A Possible Theory of Happiness

{FYI, the posts in this category, “A Possible Theory of Happiness,” started in August 2016, will have nothing to do with copywriting or web marketing advice. There’s lots of that kind of content in my archives and through my email list, which you can sign up for on the Free Resources page. Yes, I still offer copywriting and marketing services to creatives, which you can find out about on my Work with Me page.}

It’s midnight on a night in early July. I’m sitting on my sofa, crying. All day I’ve been anxious and weepy. Trying desperately to “buck up” and feel better.  Despite trying to talk myself into even the tiniest sliver of light & joy, no damn respite comes.

If I’m honest, some form of this sadness and anxiety has been hanging around for weeks, if not months.

What’s going through my mind this night are all the ways my life seems to be breaking down lately: computer breakdowns, car breakdowns, health issues, financial concerns, work concerns, a big, black brick of loneliness that weighs on me night and day, the sense of being disconnected from a supportive community, and fiercely missing my family and friends who live 4 hours away, among other things.

Now late on this Friday night, in my desperation, I google, “Bible verses related to ‘Love heals all wounds’” on my iPhone. I’m not sure why that search term.  I only know I need to read something to make me feel better, and that’s what came to mind.

I read many verses, copying the ones that feel the most meaningful and helpful into my journal:

“For nothing will be impossible with God.”

“For I will restore health to you, and your wounds I will heal.”

“Now faith is the assurance of things hoped for, and the conviction of things not seen.”

“Ask, and it will be given to you; seek, and you will find; knock, and it will be opened to you.”

Then I stop short and breathe deep when I come across this verse:

“Hope deferred makes the heart sick, but a desire fulfilled is a tree of life.”

Writing, but not writing

In all the challenges I’m facing at the moment, that beautiful line sums up one that feels like it could be the most significant: I’m not writing what I want to be writing.

I am writing, lots: client website copy, client blog posts, client press releases, client brochures, client articles, client social media content, and so on.

I enjoy this work, this work is how I make my living, and I feel happy and blessed to get to do it. I adore my clients, and the writing projects they entrust to me. In no way, shape, or form do I want to give up this work.


I’m not working on my own writing. The essays and articles I want to write, but start and don’t finish; the book I want to write, the one I’ve started and abandoned, many, many times. The pages and pages of notes in my little blue writer’s notebook with ideas for still more essays and books. As yet unwritten.

It’s all a big, inert mass of words scratched down, ideas unexplored. Nothing is actually happening with any of it.

I feel unable to move forward with these personal writing projects. I know about the resistance monster Stephen Pressfield speaks of and it is real. But what is stopping me?

Really, what is stopping me?

I could work on my personal writing — as a self-employed freelance writer, I could easily carve out space in my schedule to do so. I have very few of the distractions some of my other writer friends have. I don’t have loads of obligations outside the home that keep me from writing. I’m blessed in that way.

I think of the people I know in an online writer’s group I belong to, and the published authors I’ve read about over the years, these folks who have demanding full-time jobs, kids to look after, elderly parents to care for, and many, many competing obligations on their time, and I yet see that they carve out time to write. Even if it means getting up at 4:00 or 5:00 am, or working late into the night after the rest of the household is asleep.

I don’t know why I can’t do this.

But as nutty as this will sound to some people, I believe that the death by a thousand cuts that my life has become over the last few months, including the some of the health stuff, is directly related to this inability to pursue the writing I want to pursue, to truly commit to the writer’s path I’ve been dreaming of for years.

That dream consists of writing what I want to write, and submitting that work. Which I’m sorry to say I’ve never done. Oh wait, there was that one time, a couple of years ago. (Rejection ensued.) But other than writing guest articles for other websites to promote my copywriting business, that’s it.

In January 2016 when I was planning out my work and personal projects for the year, I said to myself, beginning in 3rd quarter, I will write & submit, write & submit, write & submit. That will be my big creative project beginning in the fall and through the end of the year.

I promised myself that by the end of this year, I would submit an article or essay to 5-7 publications. Not that I would actually get published, because I can’t control that, but that I would submit.

I still have time to make to this happen.

“Your body cannot be bulshitted”

I recently listened to the latest episode of Elizabeth Gilbert’s podcast, Magic Lessons, in which she helps a writer who is doing important work that matters in the world, work useful, and good, and necessary (Holocaust research and writing a dissertation on the topic), but is not the work she really wants to be doing. What this writer really wants to be doing is writing comedy.

She tells Gilbert that in the midst of working on her dissertation, her hair started falling out, she she got very ill, and even ended up in the hospital.

Gilbert tells her something along the lines of, “Your body cannot be bulshitted. It’s spitting up toxins and saying, ‘I’m not having it.’ If your mind and body are breaking down, you’re not where you’re supposed to be. Do the work that brings you light and illuminates you, and that’s how you’ll serve the world.”


I’m also reminded of what Lissa Rankin says in her book, Mind Over Medicine: Scientific Proof That You Can Heal Yourself: that in order to live a vital life and be optimally healthy, and even prevent disease, among the factors that need to be in place are “a healthy, fully expressed creative life that allows your soul to sing its song.”

In which I hatch a plan

I’ve asked myself this question dozens of times over the last few weeks: can rearranging my life to prioritize my personal writing heal the sadness, anxiety, and malaise I feel, while also resolving the physical health issues?

And what would “rearranging my life to prioritize my personal writing” even look like?

I know that whatever’s involved, I need a change. A big change.

I need a new environment where I can start over and focus on my priorities, instead of paying attention to the current devil chatter that never stops whispering some iteration of,  “I’m trying to run my copywriting business, I don’t have time for the personal writing right now. Once my business becomes more solid, then I can focus on the other writing.”

And so I’ve decided to move from my beloved Wilmington, NC, back to Greensboro, NC, where my family is, and where I have a deeper bench of long-time friends, when my lease is up here in October 2016.

And when I get there, I will double down on my writing goals and dreams.  I’ll be sharing what that looks like here in the “Possible Theory of Happiness” category on the blog, so feel free to check back here if that interests you.

There are also many other changes I intend to make when I get to Greensboro and get settled; I’ve got a long list going. And of course I’ll be sharing those things here too, as I make progress.

If you want to keep up with this series, feel free to sign up for “The Note,” an occasional newsletter on topics not related to copywriting and marketing. I’ll send updates about this journey/process there.