BACCA Writers

Relearning How To Write When I’m Happy

Writing and I need to work on our relationship. My new year’s resolution is to learn how to be a writer when I’m happy.

I’ve been a writer since 2007, when my depression and anxiety drove me to put pen to paper as a means to survive. I shut myself in my room with my laptop for up to 12 hours a day, hammering out stories about betrayal, loss, illness, death. I had a seemingly endless well of conflict inside, fuel to drive fables, screenplays, novels, poems… I wrote a lot.

Created with Microsoft Fresh Paint
doodle by bethany

Thankfully, over the last 8 years my mental health has improved. Happiness is no longer a figment; it’s where I spend significant amounts of my time. Writing is not what pays the bills, but I’m enjoying my jobs, I love my friends, and I’m thankful for the little things, like a cup of coffee with a big red-headed Viking of a man each morning.

So, I’m no longer desperate, panicked, get-the-words-out-or-I-will-drown-in-them. I still love stories, to get absorbed in a book or a daydream. But the truth is, if I’m not awakened by a nightmare at 3am jumping out of my skin, I have a hard time sitting down and getting down to actually writing.

I’ve had relationships in the past based on complaining, gossip, lamenting, and grief; misery does love company. Some of these friendships have not survived my transition out of depression. But my very best friend has hung in there with me: the scary start of the slump, the increasing dark days, the long struggle, and the climb back into the light. We’ve had some rough patches, but my sister has not resented the ways I’ve changed, we’ve both adapted, and our relationship now is now stronger than ever.

Created with Microsoft Fresh Paint
doodle by bethany

This is the model I’m hoping to pattern my writing life after in 2015. My laptop and I do not need to be in a codependent relationship. I’m hoping to learn that I can sit down to write because I want to, not because I need to. I can let go of the fear that my creativity dissipated along with my anxiety.

I can write for the joy of it.

I find that starting new habits requires some practical little guidelines to help them along. To facilitate my new year’s resolution of learning to write when I’m happy, I plan to:

  • Put my dream journal out at night before I go to bed
  • Honor the blocs of writing time I have set aside in my schedule
  • Leave space for other creative pursuits I enjoy, like drawing, collage, and origami

I don’t want to break up with writing because I’ve changed. So I’m working on it. Wish us well.

Bethany Joy Carlson is the founder of The Artist’s Partner and a co-founder of BACCA. And she’s still a writer.

By bethanyfarris

I've done everything from sending fish into space to herding guinea pigs in Peru. Now I'm the Dean at

6 replies on “Relearning How To Write When I’m Happy”

Great post!! I was so productive when I was recovering from cancer surgery. I had a good excuse to do nothing but sit at the computer and I had lots of rage to write about. I don’t know if misery produces art as much as that artists are more sensitive to misery. I wasn’t a miserable child or young person at all and never considered myself artistic. It came over time. I had to become pretty miserable before I even began writing… Haven’t yet cut off an ear but getting there. 🙂

:’) Thank you, Carolyn! I know for me the misery was definitely the catalyst for tapping into my creativity, and it was a deep well to draw from. I’m glad I’ve got you and BACCA to keep me writing when the sun is shining, not just when there are dark clouds on my horizons!

I like that you’ve set some specific goals–they help me get to the computer. As part of my 60 things in this 60th year I am committed to 1000 words a day (maybe less on 2 days)–whether it’s client work, my book or the journal. And, two weeks in, I’m finding the early morning journal work is helping to set my day and give inspiration for other writing. For me, at least, it’s habit that works!

Thanks, Walker! I’ve found the same to be true – if I don’t set some kind of metrics to my big picture goals, they don’t get done. Wishing you well with those 1,000 words a day! Methinks 60 is going to be the best year yet ;’)

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