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."


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

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