Saturday, March 1, 2014

It's the Snowpocalypse, and Somehow I'm Still Happy

I almost don't want to say this, in case the declaration becomes the spell that erases all my progress, but I have to:

I have found my writing process, and thanks be to God, it is stronger than the winter blues.

It involved several weeks of honest self-assessment, discovery of the obvious, and the occasional personifying of my issues into a solar powered dancing monkey.

(His name is Procrastination. I give his cheeky little peace sign a tweak when I want to tell him, "Not today, Monkey, not today." Then, to show him I mean it, I turn him around so I can't see his "Aww, c'mon" smile.)

Several different articles written with varying degrees of academic rigor have helped get me to this point. I'll link to a few of them at the end, but the core concept can be summed up thusly: Prioritize your long-term happiness, and the mundane unavoidables of life can be taken care of with a lot less stress.

Like I said, discovery of the obvious.

So, you can't put "live a fulfilling, happy life" on a daily checklist. What you can do is break up that lifetime into smaller segments. Depending on what life's throwing at you, those segments might be as large as years or as small as hours. I'm a happily married woman with a part-time job, no children and no house payment. On a deeper level, I'm a self-aware neurotic with a penchant for navel-gazing, continually vacillating between idealism and an obsession with the worst case scenario.

Weeks work for me.

A large part of staying happy from week to week is doing stuff I like to do, and find fulfilling. I know. Mind = Blown. I'm fortunate enough to be a woman of simple pleasures. I require only a handful of things to feel like the day was worth getting out of bed for:

1. Drinking good tea.

2. Writing my book.

3. Reading someone else's. (Or playing a good, story-driven game.)

4. Doing at least one thing to make my husband happy.

It really does work best in that order too. I need to write before my head gets filled with other things. Reading after writing is encouraging and reminds me what published prose sounds like, whereas reading first can lead to either never writing because I'm too absorbed in the book, or never writing because reading published prose made me unsure of my own. When I write with inhibitions, I end up with a bunch of forced, overwrought nonsense to trash the next day.

Matt has been working 10 hours a day, 6 days a week for the last 2 months at his soul-sucking retail job, so I have to get creative with number 4 sometimes. *eyebrow waggle* Mostly though, I bake cookies, keep up with laundry, play co-op games with him, or scratch his back while he runs around in a single-player game.

The funny thing is, life circumstances haven't changed much since last year. My year-long "temporary" position as assistant manager is as ambiguous as ever, and I'm never sure what my hours will be from week to week. We still don't make enough to live on our own. I still don't have a driver's license, for reasons better shared with a therapist than the internet.

The main difference is that last winter I did nothing but sleep and mope, and this winter I'm the most content I've ever been. My craft is improving, chores are getting done without childish drama, and work is just work - not something else for me to fail at, but something that pays the bills and gets me out of the house and my own head for a while.

I imagine my outlook will be even better once snow and ice stop trying to murder everyone. In fact, there's a strong possibility that if I stick to my process I'll have a complete second draft by the end of this fall.

I might actually need beta readers in 2015!

Links: Waitbutwhy's funny and insightful blog posts on Why Procrastinators Procrastinate, and How to Beat Procrastination, and this guide gave me a good starting point to help me figure out what my ADD brain needed to function optimally.