I love surprises. Nothing makes me feel more appreciated than when I come home to a special art creation painstakingly crafted just for me by my four-year-old Signe, or to a sparkling clean car my son has just finished washing. Research shows we react more strongly to an unexpected pleasure than something we’ve been anticipating. Our brain releases a blast of dopamine when we find a bill on the street, or get a call from an old friend, or wake up to an early snowfall. These special moments of surprise momentarily kick our brains into overdrive, making us happier, friendlier and more productive.
I spent the last four days at the Pacific Northwest Writers’ Association annual conference. It was packed full of sessions on crafting a high-impact opening scene, developing a social media strategy to market your book, or finding the perfect agent. My brain absorbed every ounce of information, and at the end of each day I was completely spent. The conference culminated in a nerve-racking 90-minute ‘speed-dating’ session where authors pitched their books to prospective agents and editors. I had four minutes to give my spiel‒to lay my heart and a year’s worth of writing on the line in hopes of piquing someone’s interest. It was grueling. I stumbled out of the room six pitches later with a huge grin and five business cards from publishing industry experts who wanted to read my manuscript‒success! As I pulled into my driveway at the end of the exhausting day, I could hardly get out of the car.
My family received me like royalty. Little Signe gave me a tackling hug, and handed me a bracelet and a picture of the two of us holding hands with big smiles on our faces. Olivia, my seven-year-old, proudly shared the book she had labored over all day which included pictures of each family member and her notes on what she loved about them. Even Keenan, my fourteen-year-old who conserves compliments, congratulated me in a very heartfelt way. And all three of them had even cleaned their rooms in honor of the occasion!
After the gifts and kind words, my husband ushered me out to a seat in the sunshine on the back patio. Steaks were on the grill, and he had purchased a bottle of my favorite wine. We all sat down to a wonderful meal‒with no effort on my part! ‒and I was even treated to my all time favorite dessert: Ben & Jerry’s Heath Bar Crunch.
What an unexpectedly wonderful reception. It was one of those moments when the clouds part and sunlight streams into your life, and everything sparkles.
Just the boost of dopamine I’ll need to begin that next round of manuscript revisions. Sigh.