The Pursuit of Happiness

Happiness is a complex thing, isn’t it? First of all it is subjective and varies from one person to the next. One man’s/woman’s idea of happiness may well be another person’s worst nightmare, and so, with that in mind, how on earth do we find our own happy medium? How do we find what makes us truly happy? Well, that too is a hard thing because only we know what makes us happy, don’t we?

So how does one go about pursing something so obscure and subjective, especially when no one else can see it, touch it or feel it? That, I believe, is one of life’s great questions and, consequently, one of the hardest to answer. It involves going on a journey that we are conditioned from birth not to venture on, and so it takes a lot of time and a lot of patience . . . depending on your own goal, of course.

Our society is not designed to promote such a life-long pursuit, especially if your own happiness does not in any way involve accumulated wealth or material possessions. We are raised to pass exams and then told to use those numbers to choose a vocation. We are raised to believe that the money we make from these vocations will make us happy, in one way or another. The more you have the happier you’ll be. The more you earn the nicer your house, the flasher your car and the more exotic your holidays will become. But, the problem is that money does not make people happy. Not really. Happiness – true happiness - comes from something much deeper than the material. Some would even argue that it is a spiritual process, and I for one agree.

Children watch their parents complain about their lives. They moan about their jobs, their friends, their bills, their lack of money, and for why? These children then go on to make the exact same mistakes as their peers. Okay, they may have different jobs and live in different places, and not all do fall into this trap, but most people end up with the same complaints and their children witness this and the cycle repeats. 

I once saw a video taken from a lecture by philosopher Alan Watts and in this video Alan asked his audience, what would you do if money were no object? This video opened my eyes and made me realise just how silly and flawed this system is. In this video Alan Watts asks, why would you dedicate your life to a job you don’t like just to buy things you don’t want? Where is the sense in that? This made me ask: What makes me happy? What would I do if money were no object?

I decided that I would like to be a writer and travel the world. The world amazes me. I love being outdoors, be it up a mountain, in the ocean, in the snow, rain, or sun, I just love being outside and feeling alive. Happiness for me is being able to look upon something natural and grand and getting that feeling deep in the pit of your stomach when you realise that the world is bigger and brighter and more amazing than you ever thought possible. To experience that feeling every day would be heaven, and then to write about it and share it with others would complete me. 

To me, happiness is freedom. 

I am in pursuit of happiness, and I am gaining fast. I can see my goal, feel it almost, and this makes me happy. The money I earn from my job is not what makes me happy, it is the job itself that makes me happy. It is not the car I drive that makes me happy, but the fact that it carries my fiancée and I to wonderful places. I have met my soul mate, and she makes me happy. I am writing a book and that makes me happy. I have seen wonders of the world and they made me happy. 

What makes you happy? What do you want out of life? Do you even know, and if not how on earth do you find out? Well first you must live. By that I don’t mean get a job and earn money because that is not living that is existing. You do not do those things to benefit yourself, you do them to make other people money and because it is what you have been raised to believe is the way it should be, but it shouldn’t. Working in a job you hate is the most unnatural thing imaginable. You get one shot at life so why on earth would you waste it doing something that doesn’t make you happy? Why do something to make someone else happy? Do it for you, it should always be for you. Everything. If what makes you happy is abhorrent to others then to hell with them. Do what you want to do. Life for the now. Don’t dream of a perfect life, just open your eyes and grasp it. It won’t come to you of its own accord, it must be you that reaches out and grabs it.

I wish to one day look back at my life and smile knowing I did everything I could and enjoyed everything I did. As Alan Watt says: “It is better to live a short life that is full of the things you like doing, than a long life spent in a miserable way.”

I’m in pursuit of happiness. Are you?

 

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2L_cGjQSR80

Living my life for now, not for tomorrow.

I have being living my life in the same way as so many others, and it is only recently that I have come to realise the true nature and scale of my error. I have being living my life by looking to the future and not paying enough attention to the here and the now. 

 

My dream is to be a writer. Everyone who knows me is well aware of this, and some are even supportive, but I have being going about it all the wrong way. I have been looking into the future, imagining the life I want to live and doing the things I wish I could do, when really what I should have being doing was looking at my life now, and making the changes that will allow this future to become a reality.

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I realised that if I went about my life dreaming of the future I would never get there, because I would not be doing anything about it in the present, and that is a trap I believe a great many of us fall into. We sit around tables in bars and restaurants and tell each other our dreams and our hopes. We talk of the lives we’d like to live and the experiences we’d love to have, and yet once the talking is done we go back to our jobs and our homes and our lives and do nothing about it. We waste our times imagining as we sit at our desks and sort through our bills and iron our shirts that one day . . . some day, it’ll happen, but of course it never will.

The world is vast and full of dreams, and any one of us can venture out to experience it, but we don’t. Instead we dream, and sometimes dreams are a good thing. They are fundamental in fact, because without dreams we cannot alter our lives and embark on our pursuits of happiness, but sometimes we can dream too much and lose sight of the realisation that these dreams can become reality if we act. Sometimes you dream so hard that the dreams fade into insignificance.

I will not let that happen. I am engaged to a beautiful woman, I have an amazing job and together we have seen parts of the world others only dream of. Did we get there by dreaming? No, we got there by doing. I have had short stories published and I am coming to the end of my novel. Did this happen by magic? No, it happened because I acted. I moulded my life into the life I want to live, and so should you. 

The world we live on is vast. There are marvels all around us and enough stars for us all. We have to stop staring up at the sky and instead reach out and grab it.

Life is short and I intend to live mine each day at a time. Alan Watts once said that there is no future, only the present, and I couldn’t agree more. If you live each day as if it’s your last, you won’t be disappointed when that day finally comes. Image

The writing blog . . . is it worth it?

I write every day. It is a part of my daily routine and it is one that I love and look forward to immensely. My day at work flies ever faster when I have a story or character on my mind, and the joy that is sitting down at the end of a long day to get it down is unmatched, in my opinion. 

I am writing a novel – well, an adventure novel for children – but mostly my time is occupied writing short stories. Back in the 1900′s (in America especially) the way to get your name  out there and build up a readership was through short-stories. Magazines paid for good quality fiction and allowed good writers to build up a respectable CV which would inevitably help sell their future novels. Everyone was a winner. The likes of Stephen King, Ray Bradbury and Neil Gaiman discuss regularly that their early careers began with short fiction, and it is through their advice that I myself began writing. Short fiction allowed me to tighten up my stories, flesh out characters and build on plot in a way that just writing novels never could (not as quickly, anyway) and I have been lucky enough to have had some of my short stories published. 

But things are changing. Magazines are on the decline and are being replaced with internet only eZines and blogs. Most do not pay, and those that do require a submission fee. This may not be a bad thing as the internet is a vast place . . . but that does not necessarily mean exposure. 

I started my blog because, after meeting with other writers, it seemed like the thing to do – changing with the times and all that. And when I search through the Freshly Pressed blogs I can see that hundreds, if not thousands of aspiring writers are blogging on a near daily basis, and sure, they are attracting the likes of other aspiring writers, but in terms of helping their/our careers, I have to ask . . . 

IS IT REALLY WORTH IT?

Is our culture of prolific blogging taking us away from the one thing that we really want . . . to write good fiction? Writing blogs is still writing, yeah, okay, I get that, and if you want to get into journalism then swell, good for you, but we fiction writers should be writing fiction, yet people out there seem to spend most days writing about writing stories, instead of getting any down on paper/screen. (I of course see the irony in the fact that I am contradicting myself, but shush! That’s not the point.)

I guess what I want to know is: 

  • How many writers have been plucked from these blogging sites and given contracts/career boosts? 
  • Do agents/publishers see blogging as a positive thing? Or has it ever impacted on a decision to take a writer on? 
  • How are writers nowadays getting their work out there?
  • Is anyone actually benefiting from all of this, and does it even matter? 

Personally, I write short stories and send them to online magazines (the UK is short on paper magazines that accept the type of stories I write) and in the meantime I am writing a book which I will eventually send to agents with a list of prior publishing credits. This is the old way of doing things –  the way my writing heroes went about it, but technology and the internet has changed that. People blog for pleasure and that’s great, I have no qualms about that. If blogging for you is a bit of fun and a means of discussing/socialising then great, I am not talking to you. I am directing these questions at people like myself. People who want to make a career for writing.

How are you doing it? Has anyone done it differently, and succeeded? I am intrigued by the lives of others similar to myself, and the stories and adventures we writers undertake along our road to publication. What do you think? Is these opening of social doors a good thing, or bad thing?

 

I.M.

The Man Behind the Imagination . . . a Tribute

My journey as a writer had a somewhat misguided beginning. I decided to take the writer’s journey when I was just 15 years old and obsessed with a certain horror writer named Stephen King. As far as my immensely naive self was concerned I was to become the next Stephen King and send the rest of the world cowering behind their bed sheets . . . and I gave it a shot, a serious shot, too.

Writing lesson one: Be the first of you, not the next of another.

I was a pale imitation of Stephen King and that was obvious in my writing. The stories had imagination, but the writing was terrible – there, I said it, and so should you. Recognising that you are not all you could be, or that you are heading in the wrong direction is key to taking yet greater steps along the pathway to success. This is not to be confused with experimentation, because that is key also, but trying to copy another writer will get you no further than fan fiction. It took a university lecturer to point this problem out to me, and the manner with which he did this changed my life forever. (My writing life, at least).

Writing lesson two: Read EVERYTHING!

My university lecturer told me to go away in the summer holidays and look up a man called RAY BRADBURY. Who the hell is that? I thought, having never heard of him before. Luckily I was good at following advise, and I did what I was told.

I purchased a copy of The Golden Apples of the Sun, an anthology of short stories by Mr Ray Bradbury, and I consumed the lot in under a week. I was amazed. His stories were written decades earlier yet were more relevant now than they’d ever been. The imagination behind them, the fantasy and sci-fi blend that he pulled off so well, the poetic nature of his writing that just flowed from the page stunned me beyond belief. I had found my muse. When ever I read one of his stories my own imagination kick-started into life. His words were the fuel for my thoughts, and I was unstoppable. The first stories I ever had published were born from my Bradbury Buzz!

That is not all, however. Not only was Ray Bradbury a terrific writer, he was an inspirational speaker too. The interview with Ray Bradbury below gave me the get up and go to write my story A View Through a Window (Story 2 on my homepage) and that also went on to be published.

He talks of writing everyday and reading everyday. During his interview above he sets a challenge to all budding writers. Read a short story a day, for every day of your life. Unrealistic, you say? Well, yeah, okay, I kind of agree. I managed to go for 3 month doing just that but I lacked the discipline to keep going. That isn’t to say that I didn’t learn a lot. Filling your mind with so many words and stories is invaluable, and I challenge you to try it and tell me you aren’t the better writer for it.

Anyway, I’ve talked enough. What I wanted to say was Thank You. Thank You Ray Bradbury, God rest your soul, for you have inspired me and made me the writer I’ve become today.

Maybe one day my novel will sell and I will be able to spread his message further, but until then this will have to do.

If you want to be a writer of fiction, whether short stories or novels, watch the interview below and read Ray Bradbury’s anthologies. You’ll thank me for it once, then thank him for a lifetime.

If we listened to our intellect, we’d never have a love affair. We’d never have a friendship. We’d never go into business, because we’d be cynical. Well, that’s nonsense. You’ve got to jump off cliffs all the time and build your wings on the way down.

Ray Bradbury

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Story 2 – View Through a Window

View Through a Window

 

I was stood by the sink with my hands warming in the water, scrubbing my left over pots and pondering a great many things. There was a plate, a fork, a knife, you know, the usual, and they were all mine, and they were all dirty. As I scrubbed and cleaned I peered out of my window and saw the most curious thing. Stood in the dead center of my garden was a man. I had never seen this man before, but there he was, looking at me and smiling.

          I didn’t know what to do. I mean, what was there to do?

          He raised his hand and waved, as though it were the most normal and natural thing in the whole world, and for some strange reason that even now I cannot explain, I lifted my hand from the water and waved back. There I stood with my hand dripping, staring at this man, alone, in the middle of my lawn.

           But then it hit me.

           I know him.

           I didn’t know him like you know a friend, or a neighbor, or a person you met at a party once and can no longer remember the name of; I had never met him before in my life, but I somehow knew who he was and why he was there. I think I’ve always known.

          Placing his hand by his side he turned around and looked up at the night sky. Right then, at that very moment, I dried my hands and walked out into the garden. I stood beside him and I looked up at the stars. Together we watched a while, feeling the cool, icy air on our skin, and the bitter wind as it ruffled our hair. I couldn’t tell you how long we stood watching the stars twinkle and shine. Even more curiously he smiled some more, and then he pointed.

          A single star, brighter than the others, floated high above the moon. There were over a thousand stars in that sky, but I knew immediately which one he was pointing at. For some reason I nodded my head and the man, standing on my lawn in the dead of night, picked the star right out of the sky like it was naught but a pin being plucked from a cork board. 

          He brought it down to his chest, smiled again, and then he spoke.

          “This one belongs to you.”

          “Thank you,” I said, though I don’t know why.

          As I held the star tightly in my palm, he wrapped his hands around mine and closed the star beneath our net of fingers. “What is it?” I asked.

          “It’s your dream,” he said. “It’s been up there all this time, but now you are ready to take it.”

          Turning around, the man walked down my garden path and out through my garden gate, shutting it quietly behind him. Opening my palm I stared for a moment at the star and then looked up at all the others. I opened my mouth to speak, but no words came.

          Back in the house I placed the clean pots back in the cupboards and then wrapped the star on a chain around my neck, and there is has remained from that day to this.

          I don’t think that man visits everyone, and I don’t even think he takes the same form each time, but if you are lucky enough to see him, then be sure to keep your star safe.Wrap it in velvet, place it in a box, or on a ring about your finger, or on a chain around your neck, but for the love of God don’t leave it out on the side, otherwise it will fade and that would be a shame.

          A terrible shame indeed.

Story 1 – Imagination Man

Imagination Man

 

It is said that there are three worlds. The first is a world where the sun shines and the clouds glide and the rain falls; a world where people buy houses, go to work and fall in and out of love. It is a world run by people, money, fear and loathing. It is a world built to end.

The second world is the afterlife; the world of the soul, spirit, the phantom and the ghost. It is a world run by the dead, for the dead. It is built on hope, faith, happiness and joy. It is a world designed to last.

But there is a third world.

It is a world that both the mortal and immortal alike visit on a daily basis without even knowing that they are there. It is a world that is ever growing, ever expanding, laughing and crying. It is a nightmare and a fantasy; euphoria and dejection. It is a world between worlds that only you and I can see.

It is my world, for I am the Imagination Man, and I am always watching, saving and collecting.

The world of the imagination is a joy and a curse, filled and fuelled by the dreams, fears and untruths of you and those you hold dear.

As I walk my quaint chocolate cobbled streets I see things you cannot even begin to imagine – or can you? Did these creations come from your mind? Did these phantoms of the heart stroll through my gates from your subconscious? Is it your mind that is turning the light into dark and the sea into stone?

I talk with such bleakness, because, you see, I remember a time – the time of the child – when all things in your world were bright and happy; a time when the fields of corn swayed peacefully in the springtime zephyr and birds chirped and sung their early morning song. It was a time when the smells of sugar cane, candy floss and the crashing sea mists filled the air and everything that you ate tasted of toffee-apples and ice-cream and syrup. It was a time of simple pleasures.

I remember the day you were taken to the park by your grandparents and you ate tuna sandwiches and chocolate and your imagination turned my world into a giant climbing frame built of jungle trees, vines and rushing rivers of chocolate fish. It was a world of adventure, laughter and secret quests. That day made me the happiest that I had been for a very long time . . .  but it was not meant to be.

Soon after came the time of adolescence and your mind turned my world into a swirling vortex of hallucination and paranoia. Your girlfriend filled every window down my imaginary street, holding and embracing others in scenes that you tried so hard to detain. Soon every door was padlocked, sealing your fears inside. You held back your dreams to save your fears, but it was too much. At the tender age of eighteen the padlocks in my world vaporised and your nightmares filled my life. Murderers, zombies and back-stabbing friends cavorted about my lands turning the sky black and the sun red. My own imagination could not build enough walls to save me from your ghosts.

But the worst was yet to come. Now, in your tender middle age, your imagination is all but gone. I spend my days walking through endless white seeing nothing but lottery balls and money piles and naked colleagues. I see only the bad, never the good. You no longer imagine a world that is free and limitless, but a world that is destined to be, and forever will be, restricted and closed. You see the worst and never the best; you do not dream of candy forests and talking pets, you do not think about the girl next door in a pretty white dress, you just see your life, your wife and the end of time. There is no light in your world, only dark.

I am here to tell you, dear reader, that that is not the way it’s meant to be. Dreams are only what you make them. You may think that these dreams of yours are nothing but imagination that must be restrained, but in my world they are fact, fate, and everything that matters. Don’t you see? If you lock your dreams away behind padlocked doors then there, forever, they will remain, until one day the locks will no longer hold and they will buckle and break and your mind will once again be set free and be filled with dreams and hopes and aspirations . . . but, by then it will be too late. By then you will have entered the age of the old and you will be able to do nothing but imagine your life in the way it could, and should, have been.

Dear reader I urge you, do not lock away your dreams, for they are real, more real than you could ever see; only you could see, if you put down the locks, and let them be.

For I am the Imagination Man and I come from a world where nothing is as it seems.

Introduction from me, the Imagination Man

Dear all,

I have decided to begin a blog in order to spread the word about my short stories and hopefully entertain some folks along the way. I have been writing fantastical stories for five years and have decided to finally unleash them on the world!

My stories so far have been enjoyed by all, considered strange by most and described as “genius” by another (though his place in my life is a purely fictitious one), but please, do not listen to me. I beg you to read on and make up your own minds, comment below if you must and tell the world that the Imagination Man is here.

My first story shall arrive at midnight.