What do you do that makes you happy? What Personal Projects do you have that give meaning to your life?
Did you know you’re one of mine?
Let me explain.
(These Personal Projects aren’t the same as obsessions, by the way (more on that in another post—still working on that one, I’ve got a lot of contributions from others but just need to work on the right angle for this blog). Obsessions intrude on regular thoughts, interrupt normal functioning and although at first they may feel fun or exciting they are not a path that leads to our well-being.)
I’ve been reading a lot of Brian Little lately. You’ll see more of him referenced in here on future posts no doubt. An inspiring, ‘wise and witty’ (from the accurate book blurb) professor of psychology, I first heard him talking about Personal Projects. These are things we do that make us happy. I’ve heard these described as activities where we feel ‘flow’, where we get so involved in something we can easily forget all else, where we look at our watch and startle, ‘where has the time gone?’ Brian Little says Personal Projects (my caps) provide sources of meaning in our lives. And therefore, ‘for the most part the pursuit of a personal project is a happy one.’
What are yours?
One of mine is being a reader for friends’ novels. This is because a) I enjoy helping fellow writers, b) the practice of it helps me edit my work, c) I’m very good at it and it’s fun to do things we’re good at.
I’m a reader for a friend at the moment. It’s a fantastic story and I’m excited to see him develop it. And I’m excited to see what the world has to say about it. I predict a cult classic, like the His Dark Materials books. It ticks all the right boxes; it’s the sort of thing that will reach a deep place in readers. They’ll want to recommend it on to others, to be a part of that experience for someone else. You know how the conversation goes:
‘This book changed my life!’
‘Yes, and *I* recommended it to you!’
We like to be associated with the powerful things that shape lives. Okay, not all people. There are some people, for whatever reason, who shy away from anything that opens doors to their soul because What If They Don’t Like What They See Inside? But more on those people another day (don’t worry, I’ll be kind—I’m compassionate, right? Read one of my earlier posts if you want to know about that.).
I’m half way through my friend’s Soul Opening novel and already I’ve made 650 comments. Not because he needs to make 650 corrections (anyway, it’s just my opinion), but because I had at least 650 things to say about it so far. I read for continuity, flow, and comprehension. I worked as a reader for a lit agent once. After my first reading she told me she showed my report to her colleagues who then wanted me as their reader too. She said it was the most comprehensive report she’d ever had. So that was good.
You may as well know the snag is that I am a slow reader. We all have superpowers and we all have underpowers (underwhelming things about us) and one of mine is how slowly I read. But thoroughly! Very, very thoroughly. And I go back and reread things, which makes me even slower. And if I’m reading someone’s draft manuscript, then I will be even s-l-o-w-e-r. It doesn’t really bother me. I hear people bragging about being a fast reader and I’m left a little bemused. The only reason I’m sad to be a slow reader is that I can’t read as many books as other people in a lifetime. And I want to read loads and loads and loads of books! Oh well.
I don’t read for grammar. Nope. As you’re reading me right now, you’ll already know this about me: I’m the opposite of a Grammar Nazi. I’m sort of a Grammar Bohemian. I enjoy reading and composing unconventional writing, with no strict definition, using words like steps on an adventure, wandering around a wonderland. I use Word Spell and Grammar check for most things. Or, if it’s really important, I hand my work over to someone who enjoys grammarly things in life and they can do their stuff on it. It makes these people happy to do this.
Another Personal Project of mine is People Watching.
Okay, more technically: continuing to develop my understanding of humans (but that version sounds dull). It’s sort of linked to my first Personal Project, in a roundabout way, in that it makes me a better manuscript reader.
I love to read books like Brian Little’s Me, Myself and Us. I have two degrees, one in English and one in Psychology and they’ve given me a life-long interest in analysis and understanding. One was about analysing characters and plots, and the other was about analysing humans and motivations. Ummm… So basically one was the fiction and one was the real life version of the same things.
Anyway, Brian Little is a pioneering leader in the field of Positive Psychology and his research helps explain and understand human flourishing, not just motivation. Thriving not just surviving. His book, Me Myself and Us is subtitled, ‘The Science of Personality and the Art of Well-Being.’ It’s not self-help, it’s science. While I accept writers such as Elizabeth Gilbert have helped many peeps live better, this Brian Little book is the kind of mind/soul explaining stuff I love—the sciency stuff. Because then I can apply it. To me, and you. Because as I say in my Twitter bio: you are my raw material.
So that’s part B of this second personal project. I love to watch people (part A) and I love to analyse and hypothesise (part B). It helps my writing. And my reading for others.
The pursuit of these Personal Projects for me is a happy one. I feel flow when I do them. I have other projects, but they can wait for another day.
So go on, have a think about your personal projects. If you’d like to comment do, if you’d like to just think about them, do. If you have nothing in your life that makes you feel like that, find something! They’re good for you!