Think Positive

Michelle D. Argyle shares her experiences with thinking positive as an author.

Good Pride vs. Bad, Evil, Life-Ruining Pride

Recently, I decided to “stay off Facebook”. I haven’t deleted my account, and I’m not going to, but for me “staying off Facebook” means I’m not interacting much on there or going on there to look at other people’s news … basically because I’m jealous of everyone right now. I’m jealous of all my friends, and their friends who aren’t even my own friends. I’m jealous of people’s book deals, and book tours, and covers, and really great sales ranks, and vacations they take that I’ll never be able to afford, like, ever. I’m jealous of it all, and irrationally angry. I seem to be unhappy with my life, even though I have so many things and should be grateful. My logical brains KNOWS this. It knows to stop being jealous and be happy for others, but my irrational side keeps screaming at that other side to shut the heck up and mope around in misery. So I’ve moped around for quite a while now. I haven’t been writing. I’ve been eating healthy. I’ve been exercising, but I haven’t been entirely content. So I opened up an Instagram account and have decided to feed things through there, for the most part. Instagram seems a lot more doable for me these days, even though I’ve never really used it before.

I WANT to be connected to other people. I want to keep up. I want to be happy and interact, but I’m beginning to realize that as an author I’m not obligated to anyone for anything, which is a hard lesson for an author to learn, I think. When we put our work out there, it’s easy to feel obligated to please others with more work, better work, faster work. It’s easy to feel obligated to keep yourself out there, interacting, happy, happy, happy, happy. But as I’ve stepped away lately, I have seen and been reminded by a good friend that popularity and money simply do not matter in the grand scheme of things. The writing I produce and the quality and pride with which I put it out there? That matters. It’s all that matters.

So here’s to letting go of the bad pride — the kind that keeps me depressed and chained down by comparing myself to others — and grabbing hold of the good pride — the kind that keeps me motivated to do my best and be happy with what I’m doing. I wish the same for all of you.

Posted by Michelle D. Argyle in About Me, All Things Publishing, Think Positive, 12 comments

How To Be A Perfect Author

In order to be the perfect author, you must sit your butt down in a chair every single day and write, even if it’s only a sentence or two. But not every single day because an author must also live a full and meaningful life, and chaining yourself to a rigid schedule like that might actually be hindering you. You must also visit social networks every single day and stay on top of the publishing scene. If you don’t know what’s going on out there, how do you expect to be successful? But don’t overdo it because if you spend too much time online, you will be distracting yourself from your true vocation of writing.

Once you are published, you must not read your reviews. You must stay off Goodreads and must never check Amazon rankings or BookScan numbers. But again, you really should be in touch with readers and know their true reactions and feelings for your writing. Interacting with only diehard fans who find no fault in your writing is not going to help your writing. After all, how are you supposed to improve if you are completely ignorant to how real readers are reacting to your work? And how do you expect to market your work better if you don’t know what’s working after you’ve tried it? You need to have an idea of sales numbers as they happen instead of two or twelve months later. But don’t read those reviews and check numbers because they. will. drive. you. crazy.

You must never, ever say negative things online about writing or publishing. You do not want to appear ungrateful toward the fact that you actually got published when so many authors would die to be in your shoes. You do not want to appear jealous of any other author because that would be sour grapes and may affect your sales or the good image of your publisher. But you must appear honest and approachable. If you flout yourself too much and never share anything negative, you’re going to look like a complete fake and others are going to start resenting you. But be careful. If you say anything remotely negative, you may incur that same resentment, as well. Just. Be. Careful. And don’t even think about retreating into a shell and never saying anything online anywhere. Because didn’t you read that first paragraph were you need to be online every single day? I once disappeared from online and never said a word about my books anywhere and my sales plummeted. So you cannot disappear. But your writing will be best if you stay offline as much as possible because then you will not have those distractions eating away at you. You might even create masterpieces that will blow away the world if you retreat into obscurity like the best authors do. But you really should be visible everywhere.

You must avoid adverbs in your writing because adverbs are horribly evil. Because the word horribly in that previous sentence wasn’t necessary, now was it? So avoid those adverbs. Chain yourself to rules others have made up for you and do not experiment to figure out what your own rules are. After all, it’s the books that feel like all the other books that sell the best, isn’t it? You want to be well known and well paid as an author. The perfect author is well known and well paid.

This is most likely not the first time you have heard all of this conflicting advice. It certainly isn’t the first time for me. The nice thing is that I am not writing at the moment. Taking a step back has helped me see how ridiculous and conflicting it can be to listen to everything. Taking a step back has helped me see myself a lot more. Taking a step back has helped me see that I was right in taking a step back. Intuition. It shouldn’t be ignored. I’m not a perfect author. Perfection, I believe, is right in front of us all the time. It is not a place, but the ability to choose what will work for us and kindly saying no to the things that won’t — even if those things work for others and they are successful and we are not.

Posted by Michelle D. Argyle in All Things Publishing, Think Positive, 9 comments

10 Ways To Find Your True Self

I think we construct ourselves for other people, and that’s okay … but not 100% of the time. There are times we have to be ourselves or we are going to wither away beneath our fear forever. Here are a few things you can do to uncover who you really are at the core.

All of these take courage.

1. Accept that negative things people say about you could possibly be true. And then dare to change. It’s that DARE part that hurts so much. But come on. I’ve had several people in my life tell me some pretty negative and hurtful things about myself. It wasn’t until I really dared to see what they were saying and accept that there might be some truth in what they said that I could finally face the pain and do something about it.

2. Really figure out if you are an introvert or extrovert. Nobody is 100% one or the other, but it has been proven scientifically in more places than one that everyone is bent more towards one or the other, and that we are born that way. It doesn’t change. We can often learn how to be really good at pretending to be the opposite of what we are, but it’s innate. Knowing what you really are and what that means is a huge, huge eye-opener. I’ve written a post about a book I read that might help you too.

3. Stop hiding from yourself. Literally. Look in the mirror every single day. Nothing can replace really looking at yourself in the mirror and learning to love what you see, flaws and all. I used to have horrendous acne. I still have scars, and I’m beginning to look past them now. It has been a difficult journey.

4. Make a list of what you judge about other people. It’s true what they say: the things you judge about others is what you’re judging about yourself. Sit down and figure out the judgments you make on other people. Those are the things you’re most concerned about in life, and probably the things you should try to work on for yourself instead of pushing it all on other people, even if it’s only in your thoughts.

5. Find a true hobby. Your hobbies and what you do in your spare time says a lot about you. If you don’t like that you’re playing video games four hours a day when you get home from work, maybe you should step back and figure out some other things in your life that you’d like to explore instead. Maybe you’re just an avid video gamer and you’re playing with your entire family. That says a lot right there too. Positive things! But step back and make sure you’re filling your spare time with things that you truly love, not things you’re doing just because it’s popular, or to avoid your true self.

6. Learn to say no. It’s hard to say no to people, or even opportunities, especially if it makes you feel guilty or selfish to do so. But look up at point #2. If you know what you tend toward — introverted or extroverted — you’re going to know more about your limits and the limits of others. That’s when it gets a little easier to start saying no to the things that aren’t really going to help anyone, or make them or you happy, in the long run.

7. Find some silence every single day. Life is loud. Life is crazy. Singling out some time just for you, and making sure it is quite literally SILENT, is essential … and not just for introverted people who prefer silence. I think it’s essential for human beings in general. How can you know yourself if you can’t hear yourself? Even if it’s just three minutes, find some silence to ask yourself how you’re doing and what you might need to do to alter your course, even if it’s just slightly, in order to find your center again. Sometimes that means following #6 and saying no to something. Sometimes it means saying yes.

8. Check your social media interactions. Consistently. I think a lot can be said about how we interact on social media. Take a good, hard look at how you interact and what it might be saying about you. Do you always want to prove yourself right? Are you seeking out ways to state your opinion everywhere to make yourself feel validated? What are you trying to validate and why? If you get upset after being on social media, why? Really try to figure out how social media makes you feel, how you’re interacting, what you share and why you are sharing it and what you’re expecting out of sharing it. Knowing these things and studying them can say so much about you. I’ve found that it often shows me where I’m feeling a lack in my life. That’s when I have to ask why, how, and what I should do to fill that lack.

9. Realize your true friends. This kind of goes hand-in-hand with #1. Your true friends are the people who know you best. Sit down and make a list of the people you’d tell anything to. Once you know who those people are (there probably aren’t a lot), sit down and have a chat with them about what they see as your strengths and weaknesses. If they truly love you, they’ll tell you the truth. It’s an eye opener.

10. Learn to admit your worst imperfections to other people. It’s a good thing to be able to admit to other people face-to-face that you are not perfect and there are things you’re working on. When you can realize and face your worst imperfections and admit them to other people, you are finally ready to see yourself as you are, your True Self, so to speak. Seeing that True Self doesn’t mean you’ll love that True Self, but it does mean you can start discerning between what is amazing about you and what might need some working on. And not obvious things, either, but the things that will get to the root of everything else you’d like to better about yourself.

I believe it’s only when you can see your true self that you can truly see others, as well.

Posted by Michelle D. Argyle in About Me, Think Positive, 7 comments

Failure Can Make You Bulletproof

A good online friend of mine recently shared a TED talk with me. It’s a talk by Elizabeth Gilbert, whom I admire greatly because I’ve shared another talk of hers from a few years back that I continue to listen to several times a year. This new talk — Success, Failure, and the Drive to Keep Creating (see video below) — is even more meaningful to me than Elizabeth’s first. In light of some of my recent publishing failures, none of which I can tactfully talk about here in public, I desperately needed to hear the truth she tells.

I’ve often forgotten how to get back “home”, as Elizabeth calls it. She makes it clear that your “home” has to be that thing you love more than yourself.

That thing for me? Writing. More than anything else, writing transcends me in every way possible. When I go to that creative place, I am able to see myself and ultimately step beyond myself … and share that experience with others. Without writing to explore everything I am and believe in, I would be a very, very, very lost and lonely soul.

Failure has the ability to make you bulletproof. Despite hitting what I consider darn near close to rock bottom … and knowing I can hit it again even harder in the future … I’m still fiercely devoted to my writing, probably more now than I have ever been. And I’m not going to stop. I may fail in many ways, but never at writing. So how could I possibly quit and not consider that the biggest failure of all?

Elizabeth Gilbert was once an “unpublished diner waitress,” devastated by rejection letters. And yet, in the wake of the success of ‘Eat, Pray, Love,’ she found herself identifying strongly with her former self. With beautiful insight, Gilbert reflects on why success can be as disorienting as failure and offers a simple — though hard — way to carry on, regardless of outcomes.

click here for video if it does not appear

Posted by Michelle D. Argyle in Think Positive, 9 comments

The Fear of Being Small

It’s no secret that compared to most adults, I’m small. I’m 5’2″, on the border between “small boned/medium boned”, I usually weigh between 125 – 135 pounds, and my voice isn’t very loud. In the midst of any crowd, I feel like an insignificant ant. Now, I know there are people out there smaller than me. I have a sister-in-law shorter than me, who is very much small boned and probably weighs about 100 pounds, even after having two kids. It often seems like two of her could fit in the space I take up, but … I still feel smaller, and it technically has nothing to do with my body. I do think, however, that it all started with the size of my body. Height neurosis, so to speak.

Yesterday, a good friend of mine pointed out for the 150th time in our friendship that I have an inferiority complex. It’s true. I really do have a HUGE inferiority complex. It’s probably the only truly enormous thing about me. Funny how it shrinks me down to the size of a pea. It’s so bad that I have already considered deleting this post about 20 times in the course of writing these two paragraphs because I keep thinking, “Nobody will want to read this much about you, Michelle. Nobody freaking cares.” But oh well.

After that talk with my friend yesterday, she made a point that I have realized over and over, yet just haven’t put into words . I voiced my fear about publishing my own work, how I’m afraid that I’ll keep at this for years and years and years and still not get much further than where I am now, no matter how many books I write and publish. “I’ll still be small,” I complained, and she shot right back at me, “SO WHAT? What’s so bad about being a small author if you love your books and do it right?” 

And it’s true.

Outside of painful, costly surgery, I can’t permanently change my height, and outside of heading down certain paths that will most likely not make me any happier than where I’m at, I can’t change the fact that I write “small, quiet books” (the death sentence thing to say in traditional publishing).

Sometimes I slip on a pair of high heels and pretend I’m taller. The world looks different up there. I can reach the cupboards in my house without a stool. I can kiss my 6′ husband without craning my neck. Sometimes I dream about writing a loud, exciting blockbuster novel filled with all the mainstream things the world seems to want. The world would be better up there, I think. People would see me differently. Treat me differently. I’d have more confidence. But we all know that’s not true.

Just keep writing what you’re good at and what you love. Keep challenging yourself to get better. Not taller, er, higher, er … you know what I mean. After all, what’s so bad about being a small author if you love your books and do it right? If your answer is, “I won’t make enough money,” then I’d suggest getting a separate job. I have, that’s for sure. I do cover design and formatting on the side, and have made more money from that than I have on my books. It’s depressing, but grounding. And if I’m smart, I will let all this stuff I learn from writing help me with my “height neurosis” too. That would be truly life changing.

Do you have the guts to share your greatest fear?

Posted by Michelle D. Argyle in About Me, All Things Publishing, Think Positive, 23 comments

Collected Writerly Wisdom of 2013 and How Each One Changed My Life

A long time ago in a year far, far away (2013 to be exact), I started out filled with hope and wonder and enthusiasm. I was going to complete three novels and blow my publisher away with how much I’d grown. I’m glad to say that I did grow … but it certainly wasn’t the experience I’d imagined it would be. It was better and worse at the same time. It was … well, it was life, and that’s a pretty grand thing. I made some new friends, sadly allowed some old friends to fade into the background, lost a publisher, gained my own publishing company, learned a heck of a lot about self-reliance and confidence, and I can honestly say that this comic FINALLY made me feel like I was doing the right thing. I also discovered why Facebook and other social networks make me miserable 90% of the time, and why 2014 is probably going to be the year of me retreating even more into a smaller technological and social bubble than I already have (but I’m okay with that). A friend of mine beautifully pointed out the kind of people we should all strive to be, while I also found the perfect, straightforward guide to understanding The Introverted. And yes, I am proudly part of The Introverted.

As for writing … ah, writing. The beautiful world where you can give yourself writer’s block and basically make yourself a miserable mess, the world where a writer brilliantly describes what REALLY happens after you’re published, and also points out that One Big Realization we all should have remembered to begin with, and a world where it’s painfully essential to remember the absolute, true power of story for all of us. And you know, it REALLY IS OKAY TO SUCK AT WRITING, but most importantly, you must realize that doing what you love doesn’t mean you don’t work your ass off.

So, what the heck ARE average book sales? It’s probably not what you think. Also, sticking to your own uniqueness is vitally important if you want to feel truly successful. But one of the hardest things I learned this year is the danger of needing everyone to like you because, let’s face it, that has always been an issue for me. Since the day I was born. It’s something, that with the help of my lovely friend who wrote that post, I’m slowly learning how to eliminate.

Although 2013 wasn’t the first year I’ve been a published writer, I still learned that almost every published book is something not entirely immune to the seven stages of publishing grief (it happens to everyone who didn’t land in Magical Unicorn Publishing Land). Outside of publishing … dealing with the actual writing, here’s a piece of writing advice that saves me every time. Here’s the key to understanding why your books may be misunderstood, and why you’re doing it wrong if …

This is the best traditional vs. indie article I’ve ever read, and this is the best definition of writerly success I’ve ever read.

But probably the best thing I discovered in 2013 was Kristine Katherine Rusch’s blog. Okay, yes, she writes super long posts, but they are long for a reason, and they’re worth reading every single time. She’s so awesome that as soon as I have a little bit of extra money, I’ll be donating to her blog. Two of the most inspiring blog posts I read of hers this past year are highlighted below.

Like Elmore Leonard and Donald Westlake and Robert B. Parker and oh so many others, I want to die with my boots on, facedown on my keyboard if possible, in the middle of a sentence. Which brings me back to this blog. I write from the perspective of a career writer, someone who started as a teenager and plan to finish when my heart stops pumping. I write about survival—long-term survival—in a business that discourages longevity. That’s my point, that’s always my point, in all of these blogs. ~ From Career Writers, Kristine Katherine Rusch
But most professional writers smile a little when they think about NaNoWriMo. Because we’re writing all the time. And improving our craft. And when our books don’t sell well, we wonder if we might be at fault—if we told a flawed story or if we chose a difficult subject matter. If we self-publish, we worry that we might have a bad cover (and we fix it). But mostly, we shrug off the unsuccessful novels and move on to the next novel. Because we’re not artists. We’re professionals. Most people don’t expect a gold star for showing up at their day job every day. They just expect a paycheck. The same with professional writers. Just because we wrote 50,000 words in a month doesn’t mean we get a gold star or a spot on the New York Times bestseller list. Hell, it doesn’t even mean we get a paycheck. It means that we better get ready to write another book next month. Because that’s what we do. We write. Join the ranks of professional writers. Stop treating writing like an event, and make it a part of your daily life ~ From Reality Check, Kristine Katherine Rusch.

Mostly, with the help of all I’ve shared in links today, 2013 was a time I reflected on what I really want and how I’m going to get it. I realized one very important thing: Writing a novel is not a goal. A writing career is not a goal. Writing is more of a system if it’s going to work in the long run. As long as I’m treating what I do professionally, seriously, and happily, it works. Books are not events. They should be part of a system, and sticking through the thick and thin, the ups and downs, over the long haul, is what matters most. I’m a pretty dang lucky person to be able to write whatever I want, when I want, and how I want. That’s the big awesomeness 2013 brought me. It’s more valuable than gold.

I hope you’ll take the time to check out some of the links above. I certainly didn’t choose them lightly! Happy 2014, everyone!

Posted by Michelle D. Argyle in All Things Publishing, Best Posts for Writers, Think Positive, Writing Process, 18 comments

When Loved Ones Don’t Support — Or At Least Understand — Your Writing Career

“When are you going to get a real job?”

That is probably the harshest criticism any artist can ever get from anyone, especially people close to them — whether it comes with full understanding from the person asking, or it’s simply an honest, clueless question. I’ve seen it happen to several successful artists, writers, actors, and musicians in my life. I’ve felt it in my own life from strangers and loved ones alike. I’ve written before about friends and family not reading your work or when people love you and not your writing, but today I’m talking about something a little different — something that I’ve seen literally make some artists quit right in their tracks and do something else that they think will make others happier. In some ways, it’s the artist’s fault if they let others’ opinions pressure them to quit. After all, we are in charge of our own happiness and destinies, right?

I’ll be brutally honest and say right now that I’ve felt negative pressure for a long time now from the world in general, and not just because of my writing. I happened to marry an actor who has chosen to pursue a career in acting and combat choreography. He’s still in school and it’s taking a long time to get through. He has a day job that pays our bills, but he’s also actively pursuing his dream, and he’s not letting anything get in his way. In this way, my husband has been one of the most shining examples of happiness and sources of inspiration for me and my own choice to chase after a dream that many people simply don’t seem to understand. Why would we both choose to pursue artistic careers and limit our own comfort and happiness? That seems to be the question — phrased in so many unspoken ways — that we get asked on a consistent basis, whether people mean it negatively or not.

Why would we choose to limit our own comfort and happiness? Well, the simple answer is that we aren’t. When I married my husband and he decided, after some very trying experiences for both of us, to follow his dreams and do what he loves, I told him that I’d rather be poor and rent for the rest of our lives than see him follow any other career path that will make him regret leaving behind what he knows he was meant to do. Several years later, I decided to chase after my own artistic dream, and well, here we are. We’re both close to our mid-thirties and in a lot of debt. We don’t own a home. Sometimes we can’t buy groceries or shampoo or toilet paper, and sometimes I wonder how we’re going to make it every month, but we always seem to push through and move on. The most important thing is that we are happy with what we’re doing — and we haven’t given up.

I do have to admit that one of the hardest blows for me just happened recently when my publisher closed their doors and I was left with what felt like absolutely nothing. I had to start all over again, it felt like. Finally, though, I realized that I have more than I thought I did, and I’m now picking up the pieces around me and moving forward just as I was before. I may not sell as much as I did with a publisher, and I know for a fact that I’ll get even more of what feels like disapproval for my chosen career path, but the truth is, I’m doing exactly what I want to do. I’m a mother, which I happen to feel is the number one most important job in my life right now. Yes, more important than writing, obviously. My daughter is one of my top priorities, but guess what? We went to a parent teacher conference the other day, and her teacher said, “So your daughter tells me you’re a writer. I think that is fantastic.” A really great conversation about writing and teaching and my daughter’s own pursuits ensued. My heart melted. My daughter knows I am doing what I love to do. She sees that I am happy, and that makes her happy, and I hope one day she will have the courage to follow her own dreams no matter how difficult and impossible they may seem — because her parents did just that.

Many, many people in my life do support, appreciate, respect, and at least try to understand what both my husband and I are doing with our lives. For that, I am truly grateful. I figure that if someone doesn’t approve of what we’re doing, that is not our problem and we shouldn’t waste any time letting it affect us. So, I suppose next time I get the “when are you going to get a real job?” vibe from someone, I can make it quite clear that we’re perfectly happy where we are, and I hope they are too. If anything, I’ve learned to appreciate more people who are chasing after their dreams like we are. None of it is easy, and most of it takes a massive amount of patience to see any satisfying financial results. For some reason, the world seems to measure success with the amount of money you’re making, which I find very sad. It would be nice, yes, if my husband could quit his day job because he found financial success with his acting and stage combat/choreography. He does make money at it so far, and I make money at my writing, as well, but we don’t make enough to completely support us. Yet. One day, though, I believe we will — as long as we don’t give up.

“When are you going to get a real job?”

“When you stop reading books, watching movies and television, looking at art, going to plays, and listening to music.”

End of conversation.

Posted by Michelle D. Argyle in About Me, All Things Publishing, Self-Publishing, Think Positive, 30 comments

What I Used to Care About

If you had asked me four years ago what was important to me in my publishing career, my list would have been very different from what it is now. Seeing my books in a bookstore was deeply important to me. Almost nothing else mattered, in all honesty. If my book was on a bookstore shelf, that meant I was important, respected, and seen. It meant I had “made it”, even though I’m not sure I knew what “made it” even meant. Back then, I had a very different vision of where I wanted my career to go and how it would change my life. It might be silly of me to talk about this now, only a few years later, but I’ve been through a lot in those few years. It wasn’t until my publisher closed their doors a few weeks ago that I fell flat on my butt and could see where I had been and … for the very first time … where I wanted to go. This clarity is a big deal. In fact, I can safely say it’s the biggest deal that has happened in my writing career so far, mainly because I believe it will positively influence everything from here on out.

The truth is, for a little while, I allowed myself to quit. I really was going to walk away from everything. I didn’t tell anybody this, but giving myself permission to make that choice opened up everything to me. When I got back up from that, I realized I’d either have to republish my books or shelve them once my rights were handed over, I knew there were some big decisions to make. So I made them. What has happened after that has been completely unexpected. I feel … happy. And not just a relieved sort of happy because I’ve made a decision, but really happy. Almost giddy. At first I wasn’t sure why. I thought it was because I would now have complete control over everything concerning my books. I also thought it might be because I had so many people supporting my decision, but even though all of that is wonderful, it’s not any of those things. It’s because out of nowhere, I suddenly don’t care about things that have plagued me for years. They are gone because it’s now clear what I want.

I used to stress about validation around every corner. I worried about my books getting into bookstores and libraries. I worried endlessly about whether or not I would be able to book a signing at a real bookstore. I used to fret about what all my friends thought about my publisher and whether or not I was respected and judged to be a good writer and person because of it. I used to die a little inside every time someone talked about their agent or announced a book deal and posted their Publishers Weekly announcement. I used to worry about what people would think of me if I told them I published my own books.

Now?

I care about telling stories, writing better every time I sit my butt down in my chair, producing quality books, and interacting with my fan base. That’s it. Everything else is just the little fringes on the outside of what really matters. Those other things can be important, sure, but there is no right way to publish, only what is right for you at the moment. I don’t care if I decide to publish my stories differently somewhere down the road. I just don’t care! The only thing that matters is that I’m happy with my writing. Everything else stems from that. I don’t know if I can explain how I feel now, but the best way I can explain it is that I’ve kicked down a wall and I can see the sky for the first time. I know there will always be storms down the road, but for now it’s a beautiful day.

Posted by Michelle D. Argyle in All Things Publishing, Self-Publishing, Think Positive, 31 comments

The Price of Perfection

I’ve been thinking about vulnerability from the perspective of an author — from someone who chooses to write from the heart and then put that work out there for people to read, mock, love, hate, etc. I make myself vulnerable on a daily basis, but after listening to a TED talk shown below, I realized I’m missing a key element to vulnerability, and that is I have not fully embraced it and made it okay. I haven’t accepted that what makes me beautiful is my imperfection. 

I feel a lot of shame about things like my imperfect body, mistakes I’ve made, the way I forget so many things, the fact that I’m not a big bestseller.

But … it should be (although it isn’t yet) … my too-fat thighs? They’re imperfect. They make me me. That zit on my forehead? It means I’m human and alive. The first book I published and all those things I’d write better now that I have more experience under my belt? It’s imperfect. It’s who I was then and makes me now. The mistakes I’ve made? They have molded me into who I am.

The price of invulnerability, i.e, believing — we must be perfect, we must have it all or we are worthless, we must get an agent and sell big or writing isn’t worth it, we must lose weight to feel accepted and worthy and beautiful, we must have control, we must know what will happen — the price of living that way is a great price indeed. Watch this video to learn what that price is. It’s worth the time. Like her, it might take me years and a long fight to get to where I need to be. Where are you in your acceptance of imperfection?

Thank you to Linda Cassidy Lewis for sharing this video with me.

Posted by Michelle D. Argyle in Think Positive, 9 comments

How to be Happy and Can You Really Achieve it Long-Term?

Ask some of my friends and they’ll tell you I’ve had the crappiest winter ever. As a general rule, I hate December through March, and March is only okay because my birthday happens to land on the first day of spring. Not that spring is even remotely close in March here, because it’s usually not. Still, to the point of this post! How to be happy! A friend of mine kept telling me about a show she watched on Netflix called Happy. Since I didn’t do a blasted thing last week except read books and lay around and try to recover from a writer’s conference (don’t think I’ll do anymore of those anytime soon), I finally watched Happy.

Don’t take this to mean I’m super happy now, because I’m not. Happiness is not some destination you work for and reach. It’s something you constantly have to work at, especially if you fall into a certain genetic pool with a disposition for pessimism. I’m pretty darn sure that’s where I land. Here are the notes I took during the movie. Yes, I took notes. Don’t laugh.

 HAPPINESS IS

50% baseline genetic

I found this surprising! No wonder some people are just annoyingly happy all the time, and I have a disposition to be annoyed by it …

10% outside factors

Money? Yeah, not going to make you happy much.

40% conscious choices and activity

Imagine that …

FLOW IS

“being in the zone” — You know, that spot you reach when you’re exercising or doing something creative or serving others, where you just feel at one with the world and yourself? Those who experience flow on a regular basis are happier than those who don’t.

WHAT CAUSES HAPPINESS

Much of what we believe about the causes and sources of happiness simply isn’t true. People overestimate the effects of good and bad things that happen to them. In general, people do really good when things go really bad.

It’s a Choice

You can make a choice and you do make a choice when things happen in life.

Wallow, But Recover Quickly

One of the keys to happiness is recovering from adversity quickly, returning to baseline.

Money? No.

Once you have basic needs met (i.e. you’re not homeless or needing things physically or emotionally), more money doesn’t seem to buy more happiness. The show goes deeper into this, so I suggest watching it. More money CAN make you happier to a certain point, but after you reach that point, more money isn’t going to increase your happiness.

Hedonic Adaptation is a Main Enemy of Happiness

According to this theory, as a person makes more money, expectations and desires rise in tandem, which results in no permanent gain in happiness. It’s one of the main enemies of happiness.

If You Can, Build Up Your Support System

Without exception, the happiest people have close family and friends.

THE IMPORTANCE OF INTRINSIC AND EXTRINSIC GOALS

Intrinsic goals

Inherently satisfying in and of themselves — personal growth, relationships, desire to help. People more focused on intrinsic goals are happier in general.

Extrinsic goals

Focused on rewards, praise, getting stuff — money, image, status. People who are more focused on extrinsic goals are less vital, energized, less happy.

SOMETHING BIGGER

According to research, humans need something bigger than themselves. Religion or big spiritual-like feelings.

Joy Comes With Interaction With Others

In Okinawa, they cremate their dead and bury them in a communal cemetery, mixing all the ashes together. It’s pretty much the idea of their whole society. Social bonding and interacting. That’s how we inhibit our self-interest in order to cooperate — we’re social creatures. Put us in situations where we interact with others and cooperate with each other and it triggers dopamine, which makes us happy. Joy comes with a connection to others.

INTENTION

Through intention, we can change our brain. Remember when I wrote that post about The Unexpected Way I Found to Increase My Productivity? Well, this Happy show actually reinforced what I did in that post! It emphasized that those who:

Count their blessings once a week

and consistently do acts of kindness …

are much happier in general. The post I wrote emphasized these things for 21 days straight to create a habit. And it worked. I need to do it again!

3 Gratitudes – Identify gratitude for three new things.

Journaling – Write about one positive experience.
Exercise – Teach brain that behavior matters
Meditation – Learn to focus on a single task.
Conscious Acts of Kindness – Write one positive email of praise or thanks to someone in social network.

THE TRICK? HERE IT IS

The trick is to be authentically you.

Happiness is a skill.

The formula for happiness is not the same for everyone.

The key is that the things we love to do are the building blocks of a happy life. (For me, that’s WRITING! Outside of family and religion, it’s a huge, huge part of what makes me happy). Play, having new experiences, friends and family, doing things that are meaningful, appreciating what we have. These are the things that make us happy …

and they’re free.

And with more happiness, the more we have and the more everyone has.

So you want to be happy? It all starts with YOU. If you can’t seem to get there (and believe me, I suffer from depression and I have a disposition of pessimism, so I understand), then get help where you can, from doctors, from family, etc. I’ve found, however, that the more I talk about trying to be happy and making a conscious effort, the more my brain responds to that. It really is a SKILL, just like learning to write or ride a bike.

And … to all you fellow authors out there, if you think getting published or publishing bigger or selling more books or winning an award or whatever will make you happy, I hope all these notes make it clear that those won’t give you long-term happiness. It sure brought some things home for me! That whole FLOW thing? Yeah, that’s why the actual act of writing makes me deliriously happy.

Posted by Michelle D. Argyle in Think Positive, 0 comments