How much of your time do you spend feeling anxious? How much of your time do you spend feeling bored? How much energy do you put into seeking out a true state of happiness?
For all three questions, my answer is a whopping lot!
I’ve started and stopped this baby of a blog several times over in the past several years, but when I put some semi-serious effort into it a couple of years ago it was because I was frustrated at work, harried at home, and felt like I was not fulfilling my true calling, which I’ve long believed was writing (whether I’m actually inherently good at it or not). A friend encouraged me to find some time for my true love, and here we are.
I don’t bother with plug ins, or learning the world of SEO, or fancy graphics, or truly building a following, and sometimes that makes me feel like I’m quite the failure at this endeavor. But still, I write. My new virtual pal Ellen Hendrickson enlightened me as to why this is the case. Writing is how I find my flow.
I recently stumbled upon a great podcast in my voracious search for Happiness called The Savvy Psych. Amongst other topics, that I will likely be inspired to discuss in this forum at a later date, Ellen talks about Flow as a way to find meaning and fulfillment, providing Ten Tips on how to get into the state that lies somewhere between anxiety and boredom (but in a positive way!). It was obvious from the start that this whole writing thing? It’s not only my jam, but it’s my flow. Here’s why:
- Writing is intrinsically rewarding. Let’s be upfront and honest about this. I’m not getting a paycheck for this gig. Not even a little swag. There is no reward for typing up these missives other than getting it off my chest, and in the process, hopefully finding a couple of people who read them and nod or relate to what I’m saying. It just feels good to get it on paper and put out there.
- There are clear rules and goals. At the end of each writing session, I’ve actually created something. It requires things like grammar, punctuation, and some semblance of cohesive thoughts. There is a finish line, and crossing it is rewarding.
- It’s a challenge. Writing is something I’ve always done, but it isn’t always easy, and the first draft usually isn’t the finished product. It’s also not frustratingly difficult, but the desire to end up with a few paragraphs that someone may enjoy consuming gives me enough motivation to work hard to make it darn good.
- It helps me focus and feels important. I have something to say. Why keep it to myself? Like most working moms, my brain works at a mile a minute- the suffocating to do list and all the ways in which I’m failing at life are constantly running through my mind. Sitting down and constructing an essay is my way of quieting the noise for just a little while, and speaking my message feels like a worthwhile use of my scarce free time.
- It takes (at least some) skill. Some people say they like reading my words, and insist writing doesn’t come easily to them. I think I’m pretty honest, a little funny, and mostly logical. Hey, I was a published poet in high school and won the English award upon graduation. I may be a little rusty after a couple decades and several kids, but I can’t play an instrument, I’m a total klutz athletically, and I think I am kinda ok at this writing thing.
- I get feedback, which keeps me motivated and moving forward. There’s a thin line around defining my success by how many followers I have (not many, but I’m thankful for each and every one of you!) , or how many likes each entry gets (not many but the support keeps me going!). I’m not going to let the lack of going viral by now get the best of me, and the promise of maybe someday saying something that people want to forward to their friends is enough for now.
- I am getting better with time, working toward mastery. I go back and read my early entries- maybe someday I’ll torture my new followers with some reruns- but I think I’m discovering my voice and a bit more authenticity as this adventure continues. I’m working toward that differentiated niche that people like Wonderoak, The Motherwell, and Pioneer Woman have found.
- I can do it on my own & free of interruption. I work on a trading desk, which may be meaningless to most of you, but that equates to no privacy and a ton of constant shouting, debating, and other forms of aggressive communication all day long. It’s the furthest thing from a cubicle career and I don’t get much time to myself outside of the commute to and fro the office (hence the name of this blog!). My only chance of achieving a state of flow is the 2 hours per day when I’m truly alone and won’t be disturbed by whining or neediness (via kids or colleagues/clients).
- It spills over into other parts of my life. I’ve found a way to work the balance I find in my flow into my work/life balance. My personal writing has helping me lift and shift the happiness I get from the effort into other parts of my life. I’ve found a way to make content an important criteria for success in my day job, and my appreciation for a good storyteller has made reading with my kids an important bonding exercise with each child at any and every age.
It’s true that I took some time off from blogging last year (we’ll talk about burnout another day- thanks Ellen!), but fleeing from flow wasn’t a constructive use of my time. I strongly encourage you to think about what brings your energy up, gets your blood pumping. Find a way to find your flow, and then just go with it.