The week after meeting a tight writing deadline is often a bit wonky for me. In its own way, it can feel like re-learning how to live in the real world again, with real people, engaging in real conversations, and figuring out how to deal with real-life issues after my head has been treading water in all things fiction for a long, long time. And while I spend months and months craving and anticipating the freedom that comes after submitting a manuscript to my publisher, that newfound freedom can be, at times, disorienting. Have you ever felt that way after pushing hard to reach a goal?
Several months ago, after I turned in my latest novel to my editor, I had that ever-dreaded “off” week experience once again. My tolerance for people was lower than usual and I was irritated by things I can usually let go of quickly, exchanging my typical glass-half-full mentality for something murkier and critical. I was definitely in a funk.
And then, one afternoon, I spent a few hours soaking up some much-needed quality friend time in one of my favorite places in North Idaho—a quaint and quirky beach town surrounded by mountains as far as the eye can see. And while it was fun to joke and laugh and eat ice cream in the sunshine and just BE WITH HUMANS WHO DON’T LIVE INSIDE MY HOUSE WITH ME (can I get an amen?), one of my beloved deep-thinking sisters posed a question that has stuck to my soul ever since. I go to bed thinking on it, and I often wake up thinking on it.
The question: “What’s not wrong with your life?”
Read that again. Now read it again.
For most of my adult life, I’ve heard how important it is to foster an attitude of gratitude. I’ve sat in dozens of conference rooms, read stacks of books, and listened to inspiring speakers supply practical tips on how to build healthy habits that support a heart of thankfulness: creative journaling, bullet-point list-making, 30-day texting challenges with friends, keeping a gratitude jar in the kitchen to open and read once a month… all great ideas, yet I never consistently practiced any of them. But for whatever reason, I was able to ponder the phrasing of my friend’s question in an entirely different light. It was a new twist on a familiar concept.
But of course, the real work isn’t in reading the question, it’s in answering it. So, here’s one way I’ve been challenged to answer this for myself whenever I fall into the dreaded funk mode (hello all of 2020!) I hope you’ll take the challenge, too!
Set the timer on your phone to 5 minutes. As you start the timer, ask yourself the question: What’s not wrong with my life? Once you speak out your first answer, ask yourself the question again. Repeat this pattern until the timer goes off. I know it sounds a bit redundant, and you might even be giving me some epic eyes rolls right now, but there’s something about the repetition of this process that is so good for the soul—trust me!
(Alternative Friend Challenge: If you have someone you can do this exercise with in-person, then have them set the timer and ask you the question: what’s not wrong with your life? over and over again for the next 5 minutes. Then switch roles and do the same for them. This is my favorite way to use this tool!)
When you get stuck (and you will!), take a deep breath and ask yourself the question again so you can reach a bit deeper. You’ll be amazed at how many things you can come up with once you get past all your quick-reach responses.
Here are a few examples of my quick-reach answers to this question:
-My faith in God
-My marriage of 17 years
-My kids (ages 15,12,10)
-My church family
-My friends--both local, abroad, and online
-Our home in north Idaho
-My relationships with my extended family
-My health and the healthy habits I’ve kept
-A dream career I love
Now, here’s a few examples of my deeper-reach, four-minute mark answers:
-Listening to audiobooks as I wait in alllll the car-lines
-Having several ️heart sisters️ I can call about ANYTHING at ANY TIME of day
-Watching the sunset with my daughter and talking about our dreams
-Belly laughing at inside jokes with my husband
-Eating homemade cinnamon raisin sourdough bread with my morning coffee
-That lovely post-workout feeling after I walk my daily five miles
-Snuggling in bed with a good book and listening to the rain
For me, this one question has become a handy and incredibly versatile tool to shift my attitude and focus inside of five minutes. It has pulled me out of the funks I fall into after deadline, and the funks I find myself in on those how-do-I-write-a-book-again days. I hope it does the same for you!
So… what’s not wrong with your life?
Nicole Deese's humorous, heartfelt, and hope-filled novels include the 2017 Carol Award-winning A Season to Love. Her 2018 release, A New Shade of Summer, was a finalist in the RITA Awards, Carol Awards, and INSPY Awards. Both of these books are from her bestselling Love in Lenox series. When she's not working on her next contemporary romance, she can usually be found reading one by a window overlooking the inspiring beauty of the Pacific Northwest. She lives in small-town Idaho with her happily-ever-after hubby, two rambunctious sons, and princess daughter with the heart of a warrior.