"Do what makes you happy?" DUH!

In the fond hope I will never again forget such an important lesson, I’ve just dropped what I was working on to write down an earth-shattering moment of self-discovery:

If you want to be a happy writer, do what you love.

Yeah, yeah, yeah. Advice we’ve all heard a million times before. It’s among the advice I give to my own students and readers.

But am I really living it?

Well, in theory I was. But I was making it so darn complicated and over-ambitious—and it was riddled with so many “shoulds”—no wonder I was having a major stress melt-down.

October 20, 2008 shouts from my appointment book in thick purple marker: BIG DECISION ABOUT MY WRITING!! This was the day I decided to suspend my online writing course and my coaching service for writers . . . and redirect all the time, energy, creative guidance and emotional support I’d been giving to other writers back to myself and my own writing.

What a cool decision. My life was changed. I was liberated. I could now bury myself in my own glorious creativity.

My husband was in total support of my decision. He’s a great guy, and he always wants me to be happy. Too bad I don’t always seem to want that for myself.

(Actually, I do really want to be happy, but you wouldn’t think so from the way I usually manage to complicate things.)

At first I enjoyed myself. I made a lot of progress and got a lot done. My big decision had unleashed a veritable avalanche of new ideas, and I did my best to keep up with and capture the ideas.

But, eventually, I came full circle to the wild and savage Lisa Simpson trapped inside of me; that priss who always manages to turn something joyful into an occasion for over-achievement.

Except it’s never smart or cute like in the cartoon.

Even though I work at home—and even though right now no one’s imposing any deadlines on me—I managed to create a plan for my writing that only Superwoman (if she was a writer) could ever hope to tackle single-handedly. I was living under so much self-generated time pressure, I had completely lost sight of simple, therapeutic truths such as “do what makes you happy.”

Talk about mood swings! Reminiscent of a pre-menstrual woman on an exclusive diet of caffeine and food coloring. Even though I was only drinking one cup of coffee a day. But it’s clear I don’t need substances to over-stimulate me: I can do it all by myself.

How talented.

This morning I was in another horrible mood, trying to parcel out my precious time so I could be everything and everyone to the sophisticated and far-reaching writing plans I had so carefully written up. You’d think God Himself was my editor, expecting me to achieve all these goals before the New Year hits. And then some.

Feeling completely overwhelmed, I decided to have coffee and read my new copy of Your Screenplay Sucks! by William M. Akers. Even though this book is about everything that might be (or is) wrong with your screenplay, Akers makes it so much fun to read I was soon immersed in my own little world of screenwriting joys.

That’s when it hit me. The answer to the question, “What do I most want to work on right now? What makes me happy?”

Simple: my screenplay.

It’s a completed screenplay and has been through several rewrites, but I still love it passionately even after all that exposure to it. It needs more rewrites, more research and checks for accuracy . . . and then I need to develop my 60-second pitch and all the other stuff you need to do to market a screenplay and get it read.

But that’s OK. It’s a lot of work, but work I’ll love because it’s for a story I’m in love with. A story that is still so much fun for me it gets me swept up in it every time.

Fun. There’s that word. The one I preach on my Website, in my book, in my online course, to my coaching clients, yada, yada, yada. Good thing I can finally figure it out for myself.

So, now, all the other plans for the stuff I’m supposed to achieve at the same time—such as, updating my blog several times a week, reviving Fear of Writing Gazette, writing two new e-books, AND writing a new screenplay (you know, for that dreaded moment they mention in so many advice books; the one where they’ve already heard your brilliant screenplay pitch and they respond to it by saying “What else have you got?”) . . .

. . . all those lofty plans will just have to go hobnob with Lisa Simpson and use important-sounding vocabulary to protest being put on the back burner.

Because I’ve decided to do what makes me happy as a writer. And stop trying to be so systematic about it.

Sheesh. I feel better already.

PS. The joke’s on me again. I went to my coaching service page to copy the link for this blog entry and what should confront me, right beneath the title and sub-title for that page, but this “meaning of life” quote that I chose myself when putting that page together:

To love what you do and feel that it matters—how could anything be more fun?

—Katharine Graham

Related post: The Ways We Fraud Ourselves (Especially Writers?!)

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