I Will Be Happy, Damn It

I’m a former Air Force officer, I left that job and Montana about a year ago, so I’ve been doing some reflecting.

In the past year, aside from a ton of writing, my main goal has been to get happy again.  I was once a happy-go-lucky type and I’d slowly become bitter through my nine years in the military.  So I resolved to never have a bad day.  It’s all my time now, I told myself, it’s up to me to make sure I’m happy.  I can no longer blame anyone else.

And I did it!  A whole year without a bad day.  But here’s the thing–it’s not like I wasn’t frustrated and it’s not like everything has gone my way.  The difference, is that I chose to be happy.  And you can too.

If I had to put it succinctly, I’d say a good life is simply a collection of moments lived well.  So then the key to a good life is simply enjoying each moment.  There you have it, the secret to life.

I think one of the biggest dileneators between man and animal is that we can choose to be happy.  Hear me out.

Like me, my dog is happiest when she’s writing.

A dog can be happy.  I can see my dog is loving life when we’re playing or I’m giving her attention, and I can tell she’s sad when I put her in the crate, scold her or she’s feeling sick.  But none of those things are within her control.  She has no concept of what happiness is.  We, as humans, can actually outthink our bodies.  We can tell when outside forces are affecting us, and we can literally say, “No.”

It’s not easy, but we can.

If you get a flat tire on the way to a weekend out of town you can either get pissed and curse the tire, or you can say, “I’m going to enjoy my weekend and this won’t stop it,” fix the tire and move on.

They say life isn’t about the destination but the journey. What if the journey is so ridiculous and discouraging that you wonder if the destination is actually worth it?  I say the journey is the journey.  You can complain that your butt hurts and car travel makes you nauseous or you can get some snacks, plug in an audiobook, and enjoy the scenery.

I think we have to overcome our own cynicism, to some extent.  I have a friend on his way to becoming a professional pilot and he’s worried.  What if he hates it?  What if it’s true that pilots are only glorified bus drivers?  All that stuff is just in his head, I say.  He already knows he enjoys flying.  So if it’s, “I’m just a glorified bus driver” vs “I get to fly through the sky on a daily basis, a career that Da Vinci only dreamed of, like a Greek god blazing across the earth on gossamer wings”…which one do you think should he pick?

Comedian Louis C.K. provides some insight on the topic.

I’m not naive enough to say everything is your choice. Like you can get kicked in the balls on a daily basis and say, “I’m still happy!”  So control what you can and roll with the rest.  Get out of bad situations, do your best to enter good ones.  That’s what I did with the Air Force job.  I’m sad to say, it got me down in a major way.  I don’t hate the military or anything like that, but do I hate what I did?  Absolutely.  I was a nuclear missile officer–a Missilier, if you like made-up words–which I firmly believe is the worst job an officer can have.  I was frustrated, overtaxed, undervalued, and perpetually tired.

Beyond the pale
Feb, 2011. No, that’s not the flash. I was that pale; what do you expect? I worked underground. There were no tan lines on my body. And this is on a happy day, my birthday, yet still I look like a freshly exhumed corpse. Here’s what I look like now.

I’ll save that missile talk for another day.  Today’s about being happy.

I created this blog post while I was on a run, as a discussion in my head, after things were looking up.  I started off tired and feeling like crap, so I told myself to enjoy the sun, the breeze, and the way my body felt.  Then I grew happier.

That’s all it took.  Just outthink the negative and you too will be happy, damn it.

P.S. (If you want some awesome insight on feeling happy while running, I highly recommend Born to Run.  Maybe you can listen to it as an audiobook on your journey?)
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On Pigeonholing

I’m re-blogging this from Jessen D Chapman’s original Blog Post.  It’s being published on this site with permission of the blog’s author.  If you want to do the same, contact him.  He’s pretty cool about it.

While there are those who disagree with me, I think this article applies to film as well.  I love Jurassic Park, The Shawshank Redemption, The Good The Bad and the Ugly, and Stardust.  So why should I have to pick only one of their genres to write in?

Without further ado…

Pigeonholed?

Posted: 28 November 2011 by jdchap in General bloggery
Tags: , , , , , , , ,

I’ve heard the advice as a writer: Pigeonhole yourself.  It makes you easier to market, because you’re easier to categorize.

To which, I immediately reply: Go screw yourself.  Why should I want to be easily categorized?  As a writer, I get paid to be interesting.

And yet this way of thinking is pervasive.  When people pick up a James Patterson book, they have a certain expectation, the marketing gurus say.  You don’t want someone to read your book on the vacationing habits of wood elves, enjoy it, then seek out your second novel only to be completely shocked when it’s about a reformed pedophile, right?

Wrong.  I want people to read a book of mine, enjoy it, then seek out my next book because they enjoyed the writing.  I don’t give two shits whether or not they are fans of the genre.  If I ever write a book about vampires (and please kill me if I do), I do not feel obligated to continue writing about vampires until the end of time.  Although, now that I think about it, that could be a great twist on the tortured immortal trope.

You should know if you’ll like the writing based on if you like the writer.  You should know if you’ll like the subject matter based on the back cover, and by reviews from friends and critics.  That’s why those things exist.

Nevertheless, the feeling seems to be, by agents for sure, I need to be able to brand you.  Horror writer.  Thriller writer.  Romance writer.

So why is it, I can say my favorite books are 1984, Freakonomics, The Velveteen Rabbit and The Things They Carried, but I can’t have a book in the vein of each of these within my authorial cannon?

I figure you, as an emerging writer trying to establish yourself, can do one of two things and survive shunning from the pigeonholers:  One, come out swinging as a genre writer, and then use a pseudonym if you ever decide to break the mold later on.  Or two, write two very different books, both classified as “literature”, and gain a reputation as someone who breaks the mold.

Which do I choose?  I dunno, maybe both.  But the one thing I will NOT be doing, is writing with marketing in mind.