Some people have to make lists to find out what makes them happy, and then decide once they have written things down in order. Like it is something which can be rationally decided. I think we know, deep down what makes us happy without the list. Some of us need to redress our goals and expectations. Some have to deal with heartache and suffering which puts a barrier between us and it. But those of us who feel it know it. I am lucky that I am happy. Every morning I count my blessings for the people and things that make me so. I do this in my head, rather than out loud, but I find it helps me to set up the day in the right frame. Some people do this at the end of the day. By the close of play my mind is already ensconced in a book, and as I drift off to sleep I am dreaming about what I have just read. I like nothing to interrupt that whiff of the imaginary world I have just left on the pages, now lingering behind my eyes before I lose consciousness, and probably snore. But even though I don't count my blessings at night, I’m always all too aware that things change as quickly and simply when a butterfly flaps its wings somewhere. Happiness is just transitory. Nothing lasts. So I'm grabbing me some now while I've got it.
What makes writers happy? Good pencils? A quiet room? Lots of stimulation and crazy people coming into and out of their lives so they have something to write about? Yes, yes, and yes. Writers are perhaps different to other people in that they live by way of observation more than most, constantly looking at the aerial view of each individual situation, listening a little more intently at what is said, why. But we are more similar to the rest of the world than others would give us credit. We just started out trying something, and like many others it grabbed us and now we are hooked. Like the sportsman, musician, dare I say it, even the odd career politician...and they are odd, aren’t they? We become driven by the goal, driven by the process, we are in it, on it, under it. Our obsession with writing that is. But where perhaps the writer can lose their happiness is when they start to consider the reader.
Some writers say just write what you want to write, not what you think others may want to read, or see at the cinema/theatre if you’ve written a script. This is good advice, I concur! Bad advice is to chase the next big thing, the latest trends. Because the risk is, you don’t write with your own voice. You don’t write from the heart, from that truth inside you that burns. If you squish yourself into another genre it might work for a while, but what if it wasn’t really you? And even if you are such a good writer and you manage to pull it off, you risk getting stuck writing stuff you don’t love. It might pay the bills. But we are all dead soon, and you’ll be dead inside before that. And you won't be happy before you die.
The best writers I have know write not just what they know, but what they feel, what creeps up inside them and grabs hold. That’s why it feels like they don’t hold anything back, aren’t afraid of pouring out their heart and soul into a book or script. Ultimately aren’t scared of upsetting people. That’s different from not caring about what people think. It’s just writing what they want to write. So write what you want to write. For only then do the boundaries get broken down, the new ground get trodden. For all the millions of books that have been written, isn’t that the biggest surprise that there are still surprises between the pages? For that to continue we all have to be different and embrace it. It’s what makes us happy. And ironically, the readers.