Happiness, money and writing: A confession

TUESDAY, 24 JULY 2012

Spending money is not something that makes me particularly happy. I know having money to spend on the odd luxury is in theory important for happiness. In practice, though, I have conjured up a lot of personal happiness for months on end without having money to spend on things that I did not absolutely need. I can sacrifice personal comfort, better clothes, a bicycle that does not creak when I ride on it and that doesn’t have to be left standing against a telephone pole, even to an extent my health. And I have already sacrificed a lot, just so that I can work on my own projects during the best hours of every day.

Yet, for more than five years I worked six, and regularly seven days a week on my own projects – without the accompanying happiness I expected from it. Why so? Virtually all my projects over that period were about making money. Everything was about selling or marketing stuff to people. I did that because I wanted to create a better life for my partner and me. Week in and week out I told her, just wait a little longer, the money will start coming in soon. For more than five years I kept reciting this line over and over, I kept predicting, kept explaining: Just wait a little while longer.

I know writing makes me happy. I also believe writing is part of a higher level of existence for me. I can even believe I serve a higher purpose when I write – especially when I write about certain topics. In the more than five years that I spent almost all my time trying to make more money, for the most part, I relegated my writing to the background. It deprived me of the happiness that was always the result of the writing process. It deprived me of the belief that I was living on a higher level than when I only struggle for survival.

February last year [2011] I decided, or realised, I couldn’t take life for granted anymore. Life ends every day for a multitude of people who were still thinking about doing what truly made them happy. So, starting last February, I have again been spending time on my writing almost every day. And again I have been experiencing the happiness that I knew would be the result.

But it remains hanging like a millstone around my neck, like a scandalous letter against my chest: I don’t make enough money.

Which means my partner – the woman I love – has to work harder to make money.

Which means I am happy at her expense.

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