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My 3.5 Writing Highs

The main writing dopamine hits that keep me coming back to the pen and page.

By Steve B HowardPublished 3 years ago 3 min read
My 3.5 Writing Highs
Photo by Lucas Clara on Unsplash

I once read that happiness basically comes down to about 5 or 6 chemicals in your brain. I’ve realized over the years that there are about 3.5 things involved in the writing/publishing process for me that really get these feel-good brain juices jumping.

The Spark

The initial flash of inspiration for a piece of writing is the big one for me. That moment when I can see, hear, smell, taste, and feel a story all the way to my core is the absolute best for me. This is what gets my butt in the chair to start writing. When I feel that need to get the words out of my head as fast as possible, I usually know I have something good on my hands. It is one of the reasons why I like writing haiku, poetry, and haibun. Since they are all short, I can get everything I want to say out of my head and onto the page quickly.

Short stories take more effort and novels, of course, take a lot more effort. Which brings me to my second writing high, finishing the first draft.

First Draft Fun

Finishing the first draft of anything longer than three thousand words is always an enormous high for me. Not only does it feel great to have a working first draft in my hands, but also, I always feel a tremendous sense of relief to simply know once again that I can actually finish the first draft. This is especially true of longer projects like novellas and novels. Every time I start a novel, I always have this feeling of dread that the story is going to stall halfway in and I’ll end up with yet another unfinished novel on my hands.

I started at least four novels between 1998 and 2000 before I finished the first draft of one in 2002. I have completed and self-published six more since then, but that fear is always there whenever I sit down to start another one. I also have two others that I’ve been working on for over three years now. I’m still hopeful that I’ll eventually finish them, but who knows. One is a historical novel that needs to be at least 90,000 words long. I think I have maybe 10,000 words right now. The story is still fresh in my head though, and I think that might be enough to get me to push through to at least pound out a first draft.


This is where the .5 of my 3.5 writing highs comes in. Feedback is great most of the time. I’m lucky enough to have a good group of writing friends I trust to give me good and honest feedback. When I get glowing praise from them, it is a great dopamine hit. Getting positive feedback from writers I respect is always fantastic. When their feedback isn’t positive, though, it stings. Fortunately, I trust them and I’ve been writing long enough to know when I should take their advice, so even their criticism of my writing ends up being beneficial.

Getting Paid

I wish this was the one that kept me high all day, but the truth is it is the rarest writing high for me. Lots of people will tell you that writing/art should be about the joy of creating and not about the money you make, but the truth is, for most of us I think, once you reach a point where your creativity is also earning money you don’t want it to stop. Why would you? If the old saying, “Do what you love and you will never work a day in your life” is true, then doesn't it make sense to want to actually make a living from your creative projects? This might not be true for all writers, but it sure is for me. I love getting paid to write. I wish I could figure out a way to get paid more and more often.

So there you have it, my writing highs. I might be an addict, but it is totally worth it!


About the Creator

Steve B Howard

Steve Howard's self-published collection of short stories Satori in the Slip Stream, Something Gaijin This Way Comes, and others were released in 2018. His poetry collection Diet of a Piss Poor Poet was released in 2019.

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    Steve B HowardWritten by Steve B Howard

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