and enjoy life, but it is also often just as important to remember that this is fun! When I think enjoy more, I think, remember what it is I ever enjoyed about this. I also think, notice the details and slow down, smell the roses.
I am at a place, as a writer, where I have forgotten, to some degree, that I love my job. I have donned so many hats as a publisher, editor, and entrepreneur, that I have grown worried and crotchety. I am thinking of all those other things: the money, the time, the deadlines, the goals, the guilt, the competition, the comparison, the details, the execution, the cons, the complications. And oh, the distractions! For this reason (and the frustration of trying to tie up a book while being sick after sick after sick), Devon Trevarrow Flaherty and Owl and Zebra Press has adopted a new business plan. Here it is:
- Work to the goal, not the deadline. (For me. I’ll talk more about this in the coming weeks.)
- Remember I like this. I even love this.
So how can I enjoy my job more?
- Spend more time actually writing. And remind myself how fun that is.
- Spend less time on the internet, webbing and building my platform. Although I consider this task to be necessary and maintenance is a part of that, I could easily lob off some of the less-successful and most-hated avenues I have been following to web stardom. For me, this includes YouTube and some of the online writing communities. Etc. (On the flip side, remember that I like blogging, etc. and spend most of my online time and effort there.)
- Choose projects that I enjoy. This includes the particulars (like designing the book cover or sketching the illustrations) and the bigger picture (as in, write books I am going to like writing or adopt projects that are very interesting to me). Remind myself that I chose those projects, that I like doing them, and that persistence and completion will be a reward–or a pleasure–all its own.
- Set up work so that enjoyment is maximized. Grab that green tea. Drop the needle down on some Mozart. Open the windows or, heaven forbid, drag your typewriter out to the porch. Do what it takes to be comfortable and give life’s tasks that little flourish, that spark.
- Save the best for last. Or not. I am the type who likes to get the unpleasantness taken care of up front. So that’s cool. However, there are times when tackling a more pleasant “to do” would help you move forward. Like on a gray day, or during PMS, or whatever. Don’t keep putting the fun stuff off until you run out of time to get to them.
- Cultivate thankfulness. Seriously. You have so much to be thankful for. I do, too. And I find this to be true, in the particulars, as well as food, clothing, and shelter (not to mention people). My husband and I play a game, when we are both grumpy. We just start listing, back and forth, things we are thankful for. We get creative. We get specific. There are no rules except to by honest. It’s a great game.
- Cultivate contentment. Understand your place in the world and the universe. Accept it. Embrace it, even. And, per number six, be thankful for it. Make sure you are taking time to de-stress and to enjoy the (other) things you enjoy. Yoga. Hiking. Painting. But more importantly, live one day at a time and with patience, kindness, compassion, and love. (Woo. We got a little spacey there, huh?)
Yeah, there are days when I am going to plod through work. Or just have a crappy day. There are many tasks that I don’t particularly like. For example, I have to clean out the tub, do dishes, mop, and fold laundry. All the time. These are my absolute LEAST favorite house chores. As a writer, I avoid editing, dealing with others on the internet, dealing with others (period)… and every novel seems to get to the point where I’m sick of it (after several edits or a long time-investment and no conclusion in sight). But I really think that, if I want it bad enough, I can do even those things with a cheerful heart. Certainly, then, I can remember my first love, and I can recall how awesome writing is, how awesome my kids or my husband or my car is, and I can enjoy the best job in the world. Life’s just too short to hurry through it in a bad mood.