Tag: happiness

Join the Choir — Live!

Happy spring, every one.

This post is late going out because I’ve been busy with happiness. 

This morning the World Happiness Report  came out. My country, Canada, ranks 15th in overall happiness and Finland ranks as number one, again.  Interestingly, in Canada, the under thirty cohort ranks as the unhappiest group in the country. Researchers suggest that social media is partly responsible. Younger people are on their devices much more than older Canadians. As we all know, social media highlights bad news, anger, outrage and disaster. No wonder constant users are less happy.

Last week, I went to a vocal workshop. I didn’t learn much about vocalizing that I didn’t already know, but the presenter made quite a case for singing in a choir. Since 99% of the particpants were choristers, he was, literally, preaching to the choir. 🙂 He did have some impressive research to back up his message. Singing promotes longer and happier life. For one thing, singing is a physical exercise and requires good breathing technique. More oxygen to the body promotes better physical health and better cognitive health. Singing makes us happy so joining the choir relieves depression.

Singing in a choir is also a social activitiy and that brings me to the point of this post. I haven’t spent a lot of time at the keyboard this week because I’ve been meeting with friends. As we all know, reading and writing, by nature, are solitary activities. Much as we all enjoy losing ourselves in a story or getting really stuck into the writing, we need to take time away from being in our heads and go out and be with others. 

As a writer, I keep in touch with a few writing friends — we had coffee together on Monday. Time spent with them keeps me in the writing mindset, but it also opens my mind to other points of view, to news from the writing world and to some hearty laughs over any number of things.

Later today, my book club (readers) meets. We’ll chat about the latest book on our list — another “misfit” story — and discuss if the author was successful at involving us with her characters. If so, why. If not, why not. Kind of like the “compare and contrast” questions on a school literature exam. We’ll also catch up on each other’s family news, lament the state of the world, and find lots to laugh about.

Tomorrow I’ll go to choir practice and the day after that I’ll visit with an older writer friend who has been bereaved. Kudos to her for knowing the value of coffee dates even in the midst of grief.

I can read and write by myself. I can find news in the media or on-line. But I don’t get the sharing and laughter that face-to-face meetings allow. Do you know that loneliness is now ranked as a health risk? That doesn’t mean a person has no people around. The studies refer to the “lonely in a crowd” feeling. Writers and readers might recognize this as a trope in poplular fiction. But, even though it can underpin a good story, it is not good for mental health. 

So now you know my excuses for the delay in posting this blog. 

Now do yourself a favour and go join a choir!

 

 

Views: 36

5 Reasons to Write for Yourself

As though to confirm the question-the-premise wisdom that  I learned in Becca Syme’s workshop,  I am now reading a book that breaks all the “rules” I’ve learned as a genre fiction writer. 

This book was recommended by other writers on a blog I follow so, when I saw it at my local library, I quickly put in a request. It appeared on my shelf in no time, has a pretty cover, and a gardening theme. All things to make me happy and set me up to enjoy the story.

As I read the opening chapter, I was puzzled and then dismayed. The book did not contain any of the elements I’d been told a first chapter had to have. Then, following my initial reaction, I realized the book had many things to teach me about writing. I’m sharing five of those insights with you. .

  1.  You may get a publisher. Jack Bickham says “Don’t describe sunsets.” The book I am currently reading spends pages and pages describing the countryside, the village, the cottage, the food and her car. None of the description moves the story forward.  I’m skimming. Yet this author has a backlist of nineteen books, published by a major publishing house.
  2. It may make for a happier world. Getting characters into trouble and then making it worse is a standard “rule” of genre fiction. “Don’t duck trouble,” is the way Jack Bickham says it, but rejection letters are filled with variations on the same theme. Yet this book raises possible troubles, only to solve them in one conversation or by an act of Divine Intervention. No nightmares here. The author has sold over a million copies of her books and have been nominated for various awards.
  3. It may please your mother. My Bickham reference book has a chapter titled “Don’t worry about what your mother will say.” Yet this book is dedicated to the author’s mother, and she has millions of readers who adore her work.
  4. It may make you happier. Writing is hard work. Trying to write to someone else’s criteria makes it even harder.  Judging by the many books I’ve read that don’t follow “the rules,” I’m convinced that an author’s individual voice and style is the key to creativity — and thence to commercial success. That sounds like blasphemy even in my own ears. You see, I’m a rule follower, so going against what the “experts” recommend is really scary. (Notice I used an adverb. Yikes!”)
  5. It may increase your output. Before I knew the “rules” I wrote for fun and as a personal challenge. I couldn’t wait to get to the keyboard, and snuck in extra minutes during the day to add just a few more sentences. The resulting manuscript pleased me no end. And . . . it sold. I wrote that book quickly, by my standards, and I went around with a grin on my face and an “I’ve got a secret” vibe in my soul.

The statistics on book sales are discouraging to say the least. Of the millions of books published on Amazon and other self-publishing platforms, 90% sell less than 100 copies. Even with traditional publishers, 86% of published books sell less than 5000 copies, the break even point for the industry.

The aim of this blog is not to make you quit writing. My purpose is to encourage you to write your stories in a way that works best for you. With the dismal outlook on sales, it is vital to a writer’s mental health that she enjoy the process. If making a lot of sales is your only motivator, chances are pretty high that you will be disappointed. But, if writing for love, writing for fun, writing for intellectual challenge, writing because you’ve a story that must be told, then go for it. Write your story, your way and be glad. And, who knows, you may make it big.

 

P.S. The cat picture at the top of this post has nothing to do with the subject matter but she makes me happy so I’m sharing her image with you.

 

 

Views: 175

My Summer Vacation

    In my part of the world, school starts this week. Even though I’m long past school age, at this time of year I still get the urge to purchase a clean note-book and a sharp pencil with a fresh eraser. Another back to school ritual is the “how I spent my summer vacation” essay. I think teachers used that topic in the first week to give themselves time to organize the classroom and memorize the students’ names. Anyway, here’s my essay.

       First, I took a break from writing this blog. I don’t cope well with hot weather and we had lots of hot days this summer. The weeds flourished, but the garden suffered from a cold, wet spring. Even plants that grew well failed to produce much fruit as the bees were missing at the vital time. For years we’ve been hearing about the loss of honey bees and how that effected the honey producers. This year, every gardener in my neighbourhood witnessed the effects of no bees first hand.  I’m preparing for next spring by hunting for bird feathers on the beach. If it is too cold for bees at blossom time, I’ll use the feather for a little human-assisted pollination. 

The lovely Jennie Crusie hosts a blog called Argh Ink One day a week she asks the question, “What made you happy this week?” I love reading the answers. Happiness, it seems, comes in many different forms. For me, happiness is good friends. So I’ve spent a good part of vacation time re-connecting with friends finally coming out of COVID protection. I know the virus is still out there and poised to whack the world again, but we’ve all been lonely these past few years so I’m hoping the endorphins released by laughter, along with all my vaccines and boosters, will help my immune system win the battle. Plus, I’m staying off cruise ships. I know a lot of healthy people who went on a cruise and came home with COVID.

    Over the Labour Day weekend, I had triple happiness as I was able to combine my garden, friendship, and nostalgia with a trip to our annual Fall Fair.  The photo at left shows my ribbon haul. I consider it a win if I get ribbons on at least 50% of my entries and enough prize money to cover my entry fees and my admission to the grounds. I declare success on all fronts this year.

   I reconnected with my farm roots as I walked among the horses and cows and chickens and sheep. (See photo at top.) Jeans and straw hats bring happy memories. Score one for nostalgia.

   Then,  I met my friend at the fair. We’ve been doing that for over twenty years. This  long friendship makes me happy. Our fair experience together is also a happy one. I give her produce from my garden, she makes jam and wins a prize. We’re in this together!

    Speaking of friends, my pen pal from the other side of the world is a “best seller” in Canada with the first book in her Guardians of the Crown series, By the Sword. So, I’m happy for her.

   So, the first day of school is over. I’ve written my essay. Tomorrow the real year begins.

  What did you do for your summer vacation? Did it make you happy? 

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Benefits of Learning New Things

 

In the last issue or RWR® Holly Jacobs reported on her return to school and taking ceramics. She liked it.  It improved her writing. It improved her life. Her story is only one of many describing the benefits of life-long learning.

Google “try new things” and you’ll get a raft of articles, some scientific, some opinion, some psychological and some medical.  From all of them, you’ll get encouragement to try something new.  Here’s a brief summary.

From a “happiness” perspective.

  • You grow as a person
  • You rejuvenate yourself.
  • You’ll become more adept at every day skills, saving time and reducing stress.
  • If you’re not learning something new you stagnate.
  • Learning something new improves your self-esteem.
  • You meet new people. As old friends drop away through life changes, it is essential to cultivate new friendships.
  • You become a more interesting person
  • You aren’t bored

From a scientific point of view.

  • Learning new things changes the white matter in your brain, improving performance.
  • The more you learn, the easier it becomes. By stimulating neurons in the brain, more neural pathways are formed and messages from one part of the brain to the other travel more quickly.
  • You make connections between different skill and knowledge areas. In other words, the more you learn, the more you learn. The more you exercise your brain, the better it works.
  • You adapt better to change. In our world where change is happening at an unprecedented rate, the ability to adapt is priceless.
  • You may decrease your chances of developing dementia, or, at the very least, slowing its progress.

Let’s look at these benefits as they apply to writers.

The Artist’s Way by Julia Cameron explores a number of ways writers can become more creative, productive, and happy. Among her chapters are:

  • Recovering a sense of Identity.

Surely learning new things plays into that sense of identity. You are not the person you where at 15 or 25 or even 55. You are a life-long learner, an interesting person.

  • Recovering a Sense of Power.    

Having more skills and information at your disposal must confer a sense of power.

  • Recovering a sense of Possibility.

Once you’ve mastered one new skill you are open to the possibility of learning another, and another. Your mind is open to new experiences, your senses are tuned to notice the world around you. With a sense of possibility, your writerly antennae are aquiver.

  • Recovering a Sense of Abundance.

With an ever expanding circle of friends, days filled with satisfaction of learning and striving, your creative well is filled—abundance.

  • Recovering a Sense of Connection.

Taking a class, joining a new group, reading outside your comfort level. All of these things connect you to the ever-changing world around you.

  • Recovering a Sense of Autonomy.

Fear is an unwelcome companion to many writers. It sits there on your shoulder whispering that “you’re not good enough. You can’t do this. You will fail.” By learning new skills, you whack Fear in the solar plexus. You have an A+ on your paper, or your musical composition or your woodworking project. Proof positive that you can. You are free to pursue your writing career without constantly worrying that you can’t.

I did a very small new thing this week. I downloaded the Libby app to my tablet in order to borrow electronic books from my local library. It worked! A miracle considering how many computer glitches I’ve encountered in the past month.

As a result, I feel empowered, connected, and my self-esteem has risen. Such an amazing lift to my spirits from a very small accomplishment.

Have a happy week. Go learn a new thing.

 

 

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