Planning For Happiness

Planning For Happiness

Lauren's First Birthday

Lauren’s First Birthday

This year my greatest birthday wish came months before my birthday.  It was to be out of the hospital to celebrate my special day.  This week, on Tuesday, is my birthday.  I will be turning 29 and entering the last year of my twenties.  After 11 long, hard, and often frightening weeks in the hospital, I am very relieved and grateful to say that I am home from the hospital to celebrate.

It feels strange to know that my twenties are winding down, and I will soon be in my thirties.  Thirties sounds rather grown-up, and, in a lot of ways, I hardly feel like a grown up yet.  More than that I’ve spent a large part of my twenties feeling like I was failing to live up to my own expectations of myself.  I wrote about this last year in my post Living Up to Teenage Expectations (Ten Years Later).

What I began to see last summer when I wrote that post and that I now see so clearly is that I was so busy feeling like a failure for all the ways I didn’t measure up to where I thought I’d be or should be by now, that I couldn’t see how successful my life really is.  And more importantly I was robbing myself of the satisfaction and happiness that could come with that success.

Lauren's First Birthday Cake

Lauren’s First Birthday Cake

Life often doesn’t turn out how we plan as young adults.  As we grow older, we find out what God has planned for us.  And the wonderful thing is, though we cannot see it now, that plan is grander than anything we could have imagined for ourselves as teenagers and will ultimately lead us to happiness.  So my new plan is to abandon my own old expectations and put my trust in my Heavenly Father.  Trust that he knows what is best for me.  Trust that he can see the whole picture.  Trust that by following his plan I will be lead back to Him.  And trust that in doing so there will be more blessings along the way than I could have possibly imagined.

What a blessing it is that God is no respecter of persons.  While I, for the last decade, was so worried that I wasn’t in the right career, living in the right place, having the right romance, and achieving the right things, God and my Savior Jesus Christ were loving me for exactly who I was.  And they love me now for exactly who I am.  This frees me to give up all those old expectations and just move boldly forward with the knowledge that if I put my trust in the Lord, I will find eternal happiness.

Lauren's Fourth Birthday

Lauren’s Fourth Birthday

But what does this look like on a practical, day-to-day level?  The first thing that come to mind is I must make every effort to live my life according to His example.  The basics of prayer, church attendance, scripture study, and service are His standards to live by.  Beyond that I can create my life within the context of what’s happening now rather than what I thought I wanted or should be doing at this point.  So instead of trying to force the old dream of a career in film that just doesn’t fit anymore, I can relish in my new found love for novel writing and work towards getting published with passion and gusto.

Finally it’s absolutely critical to live in a space of constant gratitude.  I am so so so blessed to be alive after the last hospitalization I just had, how can I waste time worrying what a teenage version of myself would have thought of me?  Life is too lovely, too perfect, and too short for anything less.  This year on my birthday I will remember that.

Avoiding Writer’s Guilt

Avoiding Writer’s Guilt

WritingWriter’s guilt.  That horrible feeling when you experience when you fail to write.  I’ve long struggled with writers guilt subsequent to writing only sporadically.  But as I approach the end of the first draft of my first novel, I’m finally getting into the groove of writing regularly.  Here are some of the techniques I’ve employed that have helped me get writing and avoid writers guilt.

  1. Make promises.
    I found that making promises on a regular basis extremely helpful.  I make weekly writing promises and promises for each writing session.  It helps to make these promises in a tangible and measurable form so you know if you met them.  This is why I prefer to make my writing promises in number of words, pages, and scenes written rather than in time spent writing.  The former is much more concrete because you know when you’ve written a page, but it’s easy to sit for a hour “writing” while only actually typing for a few minutes.
  2. Hold yourself accountable.
    Promises are somewhat meaningless if you don’t hold yourself accountable to them.  This may seem rather obvious, but it’s easy to fall into the trap of making excuses to yourself about why you haven’t written.  But if you are committed to your writing, you owe it to yourself to meet your own writing promises and goals.  That being said, when you fall short, don’t waste time beating yourself up.  Acknowledge that you haven’t kept your promise, and then make a new one that you can keep.
  3. Don’t wait until you’re in the mood to write.
    When you are serious about your writing, you simply cannot afford to wait until you feel like writing to write.  If you wait to feel in the writing mood, you might never or rarely write.  Remember that your writing is more important than your feelings about writing.  Besides, I’ve found the quality of my writing has little to do with how “in the mood” I’ve felt at the time.  And most of the time when I force myself to get started, the writing is flowing before long.
  4. Schedule writing time.
    We live busy lives, and our schedules fill up quickly.  So it’s easy to run out of time to write.  I try to avoid this pitfall by scheduling time on my calendar just for writing.  This also helps me avoid only writing when I’m in the mood.
  5. Shut down distractions.
    Computers are great for writing, but they are also big sources of distraction.  When you are entering into scheduled writing time, shut down other programs on you computer like chat and email clients that might distract and interrupt you.  Also turn off televisions and silence cellphones.  There are also writing programs that help eliminate distractions with features like full screen mode.
  6. Try a change of scenery.
    If you really can’t get any writing done in your normal writing spot, try changing locations.  I’ve found that going out to write forces me to both schedule writing time and get away from writing distractions like the internet.
  7. Gather support.
    Writing may be a solitary activity, but you don’t always have to go it alone.  Other people can be a great source of encouragement and support.  I have an amazing writing critique group that helps me maintain a writing structure and gives me awesome feedback on my writing on a regular basis.  If in person writing groups don’t work for you, look to writing communities online.  There are writing chat rooms, forums and websites to be had.
  8. Keep at it.
    Don’t give up!  There are still times when I fail to write as often or prolifically as I would like, but I keep going back to it, and my persistence ultimately keeps the worst of my writer’s guilt at bay.