Give Your Writing the Happiness Advantage
No. 100 | By Christine Carron
In The Way of Goodjelly masterclass, I teach a strategic blueprint for the writing adventure that has three key pillars, or resolutions. Land your Jam, which is all about using smart process to add ease and flow to your writing adventure. Own your Oomph, which is about cultivating (and reclaiming if necessary) your power and agency on the writing adventure. And finally, Kind your Mind, which is all about purposely choosing the tone and quality of your writing adventure.
I created the Way of Goodjelly framework based on twenty-five plus years’ experience of coaching individuals and teams on how to amplify their productivity. None of the three resolutions are optional in my book—if you want to achieve healthy, sustainable productivity on the writing adventure, or in any creative endeavor.
Many times in the corporate world, I had to hold steady against pressures to overload team members, treat them dismissively, and act as if they were nothing more than cogs to be used and discarded. Harshness, in some corporate minds, is the formula for productivity.
Built on Experience
What I find to be true, however, is that the greatest (and most sustainable) formula for productivity is when individuals are challenged but not dumped on, treated respectfully, and valued for their smarts, creativity, and problem-solving chops.
Kindness, not harshness, is the necessary ingredient to the formula I use. It is kind to respect people. It is kind to value them.
That’s why, when I transferred my corporate experience into the Way of Goodjelly framework, kindness got its own pillar. Interestingly, like in the corporate world, the idea of Kind Your Mind is often met with skepticism, or at least nervousness, from writers.
I get it.
Kindness doesn’t seem like a smart strategy in a context like writing where one of the most common bits of advice is to “get a thick skin.” That phrase implies that the writing context is so harsh and toxic that we have to dull our senses, even cut off our feelings, to be successful. Kind of makes one worry. Like maybe along with that thick skin, we're going to need armor, a few shields, and an entire wardrobe of swords to cleave a path to writerly success.
That level of battening down the proverbial hatches gets in the way of productivity. Hunkering-down mode does not inspire creativity or flow.
Even so, I’m not interested in taking on the entire writing context. What I am interested in is helping writers not bring that environment inside of them. Or, perhaps more accurately, to detox themselves from that harshness.
That is what Kind the Mind is all about in the end. To take charge of the way we treat ourselves on the writing adventure. To unhook ourselves from the (false) perspective that to get our writing done we must be forcefully tough, push constantly, and talk to ourselves harshly.
Validated by Research
I always get a little “yes!” thrill when I find research that validates a position I’ve taken that seems to buck the norm. A growing mountain of happiness research validates my lived experience on productivity and kindness.
According to happiness researcher Shawn Achor (highly recommend his ~13 minute TED Talk), when your brain is in a more positive state you are more likely to be “creative, intelligent and productive.” That is what researchers like Achor call the Happiness Advantage.
What most of us are taught is that we must work hard, achieve some level of success, and then we can be happy. In their article The Benefits of Frequent Positive Affect: Does Happiness Lead to Success? researchers Sonja Lyubomirsky, Laura King, and Ed Diener consider the belief that happiness is a consequence of success:
“positive emotions, as well as chronic happiness, are often associated with resources and characteristics that parallel success and thriving—that is, desirable behaviors and cognitions such as sociability, optimism, energy, originality, and altruism. Although our conclusions run counter to the belief that successful outcomes and desirable characteristics are primarily the causes, rather than the consequences, of happiness, a surprisingly large amount of evidence now appears to challenge this belief.”
Happiness, in other words, creates success. Get happy first. And the trappings of success are more likely to follow.
Achor asserts that we have to stop pushing happiness “over the cognitive horizon.” Meaning that we must stop saying, I’ll be happy when . . . because when we do that, our brain keeps moving the goal posts.
I’ll be happy when I get my first draft done. Okay, well, I will really be happy when I get an agent. Oh, maybe happiness will come when I get my first book deal. Or, actually I’ll be happy when there’s a bidding war for my book. Or it becomes a bestseller. Or I win the Pulitzer.
That is what writerly happiness looks like when we push it over the cognitive horizon. We can never get to happy. Achor, in that same Ted Talk, also says that most of us assume:
"that our external world is predictive of our happiness levels, when in reality if I know everything about your external world I can only predict 10% of your long term happiness. 90% of your long term happiness is predicted not by the external world but by the way your brain processes the world. And if we change our formula for happiness and success, what we can do is change the way that we . . . affect reality. What we found is that only 25% of job successes are predicted by IQ. 75% of job successes are predicted by your optimism levels, your social support, and your ability to see stress as a challenge instead of as a threat."
Choose your Focus
So no matter how harsh the writing context is, it has a relatively minor influence on our writerly adventure—if we keep it in perspective. The bulk of our morale, our momentum, our productivity, and, yes, our success as writers springs from internal factors.
This is why Kind your Mind is no joke. Not a nice to have. Not some touchy-feely claptrap. Kind your Mind is a smart, research-based truth. A strategic advantage.
It may go against everything you currently believe about how to make yourself successful as a writer. And it is easy to spin up on all the ways the writing adventure is hard, harsh, and unfair, because there is so much out there that is arguably hard, harsh, and unfair.
Kinding your mind is not about denying any of that, but simply focusing on what will actually help you navigate that reality with greater ease, calm, and happiness.
Will it be a little scary to shift into strategic kindness? Uhm, heck yes. It will take time, courage, and patience to free your internal context from the external one. The key is not to try to do kindness alone. You want kindness that is supported by both process and power—those other two pillars of the Way of Goodjelly.
When you have process, power, and kindness working together, the transformation will be both visceral and noticeable to those around you. You will be, and they will see, a writer fully in charge of themself, their writing, and of their entire writing adventure. A happiness advantage, indeed!