Sunday, 8 September 2013

The Pursuit of Happiness

By Candy Gourlay

I saw this on Facebook the other day:



It was on a Buzzfeed list called The 30 Happiest Facts of All Time and sure enough, it made me so happy I told everyone I met about it and now I'm telling you and I hope it's making you feel just as joyful.

The fact is, I have reasons beyond otters holding hands to be happy.

If you were on Facebook last Thursday, you might have spotted this:


But on the day, I was up at 4am worrying about whether I was doing enough to tell the world. And then I worried about whether fans of Tall Story will be put off by the fact that it's darker and older. And then I worried about the fact that its official release date was the 5th of September - someone in the know told me this is the worst publication date possible because you'll be competing with all the book heavies - Meg Rosoff! Patrick Ness! - launching in time for Christmas. And so on.

Remember 'What Me Worry?' Alfred E Neumann's catchphrase?  

I met a friend for lunch and I must have managed to drip anxiety all over him because he told me, kindly: 'You do realize that there are many who would like to be in your position."

Yes! BUT BUT BUT BUT!

And then I shut up.

Because all these fears had nothing to do with the moment at hand. At long last, Shine is out. And I should just celebrate.

As you may know, it took me ages to write Shine. Three years in fact. It was a slog. And during the slog, I sometimes became sentimental for the days when I was just another writer on the slushpile, when I didn't have anyone waiting to read my latest book.

Yes, yes, you may hate me for confessing this - but hear me out.

What I want to say is that ... it really was lovely when the dream hadn't come true yet.

There were no bottom lines. My next book didn't have to be as good or better than the previous one. There was no readership to disappoint. I was in the tight embrace of a lovely group of people who shared my passions and aspirations. We sorrowed over our rejections. We rejoiced over our craft. All my desires were still to come true - and it felt good.

Being hopeful feels good.

It was only when my dream came true and Tall Story was published in 2010 that FEAR came into the picture. Looking back over the past three years, I realize that I didn't give myself enough time to truly rejoice in my good fortune. Sure, I was HAPPY because I am a happy sort of person, but I was engrossed, rushing from thing to thing. Promoting the book, doing school visits, networking, writing and rewritingthe next book.

I was busy trying to prevent all the bad things that could happen.

No. I didn't take time to smell the flowers.

My lunching friend later sent me a TED video featuring Dan Gilbert (@dantgilbert), author of Stumbling on Happiness in which he said:

We treat our future selves as though they were our children, spending most of the hours of most of our days constructing tomorrows that we hope will make them  happy. Stumblling on Happiness

In his TED talk, Gilbert said getting what we want doesn't bring us happiness. According to Gilbert, if we want to be happy we can MAKE ourselves happy (he calls it synthesizing happiness).

He had lots of surprising examples - comparing the happiness of people who had won the lottery and people who became paraplegics, people in jail, people who had lost everything. The people who had endured the worst always came out on top. They were happier than the people whose dreams had come true. You can watch the video below (but only after you've read my post).



Here is Gilbert's take-away:
The lesson I want to leave you with from these data is that our longings and our worries are both to some degree overblown, because we have within us the capacity to manufacture the very commodity we are constantly chasing when we choose experience.

Basically he's saying, everyone can be happy if they want to be.

Watching the Dan Gilbert video led me to watch a bunch of other TED talk videos. There's nothing like a TED talk to lead one astray from all the hustle and bustle of being an author with a new book in the shops.

Here is one featuring Benjamin Zander that is luminous with joy (it may be about classical music but it taught me the art of writing on your left buttock)



By the end of that afternoon, I was inspired, moved, high on ideas ... and happy.

Sometimes we're in such hot pursuit of happiness that we don't notice it's right where we started.

Come on everyone, let's raise a glass to all the authors who recently launched a book  - HAPPY BOOK BIRTHDAY! And I mean happy.

You might be interested in my recent postings. Click on the thumbnails to view:

How to Become a WriterMy Video ReadingUnboxing First Copies 



Q&A at Tamarind BooksRiffing on Rain in ShineShine Book Trailer

39 comments :

  1. Yes yes yes yes... and yes! Ooh, and loads of luck with Shine, Candy.

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  2. That is so true and very wise and now I'm off to watch lots of videos!

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    1. It's the good kind of procrastination.

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  3. AND!! Those otters are SOOOOO cute! (had to get that out of my system)

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  4. This is so wise. My dream has recently come true, and my 1st children's book will be published by Catnip Press in March next year. I'm so excited by the lovely things that have been said already...and yet...I'm now on my 2nd book, and with every pre-publication compliment about 'A Girl with a White Dog' comes the worry 'What if my 2nd is a disappointment? What if I've peaked?' I have to stop myself writing imaginary disappointed reviews for my 2nd one, before my 1st has had a single good one!

    So, I am going to be happy about next March, try my best with my 2nd, and enjoy my present moment more! Thank you Candy.

    Oh yes - and buy 'Shine' - as I really liked 'Tall Story' and I have been intrigued by your previous posts about it!

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    1. Oh my, I do that too - writing imaginary bad reviews in my head. We have to try not to distract ourselves from the joy at hand. Congratulations on your forthcoming book ... I look forward to reading it. We otters have to keep holding onto each other!

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  5. Many congrats, Candy. I'm sure Shine will get great reviews. And yeah! The otters are utterly fab. I just want to hold their other paw and bob happily for a bit.

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  6. I want an otter! But apart from that, huge congratulations on shine, and thanks for the great post. I think my agent is always quite surprised that I'm not acting over the moon about my book deals (which I still can't make public - aaargh!), but my first reactions were really mixed. Mixed because in accepting one deal, I had to turn down a publisher who I love and who was passionate about my work - that felt like a huge betrayal. Mixed because, in my more honest moments, the implications of a good deal with a publisher scare me shitless sometimes. And also mixed for the simple reason that it's going to be another 18-24 months before even the first book comes out, which seems like an age away. But my agent's right. I should be happy. I will try to be. While also trying to write good books.

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    1. Elli, I think the fear must come from an expectation of disappointment. We've got to give ourselves permission to just enjoy things in isolation without all the attached possibilities. Many congratulations on what sounds like amazing news!

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  7. Great post Candy - you're absolutely right, seize the moment and celebrate! I recognise the FEAR - after a few books it morphs into a perpetual state of mild anxiety :-) Now,is there a picture book story to go with those adorable otters, and how many other people are thinking the same???

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    1. BAGSY! Note to editors: expect an influx of stories about otters holding hands!

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    2. BAGSY! Note to editors: expect an influx of stories about otters holding hands!

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    3. Sorry to disappoint, but I copy edited a picture book about otters holding hands last year, so it will be out soon.

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  8. Loved the link, Benjamin Zander and Chopin and those otters!! Thanks Candy. You are a great inspiration. Looking forward to reading Shine!

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    1. I am one of the majority who usually find classical music tedious. But Benjamin Zander made me change my mind! Thanks, Odette!

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  9. Did you ever read the Dalai Lama's Art of Happiness? I'm guessing perhaps not. We really do choose to be happy, or not. And, we inevitably forget to live in the moment - i.e. smell the roses.
    Then to add - there's a whole lot of really interesting research that's come out in the last few years about the two key things that fire up a human - wanting is one, liking is the other. Wanting motivates us. Liking makes us happy. Each releases a different brain chemical. The trick, I guess, is to get, as is always the case, the balance right!

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  10. I want an otter. I may need a river too. And waders. Or a wet suit. Lovely.

    Have you actually mentioned the launch on SCBWI BI facebook? You have been much quieter about Sine than Tall Story haven't you. Shall I shout for you?

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    1. I haven't actually mentioned it Maureen - keep meaning to and then something gets in the way! So busy!

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  11. Wise words indeed, Candy! There is always something to be happy about, and so many of the things we worry about (in the world of writing at least) are out of our hands, so we might as well let them go. By the way, I've heard that otters may not be as cute as they seem Cue evil otters in disguise submissions--I got there first!

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    1. Otters of the world rise up! Thanks, Jane!

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  12. Replies
    1. Thanks, Addy. You are very nice to me.

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  13. Congrats Candy. Looking forward to getting a signed copy in a couple of weeks. I expect to see you beaming from ear to ear …

    Shine on you crazy diamond!
    Dave

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  14. You've just distracted me massively from everything else. I agree completely with the first TED talk about choosing to be happy. I know I'm happier for having been in a situation where I nearly died and afterwards decided that certain things really weren't worrying about any more. As for the second talk, I balled my eyes out through it, and I loved his conclusion -about you as a parent, too. Thank you. And happy happy book birthday.

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  15. Thank you so much for this wonderful post, and huge congratulations!

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  16. This was what I needed today as I worried that journalism was taking up my fiction writing time, that I really should get that book out there etc. I will choose to be a happy journalist with a dream. I think I'll be linking to the post on my blog on Saturday. Merci!

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    1. Thanks, Jenna - hopefulness makes us all nicer people! And being a journalist is the coolest thing.

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  17. After the hope and the happiness, comes faith!

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    1. It's the leap that sometimes is most difficult. Thanks, Lisa!

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  18. Such a beautiful, wise post, Candy, thank you for writing it. And I can't wait to read Shine -- so delighted for you. Kate

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