Sunday, November 28, 2010

Developing a Gratitude Practice

If the only prayer you ever say in your whole life is "thank you," that would suffice.
- Meister Eckhart
In my family, Thanksgiving day is about spending time with extended family, stuffing ourselves with delicious food, and giving thanks for the things we have. But what I've come to discover through my journey as a writer is that giving thanks should not happen once a year but every single day.

As writers, we're constantly thinking about the next step. How can I rewrite that scene so it flows better? What is going to happen next in the plot? Where should I be advertising? When will that agent get back to me? Will that agent ever get back to me? And even when everything goes right and you publish a book, people immediately ask you when the next book is coming out. It's like we never get a chance to stop and enjoy what we've done.

That is, unless you develop a gratitude practice. You see, if you keep looking toward the next thing, you will never stop and enjoy what you've done, and then what's the point of it all? Instead of focusing on what you haven't done yet--and feeling despair for what you might never be able to do--it's critically important to focus on what you have done. Every day. You can post it in your Facebook status ("I'm at 25,000 words! Woo hoo!") or just quietly to yourself ("I have written three chapters. That's more than most people ever write. I am doing it!"). You can go back and read what you've written, marveling at the words on the screen that you created. And you can go back and read reviews and feel gratitude that your work is out there in the world.

Perhaps one of the best times to practice gratitude is when people ask you how your writing is going. My answer is always the same: "Great! I'm having so much fun with it. Writing novels is such an amazing experience." If people say "How are sales?" I answer in a similar vein: "Really good. It's so incredible to me that my book is out there in the world and people are reading it." Because that's what truly matters: my book is out there, people are reading it, I'm getting some nice reviews, and I'm still writing.

So try focusing every day on the things you've already done, whether it's acknowledging that you wrote a single page or have written a complete book, whether a friend sent you a nice email about your latest draft or a positive review appeared on your favorite blog. Practicing gratitude for what you've done will give you a surprising boost of energy. Whereas thinking about all the things you haven't done can make you question whether you're really cut out for this, focusing on what you have done reaffirms that you are already a writer.

Give it a try, and let me know how it goes!

1 comment:

  1. i found you thru the Chirenjenzie group on Goodreads. i love the description in your header. i'll definetly be coming back.