Books: The Happiness Advantage, Part II

(You can find Part I here.)

No, I'm still not done with this book, but I've read some more of it and have some more thoughts.

I'm pleased to be able to say, I have found one suggestion of Achor's that I'm giving a try. He says one way to be happier in one's life and career is to re-train your mind to look for the positive instead of the negative. Now, I like to think I see things pretty clearly, but I know there are times I'm seeing more bad than good in my world, so I'm going to follow Achor's recommendation that I write down three good things that happen each day. They don't have to be huge things, just three upbeat moments or small blessings or whatever. The idea is eventually your mind starts looking for these good things, and your outlook in general becomes rosier. I started yesterday, so we'll see what happens.

Still, I continue not to be 100% sold on some of the things I'm reading. It's not that I doubt the science or dispute what Achor is saying; I'm just not entirely clear how or if it applies to my situation. Take, for example, the whole learned helplessness discussion. I will readily admit I have learned helplessness in my career. But it hasn't been for lack of trying or optimism. I have written and submitted and been rejected. I have rewritten and edited and submitted and been rejected. I have put aside those stories and scripts and tried new ideas, only to be rejected. And I've rewritten those . . . and been rejected. I've taken things step by step, always with the idea that somewhere out there is the right fit for my work, or that with a little more polish my writing will find its place, but . . . At what point, Achor, does one throw in the towel? Or, to use his falling metaphor from the book, at what point is a person too tired and bruised to get up again?

It's frustrating to basically be told in a roundabout way to "just keep trying." And I don't think I've been unreasonably optimistic, either, which is one thing Achor warns against. It's sort of the whole: "You'll never succeed if you don't try, BUT . . . don't get your hopes up too high, either" argument. Thanks there, coach, but I didn't really need a book to tell me that.

I haven't been completely unsuccessful, of course; I've had plays produced and published, and I've had stories and poems published, and I've had moderate success with self-publishing. And I am able to look at these as stepping stones. I'm just not clear on how much water I still have to cross, and these rocks are slippery.

Achor goes on to talk about how feeling in control goes a long way toward reducing stress and achieving success in our goals. (This is where I currently am in the book, the discussion of the Zorro Circle.) This, too, is shaky ground for me. I do feel in control of my work itself—my output, how good it is, my talent in general (assuming I have any)—but in order for me to succeed on the level I most desire to succeed, well, others have control of that: publishers, producers, the people who can "make it happen." Again, I've done it for myself to an extent by self-publishing some of my work, but until I have enough money to make my own movie or can bribe a television showrunner to take me in . . . (And don't think I haven't thought about it.) I do understand it's all about networking and connections, and I've tried that too, but you'd be surprised how few people are interested in a nobody. Even the other nobodies aren't too keen. I think the idea is we're supposed to help each other, but a lot of us creative types can be flaky, and then again a lot of us just don't know where to start. Anyway, the upshot of all this is: it's hard to feel in control when a lot of what you do and/or whether or not you'll get to do it rests in others' hands. I'll keep chipping away, like so many other independent writers, but I'm really not sure how much success I can hope to have. And that's not me being pessimistic. That's reality.

We'll see what happens when I attend the Austin Film Festival next month and the San Francisco Writers Conference next February. These will be my first major events, my first real opportunities to network in person as opposed to online.

More to come as I continue to read.

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