The Art of Happy

by Darcy Woods

It’s no secret. Talk to anyone who’s been in the publishing biz for a few laps around the sun, and you’ll probably hear a reoccurring theme. The tough times often outnumber the good times. Exponentially. Why? Because frankly, there are an exponential number of factors outside of an author’s control. Everything from rejections to bad reviews, agent splits, imprint shutdowns, etc., can wreak absolute havoc on a writer’s psyche. Leaving us crying and rocking in the corner while mopping away our tears with yesterday’s cold pizza. Which we will then eat and you’ll pretend not to judge.

But there is another way. I don’t mean emotional suppression. Your feelings are valid and make you human. Congratulations, you have a soul! No, what I’m instead going to suggest is that once you’ve properly grieved, you try this one thing. I call it White-Knuckling Joy. Sounds like a martial arts move, right? It isn’t, but often requires the mental discipline of one. White-Knuckling Joy means holding on to the great things that happen — big and small — and celebrating them to their very fullest!

What are the “great things” worthy of celebrating? That’s simple. ANYTHING. Anything in your writing world that has brought you a sense of accomplishment or happiness. Some of my own examples:

  • Agent and editor requests.
  • Agent and editor rejections — but the real nice ones that gave me faith in humanity.
  • Finaling in a contest.
  • NOT finaling in a contest. (No joke. I’ve done Google Hangout with writing pals over a glass of champagne just celebrating that we had the guts to put our work out there. )
  • My first great review.
  • My first utterly crap review. Because hey, I earned my stripes as a writer!
  • Remembering to shower AND put on deodorant.
  • Forgetting to shower OR put on deodorant. Because I was that caught up in my WIP.

See a pattern here? With a few minor exceptions, I almost always twist a “negative” into a positive. It’s one of the perks of having an imagination. Which you have in spades! You get to recreate your own reality and shift the lens on it. Does this happen instantaneously? Rarely. It might take days or even weeks, but it’s a mental leap worth taking.

Hi, my name is Darcy Woods and
I’m a bona fide Joy Junkie.

Believe me, there are PLENTY of times I want to (and do) wallow. But the sooner I can get myself to see the glass as half full — preferably with champagne — the more I’m able to regain control and stop allowing outside factors to dictate my well-being. Happiness doesn’t exist because of an absence of sadness. It exists despite it. In other words, happiness is a choice.

So I want you to think back over the last month. What have you accomplished? Did you finish that chapter that was nearly the death of you? Untangle that messy Cat’s Cradle of a plot? Or maybe you conquered that query where you managed to distill 100,000 words into 250 compelling, concise ones?

Whatever that writing milestone or inch-stone might be, I beg of you, CELEBRATE IT! And whether that celebration comes in the form of a bottle with bubbles, a bookstore, or that Netflix series you’ve been dying to binge—do it. Now. Because this, dear friends, is what will sustain and nourish you. Especially during the famines of joy.

So in the spirit of celebrating, please share with us: What’s YOUR most recent writing accomplishment? The Sweethearts would love to cheer you on because we suspect you’ve forgotten how magnificent you are!!!

27 thoughts on “The Art of Happy

  1. Aw, I love this! It’s hard to remember that this advice applies all through your writing career. I just recently tackled a chapter that had been plaguing me for weeks. It’s not perfect, but it’s done and it feels like a weight has been lifted. Definitely worth celebrating! 🙂

    1. Oh, Robin, I am SO proud of you for finishing that chapter–even if it is imperfect! You did it! And that is definitely parade-worthy. 😉

  2. Really enjoyed this post, Darcy. From the first time we met (has it really been four years already???) I’ve never gotten anything but positive vibes and smiles from you. Sure I know we all have our gloomy days, but I so agree with you that happiness is a choice.

    My most recent writing accomplishment was meeting a looming deadline to turn a manuscript into my editor, one I was gnawing on my fingers over, afraid I’d miss a deadline for the first time. I buckled down and managed to get it turned in three days early, so it was happy, happy me. 🙂

    1. Ahh! See, Sandy? You blew your own mind! (Although anyone who knows you never doubted for a second your tenacity would see you through!) Please promise if you didn’t before, you’ll plan a special something to recognize how awesome you are. Because you are INCREDIBLE, my friend! <3

  3. Love this, Darcy. My most recent accomplishment was simply writing every day this week as my twins get ready to become Freshmen in college in two weeks. It was hard to work knowing they’re going to be gone soon, but I also needed them to know that I’m going to be okay once they leave (they’re really worried about that!). So today I’m taking joy in balancing writing on deadline while in the midst of a major life change.

    1. Finding balance in writing while simultaneously processing a major life change?! I bow to you, my wise, dear friend! That is phenomenal and YOU are phenomenal for having the wherewithal to do it! Go, Sharon, gooooo! <3

  4. This completely speaks to my day. This past month, I got my very first full request from an agent. It helps to remember that I’ve accomplished more than I often think I have.

    1. OMG, Karen, yessssss! Tunnel vision is a common issue for so many of us. Especially when success is a moving target. So ABSOLUTELY pause (with frequency!) and appreciate the many amazing feats along your journey. And your first full request is an AWESOME feat! Now go do something special in honor of that. 😉 Write on!

  5. I suck at this so bad. I’m really process oriented with a tendency to dwell so I waver between stuck and looking ahead to the next step instead of celebrating the now.

    But I just finished the meat of the very rough revision and ordered myself a traveler’s notebook from Etsy to celebrate. I’ve been stuck in the query blahs and what felt like a never ending revision for months, and I needed a win really bad. So while I would usually wait until after I’d sent to betas, then talk myself down to lower price point, I just did it.

    1. SO. DAMN. PROUD. Kate, what you just did is a colossal milestone! And the more you can recognize (and pause and reward) these accomplishments AS they happen, the more empowered you’ll feel as an author. *pinkie swear* You’re doing fantastic! Never forget that. 🙂

  6. Darcy!
    Thanks for posting this. We all get caught in what to do next (triple type A personalities have a tendency to do that) that we forget about what we have accomplished. I finished my MS and will be sending it to my editor very soon. Yay me!

    1. And here I thought triple A was just for broke down cars! Heh. Toasting you and your many, MANY accomplishments, AE! And extra cheers for every time you pause to recognize your own greatness. Now go give yourself a giant hug. That’s from me. <3

  7. Great post, Darcy! I managed to finish my current MFA assignment EARLY – and did it while ON VACATION. I’m still not sure how that happened, and hopefully no relationships were ignored in the process. On the flip side, I have given up on my Christmas novella deadline, because, well, MFA and vacation. Can’t do it all, and sometimes it’s okay to celebrate the fact that one is not Wonder Woman. Human and flawed and fallible is fine, and is in fact the seed of much humor and laughter. Thanks for helping me see the positives in the negatives! Love you, wise friend!!!

    1. Oh, Leslie, you continue to amaze!!! You deserve all the parades! And I love your take on being human *almost* as much as I love you. 🙂 Cheers, my sweet friend!

  8. Awesome post, Darcy! I love the description of “White-Knuckling Joy.” My most recent writing accomplishment was finishing a short story that took more months to write than a long story. That was a test of my tenacity and no fault of the story. I love the characters but each word written and revised felt like a mega challenge. Now I’m celebrating by watching Miss Fisher’s Murder Mysteries 🙂

    1. Big congrats for finishing the longest short you’ve ever written, Jacqui!!! Every story seems to “test” us in new ways, doesn’t it? But I have zero doubt, your tenaciousness and talent will see you through EVERY time! Enjoy every minute of your much deserved murder mystery binge! 😉

  9. Fabulous post, Darcy! I so love your ability to stay positive no matter what. I’m celebrating that I’ve finally overcome inertia and started making progress on the edits from my freelance editor and a trusted first reader for my next book.

    1. That’s a wonderful cause for celebration, Gail! So proud of you!!! And believe me, I certainly have my dark days, but the sooner I can “see the light” AKA: recognize even the SMALLEST accomplishments, the better I feel. <3

  10. Great post, Darcy! I’ve always admired your buoyant enthusiasm and sense of humor.

    Here’s my story. At a not very well attended book signing, a reader had driven a hour in bad Houston traffic on a Saturday afternoon to get a signed copy of my latest book as well as the three books in the series for her mother. When I told her I hoped she enjoyed it, she admitted to having downloaded and read it on release day–and loving it. Nothing could have made me happier!!

    1. Aww, Lark! This just gave me all the warm fuzz!!! These are the moments we truly need to white-knuckle, aren’t they?! It makes the struggles feel so worth it. Thanks for sharing this beautiful reminder of how our words matter! <3

  11. You have definitely nailed one of the most important aspects of this crazy-pants business– focus on the positive! I find that I am trying something new and scary with each book I write, whether it’s trying male POV or making an antagonist into the main character of my next book. I frequently face the feeling of “I can’t doooooo this.” So my most recent accomplishment is “pulling it off.” Somehow. LOL.

    1. That is a fantastic feat, Amy! Now be sure to carve out some time for that much deserved celebration. 😉 So proud of you! And I’m so with you on trying new and scary in my writing!!! I figure each book should feel like sky diving with a questionable parachute. The second writing becomes mundane or easy is probably when I should pack it in! <3

  12. Darcy, I’m printing out your post and putting it on my HAPPY board to add to my joy-at-a-glance display. It’s so easy to get bogged down, and you’ve demonstrated how easy it is to turn things around into stuff that should be celebrated. As for me, I’ve put on my big girl pants and entered my latest manuscript into Pitch Wars!!! Even if nothing comes of it, I’m cracking open a can of awesome to toast my courage for putting my word baby out there.

    1. Is it cheesy to say it brings me joy to know I get to be with you daily on your HAPPY board??? 😀 Oh, Bonnie, you can’t see me, but I’m giving you a standing O for putting your wonderful story out there! I am rooting for you! But no matter what, you’ve accomplished something many will never have the big ovaries to do. I believe in you and your words, my dear friend!!! <3 Cheers!

  13. I love this post so much! I’m definitely a celebrate-every-small-victory person — it’s the only way to get through the hard times.

    My small victories this month are getting close to the end of my latest first draft (I’m determined to finish this month but don’t want to say it’s done YET) and coming up with a shiny new idea that I LOVE and have already outlined. <3

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