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Another Run at Happiness

June 21, 2011

I started writing because I liked to do it.  I started writing because I had a lot on my mind and needed an outlet.  I started writing because I had a story I was passionate about telling.

But I got sidetracked.  I wouldn’t let writing just be a hobby.  This is a typical pattern in my life.

Step 1:  I find some hobby or craft that I like to do.

Step 2:  I show my handiwork to others.  They say something mildly encouraging, such as, “Your punctuation is interesting!”

Step 3:  I decide that I should make my new hobby into my new career.  (I have an inordinate loathing for my job even though it is only moderately demanding and reasonably compensated.)

Step 4:  I outline a large-scale master plan to get published.  I start a blog, attend writing workshops, try to get a short story published, and start another novel that seems more marketable than the one I wanted to write.

Step 5:  I set what I believe is a reasonable schedule for all of this work.  But subconsciously, I think that if I work continuously, I will be an overnight success.

Step 6:  I begin to ignore my regular chores.  Oil changes, gutter cleaning, flower-bed weeding, and recyclables recycling all get put on hold.  This is not because I’m so obsessed about accomplishing my goal.  It is because I believe that I will become instantly successful and I will be able to hire an assistant to change the oil, clean the gutters, weed the flower-beds and recycle the recyclables.

Step 7:  I become frustrated because I fail to achieve Rowling-esque fame and fortune.  Meanwhile my car engine is banging, my gutters are overflowing, my lawn looks like Jurassic Park, and my recyclables are putrid.  Clearly, this is all because I am incompetent to function as a normal adult.

Step 8:  I slide into self-justifying depression.  I sit in the dark, watching the DVD player flash an unexplained light at me.  I wonder what wrong turn landed me in such utter ruin. (Certainly an overdue oil change and overflowing gutters mark the low-point of human existence, I reason to myself.)

Step 9:  I calculate the height of various overpasses and estimate the likelihood of death if one were to take a swan dive from the top.

Step 10:  Recognizing the situation as quite dire, I consider seeing a shrink.  But we would likely clash over the applicability of Descartes or Hume to my present situation, so I pass on that idea.

Around this time, I realize that I’ve created this situation myself through unrealistic expectations.  It dawns on me that I can’t wait to be happy until after I’ve achieved all my goals; I should enjoy the process.  One can’t put off being happy until after one has read the book; it’s the reading that’s supposed to be enjoyable.

So, notwithstanding the tantrums that Zig Ziglar and Tony Robbins would throw at me, I’m making another run at happiness.  I promise to remember all the things I habitually forget: that I need to be around people, that I need to do some things just for fun, that I should not attach my self-worth to ill-defined success.

Maybe I should write a self-help book for overachievers.  I could call it Sedating the Wunderkind.  I’m sure I could write it in about three weeks.  There’s a motivational speakers conference in August I should attend.  I’ll schedule the radio interviews for September.  I’ll be in the New York Times before Thanksgiving.

And then I’ll be happy.

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