Don’t Worry. Be Happy

Here’s a tip on how to write happy: be like Francis Ford Coppola who says he does all his writing very early in the morning because nobody else is up, nobody calls, and no one has hurt his feelings yet.

Pretty sweet little insight into this giant of American cinema, eh? But also a good insight into what we all need in order to create or even just do our work: we need to feel unencumbered in our spirit, free from self-obsession, ready to stop focusing just on ourselves and start focusing on what-all is around us.

I love hearing writers of fiction say that they’re as curious as anybody to see what will happen next in the stories they’re writing. They almost all say it too: that they invent these characters and the characters just start talking… That must be so nice, to feel that you’re just the stenographer in a way. It must be very freeing.

I write only non-fiction and find that I’m happiest when I wake up early enough to work for a good two hours before the ‘real’ work day starts. I go right to my laptop at 6:30 with that first cup of coffee and feel as if I’m just opening a wide window onto the world. Today I felt even happier than usual knowing that it would snow all day, and here it is a Saturday so we can just relax and watch it fall.

We’re meant to love our time here. We’re meant to love our work too. Many people hate it when their work involves deadlines but what can you do? Deadlines come with the territory in life.

I used to fret so over this column that I’ve been writing since 1980, because it goes all over the country and that’s a lot of people to let down if I write something glib or half-baked or inauthentic.

I also used to get all whiney about how hard it was to write once a week. Then, three years ago, I decided to try writing every single day, and now I never feel whiney at all but only happy. A paradox!

Francis Ford Coppola once said, “It’s ironic that at age 32, at probably the greatest moment of my career, with The Godfather having such an enormous success, I wasn’t even aware of it, because I was somewhere else under the deadline again.”

Maybe we all do that early on: fret over the deadlines in our lives. Then slowly, over time, we learn to enjoy life more and fret about it less – and hopefully check our fat little egos at the door.

Here’s a great short interview done when Coppola was only 36. I really love what he says a minute and 20 seconds in. The great ones are often humble like this, ever notice?

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2 thoughts on “Don’t Worry. Be Happy

  1. What an interesting post. I’ve recently changed my routine to study in the morning when everyone else is sleeping. It’s working like a dream and as a result I start my day enthused rather than trying to fit in study and writing at the end of the day when I’m tired. It has also resulted in making the deadlines feel a bit more manageable.

  2. I get up at 4:30 almost every day and have hours of peace and quiet in which to think, plan and write before the world intrudes. Early AM is the best part of the day!!

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