Oh, I love the goal-setting, resolution-making days. I love that unique energy that fizzes around the end of the year.
How's your 2016 looking? Do you have some really big plans?
High five. I do too. Dreaming so big for this new year! It's going to be amazing—I can't even wait.
But lately I've been realizing that, in this storm of resolution-making, it's easy to overlook one of the most important parts of our writing lives.
It's the thing that is absolutely critical to your happiness and well-being as a writer. The thing that can transform the quality of your writing life entirely.
It's this super-obvious truth, but it's really easy to miss.
Ready? Here it is:
The quality of your writing life, and my writing life, isn't really defined by the Big Moments.
You know. Those big things like: Finishing the manuscript. Publishing the manuscript. Sending out the story. Sending out the query. Getting an agent. Getting a publisher. Hitting a sales goal. Hitting an income goal.
The big stuff. It doesn't define us.
Those moments are super important, obviously. Some of them are turning points. Some of them are just events that are nice but then fade away. Some of them, certainly, adjust how we'll be going forward.
So, please: I don't mean to say that they aren't important.
But what I do want to point out is: while the Big Moments are worth moving toward, our writing lives are actually made up of days.
Little days of doing our writing.
That is what the vast majority of our time is going to look like.
The writer + the project + the keyboard + a lot of hours over a long period of time.
That's a writing life.
Which means that: the quality of our writing life will be immensely and overwhelmingly shaped by the quality of our writing days.
And I don't just mean writing excellent quality.
I mean having a happy writing day. A fulfilling writing day.
Getting up from a writing session, whether it was twenty minutes or four hours, and thinking: That was good work. That was actually fun! That was creatively fulfilling.
You know what I mean?
I've realized in my own self that it is so tempting to focus on the HUGE things that I need and want to move forward.
It can be really easy to make the writing days slaves to the big writing moments.
And then suddenly, I have a long string of frenetic days. I'm running around feeling stressed and crazy, trying to beat myself into becoming a more disciplined person, all in the service of getting to the next Big Thing, the next Big Goal, whatever that is.
Aiming for a big goal is really nice.
But using a long string of really sucky, miserable days, in order to get to that big goal? Not so much. Not so nice.
So I've fallen out of love with that way of thinking. With having really horrible days, all in the service of a really important goal. I've just stopped wanting to do that.
Don't get me wrong: Goals are vital. (Seriously, please read The One Thing if you haven't yet. You'll loooove it.)
Goals are wonderful. But your individual writing days are EQUALLY vital, wonderful, beautiful, and important.
Especially the ones that don't feel important.
My writing life is made up of a very long string of very un-flashy writing days.
I don't have any legitimately Big Moments yet, but I do have some highlights. Getting a call to say that my short story was chosen for first place. Monetary awards for words I'd written, work I'd done. A few times when I was publicly cheered on for what I do and how I do it.
That was nice. That was pleasant.
And that had absolutely no bearing on the quality of my writing days either before or after the event.
It still came down to me, alone, with the words, with the insecurities, trying to work.
I think that when we seek the next Big Writing Moment, it's pretty tempting to believe that the quality of our writing days will magically shift and change. They will absorb all that bigness and now be beautiful.
That we will be stunningly confident. That we will write with poise. That we will look really good while we do it. (All good hair days, from here on out.)
And while there might be some truth in some of that, and while opportunities do create a new direction, I think that, at the base of it, the quality of our days is really up to us.
This is good news, by the way.
It means that, if you want a really happy writing life, seek a really happy writing day.
Not agents, publishers, movie deals, multibook contracts, six-figure sales, bestseller lists.
Aim for excellence, by all means. Focus on your goals, and godspeed.
But if you want a quality shift, look at your days, not your goals.
Nicole Johnson wrote, "The quality of my life is determined by one thing: my attitude toward it."
Whoa. You get to pick how awesome your writing life is. No one else gets to dictate that: just you.
So, if I could make a suggestion: Choose happy, and choose it right now. Love your writing life because it's your writing life.
Not for the things it will get you, the attention it might win you, or any kind of glamour that might be down the road. Not for the big moments.
Love it because you love words. Love it because it's challenging and enjoyable and incredible.
Be happy today, be brave today, and write your heart out.
That will be the biggest and best change you can make.
This idea—that we really live in the small moments and the days, and not in the big, once-in-a-lifetime moments—was first introduced to me in a talk by Paul David Tripp. (He was talking about this principle in terms of marriage and spiritual life, but it's completely true for writing lives as well.)
I was shocked by how much I thought the big moments mattered, and how much I thought the little moments didn't. Totally backwards, haha!