Do you think about your writing too much? Do you focus too much on unfinished writing goals?
I know I do. Every day I catch myself worrying about word counts, deadlines, and opportunities I’ll be missing out on.
You’d think that this kind of obsession would make you a better writer, or at least a more motivated one. But it’s probably poisoning you, embittering you against the very craft you’ve come to love.
To save yourself from this jaded point of view, you need a way to take a step back. You need thankfulness.
Thankfulness Is a Muscle
Have you ever worked out for the first time in awhile, only to discover a bunch of sore muscles you didn’t know were there?
Thankfulness is just like one of those underused muscles. It’s inside of you, but it takes special work to build it up.
There’s a nature reason for this. Gratitude doesn’t come easy. It isn’t the natural byproduct of daily life.
The normal reflex most of us experience, rather, is frustration. When a green light flashes to yellow, you don’t respond with gratitude. When the guy who ordered his food after you gets it first, you don’t think, “Good for him!”
The momentum of the universe hurries us toward chaos, disruption, and destruction — not things that encourage thankfulness and peace.
This is why thankfulness must be practiced. It isn’t automatic. In fact, it is the counter behavior to what is automatic (frustration, anger, bitterness). You have to train your mental muscles to do what is opposite of easy.
You have to deliberately practice thankfulness.
Why You Should Be Thankful for Your Writing
Are you thankful for what you’ve written?
Are you grateful for what you’ve learned over the months, years, or decades you’ve been a writer?
This may seem like a silly question with an easy answer, like, “Of course . . .” But we’re quick to follow it up with reasons why we can’t be too thankful.
For example, I struggle to be thankful for my writing because:
- I haven’t sold many copies of my books.
- I haven’t written and published enough books.
- I’m not living solely off the income from my writing yet.
To be frank, these are important goals and I’m still set on achieving them someday.
But if I only focus on what I haven’t accomplished, I become blind to everything I have accomplished on the journey so far.
Another way to think of this is in terms of parenting. Eventually, I want my newborn son to grow up, find profitable work, marry a wonderful woman, and raise a healthy family. But that can’t happen yet because he can’t even crawl, walk, or speak a word of English.
Should I be grateful for everything he’s done so far in his three months of life? Or should I be bitter that my future goals haven’t come true yet?
It’s a flawed comparison, but the point remains: If we only focus on what hasn’t be accomplished, we risk living lives fraught with negativity and bitterness.
How to Be Grateful For Your Writing
There are a lot of ways to practice gratitude for your own writing. Each is specific to you and your own progress so far.
Here are five ways to practice gratitude for everything you’ve done so far, and to use that positive momentum to re-enter your current writing energized and hopeful.
1. Reread Old Work
Last Christmas, I published a small volume of stories for my family. I was feeling down about my writing a few weeks ago so I picked it up and thumbed through it.
“Damn,” I thought, “this is actually good!”
Take some time to revisit past accomplishments. Revel in any work you posted, published, submitted to contests, or simply written for loved ones. Each of these took talent, patience, and courage. Celebrate that!
2. Journal About Why You Write
Not all writers will want to write about writing (how meta!), but you might.
Consider journaling on one of these topics in order to appreciate your successes and face the future with hope:
- When did you write something that scared you?
- Describe the first time you published to a wide audience. How did you rise to the task?
- What is your favorite piece you’ve ever written? Why do you like it so much?
3. Ask Your Writing Community
Reach out to your small group of fellow writers and ask if you can write short notes to each other sharing what each writer does that you are thankful for. It doesn’t have to be long, either. You can use this copy in an email, text, forum post, or whatever:
“Hey friends! I want to take time this holiday to be thankful for writing, and for my writing partners. Can we take a few minutes to write a nice note to each member of our group, telling him/her what we’re grateful for in his/her writing? I think it’d be awesome and really encouraging!”
4. Thank Your Favorite Author
Is there an author that inspires you to be a better storyteller? Consider reaching out to him/her and offering a note of gratitude!
(Dear Cormac MacCarthy and Jon Krakauer, if you’re reading this: Thank you! You two are amazing and I love your work with a crazy burning passion!)
5. Fearlessly Write Something New
Perhaps the best way to be grateful for writing is to do it without fear.
Fear, after all, is wrapped up in the negativity we’re trying to eliminate. If fear is a Dementor, then thankfulness is the patronus charm!
So whether you’re immersed in a work-in-progress (à la NaNoWriMo) or dabbling with a fresh poem or story idea, write something new and continually push fear and doubt away from you. They have no role in a successful writing career anyway.
Thankfulness Leads to Success
Gratitude is a powerful force. It is often the miracle elixir that heals broken relationships and broken spirits.
This Thanksgiving, don’t let thankfulness just be a passing word that you whisper with held breath. Don’t speak aloud about thanksgiving without actually working the muscle of gratitude.
And don’t let your writing fall prey to ingratitude. You wouldn’t let someone poison your water or booby-trap your house, would you?
In the same way, fiercely guard your heart against all forms of bitterness. Practice gratitude today, in both your regular life and your writing life, by doing some active practice. It’ll hurt at first, and probably feel uncomfortable, but it’ll undoubtedly be worth it.
What are you thankful for when it comes to your writing? Let us know in the comments.
Who is your favorite author? Whose books inspired you to write? Take fifteen minutes to write a thank you letter to an author you admire.
When you’re done, share your letter in the comments below, and be sure to leave feedback for your fellow writers.
BONUS: Share your thank you letter on Twitter where the author might see it! You just might make someone’s day.