In Pursuit of Happyness

Life is a little like writing a story. James Dinsdale explains why.

Life is a little like writing a story.

Humans love to read. It's the reason we created language. And soon after followed the alphabet, paper, books, signs, billboards, newspapers, magazines, screens, computers, smartphones, tablets and Kindles. The focus required to really get into a book or article enables us to block out other distractions, and through this concentration, relax.

Every form of human entertainment begins or ends its life on paper. That latest film you enjoyed started life as a script or screenplay; maybe even a novel. That music you're listening to began as a score, or a series of lyrics. Even the headphones you're listening through started out as a written spec.

Around a year ago, when I first decided to start blogging, I spent an afternoon chatting with a creative writing lecturer. He told me that editing is the biggest barrier to creative writing. If we spend too much time trying to write the perfect set of words, then the editing required to achieve this stops us from actually writing them. Instead, the best writers unleash a flow of every thought that comes into their head, without pause, distraction or limitation, and then remove those that are unnecessary.

It is this careless abandon when first drafting a piece of writing that allows the real emotion and personality of a writer to shine through in the text, and it is that which makes reading it enjoyable, not the words themselves.

Since that afternoon, I've applied the same thinking to my own writing, and it has helped considerably. Whereas I used to give up halfway through writing a post after having lost the basis of the piece in a sea of edits, I am now reasonably proud of the words I am able to record. I mean, I'm no Hemingway, but it's readable, right?

The biggest thing I took away from that conversation though, is not related to writing specifically, but to the way we live our lives; The pursuit of Happyness.

As people, we naturally gravitate towards doing things that make us happy. We make extra effort to see that special person who makes us smile. We listen to our favourite bands. We watch our favourite TV shows. We visit places that hold happy memories.

What we are doing here is editing our lives. By concentrating on doing things that we know make us happy, we are ruling out a million things which have the potential to do the same. The problem is, there are times when we can't always do the things that we know make us happy. People drift apart, bands break up, TV shows get cancelled, and places close down.

How many times have you said "I'm bored, I have nothing to do"?

Get out there and try new things. Try everything, and filter out the things you don't enjoy, rather than just sticking to those you do. Say "Yes".

Jim Carrey in Yes Man Jim Carrey in Yes Man

I've done many new things in the last year. I've taken up squash. I skate. Last week I modelled for the first time. When I go out, I go to a different bar each time. I've tried Sushi. I've left my house at 3 in the morning for a spontaneous visit to a friend. I've watched amateur dramatics, seen a freak show and cooked Jamaican food.

The only barriers between you and what you want to do are self imposed.

Write your own story.


This is the 18th article to appear in The Branch. It is 573 words long.

Stay up to date

If you want to be notified when new articles appear on The Branch, just follow us on twitter.