The past several months have been somewhat of a crazy whirlwind. In the span of six weeks, I co-led a 200-hour yoga teacher training intensive near Sequoia National Park, led a Splendid Mola writing retreat in Idyllwild, and taught yoga at my lit agency’s annual retreat near Seattle. It’s been amazing and exhausting…and it took me so far away from the whole Writers Happiness idea that I couldn’t even figure out how to jump back in. But, as sometimes happens when we leave things alone for a while, an idea I couldn’t have fathomed before has appeared, practically fully formed. I’m pretty excited about it. And while it didn’t start with a free gift box from Penzeys spices, that’s what cemented it.
Some of you might already be familiar with Penzeys and the amazing way they’ve become a voice for kindness and action since the 2016 election. (If you’re not, check out their latest social media post.)
Besides standing up firmly and compassionately for hope and kindness, they have also been highlighting or giving away spices from countries that are most injured by the current culture of cruelty and racism in our government. A couple weeks ago, they offered a free gift of Pico and Salsa seasoning and Mexican vanilla. I love both these flavors, so I ordered it—the first time I have taken advantage of one of their give-aways. This gift arrived at my door right in the middle of another awful week of news, when—like a lot of us—I was horrified and overwhelmed and furious.
Enter Penzeys’ box of hope.
It was perfect. Bright yellow, with the words “Embrace Hope” written on the top inside the Penzeys heart, it was filled with goodness in every sense of the word. In addition to the spices, there were two lovely recipe cards (one for each spice), a heartfelt and beautifully written missive speaking to how much we owe immigrants, how lucky we are to live in a time when we get to experience so many kinds of culture, and how we who believe in kindness can and must speak up. The box also contained a refrigerator magnet of the Penzeys “kind” heart and a gorgeous little “Embrace Hope” lapel pin, neither of which I knew would be there.
I can’t quite explain the impact this box of hope had on me. It was so generous and unexpected and kind that it brought tears to my eyes. It completely refreshed me and made my resolve stronger. It made me feel that as long as there are people like this in the world—transforming their business into a bastion of hope and kindness and community—we are okay. It was exactly what I needed.
Which brings me to the second part of this, my own little missive on the future of Writers’ Happiness: what Writers’ Happiness actually means and where it’s going.
For me, it means more hope.
It means more time to write, create, think, read, and love.
It means remembering that, as writers, we have a certain way of creating the world we want to see…and, as humans, we are all endowed with an extraordinary ability to choose love over fear and kindness over hate.
It means caring deeply about living in a way that changes the world for the better through the things we already love, such as writing and community and lifting each other up.
It means creating a community where we all hold space for each other to be who we actually are and to live in a way that honors our deepest gifts. In other words, a community that feels like opening that Penzeys box, like full-bodied happiness, relief, and hope.
And, so, this is where Writers’ Happiness is going, because this is the world I want to live in. I’m going to create this community, in a way that I hope it can be world-wide. I have some ideas, but I need yours! In your wildest writer heart, what would you want from a community based around “writers happiness”? Think both micro and macro, from a critique partner to a free place to go write for a month. Nothing is too outlandish or impossible, and nothing is too small or personal.
To give you an idea, I’m thinking things like:
- Kindness writing grants (MacArthur-genius-grant style), for writers who consistently take care of everyone else, are incredibly good and kind people, and therefore rarely have time to write. (I know a gazillion of these. You are probably one of them.)
- Weekly 5-minute Writers’ Happiness exercises.
- Weekly 5-minute guided meditations for writers.
- Local Writers’ Happiness gatherings all over the world, to watch sunsets or go for walks or talk craft or go to yoga or…???
- Really fabulous retreats that barely cost anything so that everyone can come.
- Buying homes and turning them into retirement co-living for writers.
And I’m thinking about how to do it so that we all support each other and no one is left out because of lack of funds or circumstance.
Every accepted business trope I know tells me that what I want to do is practically impossible. It might be. So far, I haven’t actually found another model for what I’m thinking. Maybe this will be a grand failure.
I kinda, in my deepest heart, think we can do it.
There will be more details as I figure them out, but for now: what do you think? What would this kind of community look like for you? What would you want from it? I want your crazy and your perfectly mundane thoughts. I can’t wait to hear – just comment and let me know!