What makes me happy? Could it be the same thing that brings a smile to your face? It’s a trick question really because I have discovered there’s no simple answer. And the older I get, the more confused I become about the nature of happiness and its pursuit.
But I do know that this writing lark is something that brings light to my life. And third-party validation is what makes it all worthwhile. The kick from writing something that someone else gets, that moves them, or elicits their approval – well, that’s magic.
I have kept a journal for years – I’m often to be heard banging on about how good it is for your mental health to keep a written account of your life. I keep different styles of journal at different times; the latest, a kind of bullet journal, is tracking my attempts to get fit, how many kilometres I walk every day, how many portions of fruit and veg, how many cups of green tea I’ve managed to finish (why is something so good for you so revolting?). I’m even tracking the weather, which is always interesting to look back on, books I’ve read, writing projects I’ve worked on, people I’ve seen.
But the bottom line is that my journal, and what’s in it, will always remain PRIVATE. It’s for my eyes only. I write down stuff to get it out of my head, and I have no intention of sharing it with anyone.
But all the other writing I do – articles, blogs, poems, short stories, flash fiction and now another (so far, half-finished) novel – I’m keen for people to read. I want to make a connection with other human beings, and in so doing, make myself (and hopefully others) happy. Of course, writing is only one of the things that makes me happy – petting my cats, eating Marmite on toast, walking the dog, cooking vegetarian meals for my family, weekends away, driving too fast, music, reading, winning at Scrabble, all these things also bring me joy.
Just lately I’ve had a hell of a run of happiness, with one thing after another in my writing life resulting in ear to ear grinning and a life-affirming glow of satisfaction; I’d like to think it’s sustainable, but while I’m generally a glass half-full person, I can see that this level of good news is unlikely to continue ad nauseum. But I’m loving it while it’s here!
Here’s a glimpse of some of my happiness triggers recently. Interestingly, a lot of them are poetry-based, although as a writer, poetry isn’t all that I do: I have just spent a creative week at the Tyrone Guthrie Centre in Monaghan; I have a book (a collection of poetry) at the proof stages, which will be launched at Strokestown Festival in May; Poet Eavan Boland has chosen one of my poems for publication in the next Poetry Ireland Review; one of my poems has been chosen for inclusion in the 2018 Strokestown Poetry Anthology; I have the opportunity to launch my collection at Boyle Arts Festival at the end of July, with the lovely Jane Clarke doing the honours; I’ve won a contract to deliver 20 hours of creative writing classes; and the icing on the cake, I have been nominated (for the second time) for a Hennessy Literary Award.
Yes, definitely happy, happy, happy – that’s me!