Can you spot it hiding there among the flowers? And if you do, could you capture it with your bare hands?
We probably all think we pursue happiness on a daily basis, but for the most part, what we're actually doing is just getting through the day. I used to believe that if I reached a point where all of my work was done and my obligations fulfilled, I could then do only the things that I wanted to do, and my happiness would be complete. However, I've been there (briefly) a time or two in my life, only to discover that I'd forgotten what it was I wanted to do that would make me so happy.
I learned a long time ago that acquiring material things won't bring lasting happiness. It seems fabulous for a while, but then the feeling wears off and you have to find something else to wish for. Eventually, you run out of wishes and have nowhere to turn for happiness, which is a very sad place to be.
There are many activities that I enjoy, but finding the time to do them has been the problem lately. I love to play guitar, but finding a free hour when I'm home alone and can crank up the amplifier and make the walls vibrate is difficult. Thus, my trusty Ibanez sits in the corner gathering dust, occasionally catching my eye to remind me that if I could just spare him a few moments, we could have a lot of fun together.
I also like to grow things, but that, too, requires time. I did take the day off on the Fourth of July to assert my independence and do what I wanted to do, which was to get the weeds out of my rose and lily beds. The best part of that job was the scent of the flowers, and just seeing them blooming without all the weeds made me happy.
My vegetable garden, however, is another story altogether. It is one horrific mass of weeds with a few struggling vegetable plants thrown in. The cucumber vines are smothering the tomatoes, and the weeds have choked the basil to the point that I almost couldn't find it. I did finally locate it, but, not having the time to pull the weeds, I just stomped them down so that the basil could get a little sunlight and have room to grow.
I'm becoming convinced that having room to grow is all anyone really needs to be happy, and writing gives me that space. I have the whole galaxy to explore and can sit here and write and the words seem to come out of nowhere. I'm fully focused on what I'm doing and can go on for hours.
Recently, I discovered something else that made me happy; something that took me very much by surprise. You often hear an actor say that they've never seen the finished version of many of the movies they've been in because they can't avoid critiquing themselves. Being my own worst critic, I've never read any of my own books after they're published because I'd know I'd do the exact same thing. However, I recently acquired an iTouch, and thought it would be cool to get the Kindle app and have my own books on there.
So I did that, and last night, while my patient was peacefully sleeping, instead of reading one of the many books I'd picked up at the RT Convention, I started reading Slave, which I had last read several months prior to its publication in April 2008.
It was difficult at first, because even the opening line, which I've been urged over and over again to duplicate for other books, seemed to need revision. As I read on, the first person voice sounded strange to me, but I persevered and somewhere in that first chapter, a funny thing happened: I stopped critiquing it and got sucked into the story. Even though I know I'd read through that manuscript countless times, it was new again, and I was enjoying it. And that made me very happy.
In just a few weeks, my sixth book, Hero will be launched, and it is so different from Slave it could have been written by someone else, and, in fact, it was. Hero was written by me, but Slave was written by Captain Jacinth "Jack" Rutland of the starship, Jolly Roger. Different voice entirely.
Not long ago, a writer friend made the comment that my voice had "matured." She may have been right about that, but going back and reading Slave helped me to remember my roots. I'm probably a better writer now, but though I've written a lot of characters in the interim, few were as much fun as Jack. I've brought her back in other books in the series, and she's still a blast to write, even in third person.
After Hero, the series takes a different turn and Jack will be there to introduce you to the new guys. It may be her final appearance, but knowing when to pass the baton on to someone new is like knowing when to stop trying to catch butterflies and simply enjoy watching them fly.