These invented celebrations, the international cheese puff days and the take your grandma bobsleighing days, I like them. They’re silly, and silliness is worthwhile. Thinking silly thoughts is writing rocket fuel, I’ve found.
‘Happiness Happens’ Month provoked an experiment: to note, each day in August, the thing that had made me happiest.
Breaking my own rules is one of the things which makes me happy and so, naturally, I didn’t do it every day.
There’s another reason. I wasn’t happy every day. That’s okay by me. Gloom, ennui and melancholy are necessary to being a person. Unfashionable as rage is, I get good stuff from it. I’m not 100% convinced that dysphoria is worth it, but gosh it can inspire.
Happiness and writing are jumbled up together, for me. It’s not that I must be happy, or otherwise, to write (I’ve stared down that excuse). You see, my mood doesn’t determine my writing, writing determines my mood. It makes me pay attention to beauty and horrors, infects me with enthusiasms, absorbs me. My characters share their highs and lows and I flow with them. It sets me goals, offers me the pleasure of pleasing, of laughing at my own forgotten jokes. It knocks me down and picks me up again.
During this month of paying attention to happy, writing came up time and again. As completed checklists and rewriting history also both make me smile, I’ve filled in the blank days with thoughts I’d thought but hadn’t captured. Here goes.
How happiness happened
Day 1: Dancing, in my own way, especially when nobody was expecting it.
Day 2: Words. For example, pluviophile – someone who finds peace of mind on rainy days.
Day 3: The wind beneath my coat-wings, daydream flight.
Day 4: Spending time with my friends (real or imaginary).
Day 5: Chasing rainbows.
Day 6: A whole day with nothing in it but writing.
Day 7: Meeting new people who happen to have exciting ideas.
Day 8: Cheese.
Day 9: Turning to the first page of a new book.
Day 10: Contemplating the existence of elephants.
Day 11: Skipping merrily past the day's word target.
Day 12: Turning on the radio to a brilliant song I'd forgotten about.
Day 13: Inventing and completing minor missions.
Day 14: Writing tiny secrets in my notebook.
Day 15: Stumbling upon, witnessing, acts of compassion.
Day 16: Scents make me happy: rose, ginger, malted barley, creosote, and petrichor (the smell of first rain on dry soil).
Day 17: The sound of grasshoppers in concert, its sudden starts and stops.
Day 18: The continuation of ancient traditions for which the explanation seems unlikely.
Day 19: Doing something new, knowing that I might be rubbish at, but then actually not being rubbish at it.
Day 20: Ignoring the conventional advice, listening to my own song.
Day 21: Amusing place names, like Tarring Neville, or Cackle Street.
Day 22: Finding lines I don't recall writing, and quite liking them.
Day 23: Talking nonsense with my sister in our childhood slang and giggling like we still don’t know any better.
Day 24: When my story makes my husband laugh, assuming he laughs in all the right places.
Day 25: The first taste of the wine.
Day 26: When Gonzo (my creative brain) whispers the idea for a story, one which really wants to be told.
Day 27: Roof down, speed high, singing along and sun scorched.
Day 28: Opening a door and finding an adventure behind it.
Day 29: Thinking about air becoming breath, breath becoming air.
Day 30: Being beside the seaside.
Day 31: Reading this: ‘The greatest happiness you can have is knowing that you do not necessarily require happiness.’ (William Saroyan)
Wishing you happiness in your writing and writing inspiration in your happiness. Let's follow Saroyan's advice:
The most solid advice for a writer is this, I think: Try to learn to breathe deeply, really to taste food when you eat, and when you sleep really to sleep. Try as much as possible to be wholly alive with all your might, and when you laugh, laugh like hell. And when you get angry, get good and angry. Try to be alive. You will be dead soon enough.