Are You Grumpy about Gratitude?

It is hard to talk about gratitude without sounding trite.

I mean, who hasn't heard Oprah talk about how important gratitude is, and how using it changed her life?  And with Thanksgiving (in the US) bearing down on us, chatter about gratitude is all over the place.

It's easy to get grumpy about gratitude.

It's also easy to get glib about it.  

And when you get grumpy and glib about something, odds are good you will no longer partake of it.  Which is a shame, because gratitude really does rock.

Here are some reasons why I think we tend to not rock gratitude and their antidote as well:

It can feel superficial, like you're just making crap up.  Which of course, you are (because we make up all our stories, the ones we write and the ones we tell ourselves about ourselves).  But who wants to waste their time on trivialities?

The antidote:  Keep going with the gratitude until you get to the deeper stuff--or you realize that you really are grateful for those little things (like hot water, I am grateful for hot water every morning, truly grateful).

It can feel like the booby prize, like you're just saying stuff because you're supposed to, when really your life totally sucks and you don't have anything to be grateful for.

The antidote: Do it anyway, because you really do have something to be grateful for--you're breathing aren't you?  Start wherever you can and keep going.  The thing is, we get what we concentrate on.  So if you're concentrating on lack, that's what you'll get more of.  

It can feel like it's not worth it.  Ah, humans.  So often we only do something when we think we're going to get something out of it.  We've been told that a practice of gratitude will enhance our lives, so we do it once and then when nothing happens, we stop.

The antidote: Do it for no reason.  Do it because you really are grateful.  Do it just because.  And then, when you're not looking and not expecting it, watch how good it makes you feel.  And, when you need help practicing gratitude, try this:

The And Avalanche

I was at a women's retreat this past weekend and the leader, Karen Drucker, told the story of her friend who likes to participate in an And Avalanche.  It goes like this:  you find something to appreciate, and then something else.  And then something else.  And so on.  So, you find yourself in line at the post office.  It's a long line, and moving slowly.  But you tell yourself how much you appreciate the color the walls are painted. And how pretty the jacket on the woman in front of you is.  And....and...and...until you have totally lifted your mood.  Pretty nifty, huh?

So here's something that will make you feel good all over--a video of the above-mentioned Karen Drucker singing "I'm So Grateful."  My favorite part is a few minutes in, where she sings "Gratitude Before Me" complete with hand motions.  Start your day with that every morning and see how you feel! 

How do you incorporate gratitude into your life?

The Writer's Guide to Happiness

Fetr-fitr-ramadhan-53473-hWhat does it take for you, the writer, to be happy?

This is a question much on my mind lately.  What does it take for me to be happy?

Does having my novel about to be published make me happy? Yes, very.

Does not having time to work on my next novel as I finish a big editing job make me happy?  No, not at all.

Would I sacrifice the editing job in order to have time to write?

Now that's a thorny question, because its the editing job that is paying the bills this month.  Ah, thorny questions.  Don't we love them? Yet in the process of pondering and answering these questions, I've come to some conclusions about what makes me happy as a writer, which I offer below.

But before we go there, let me remind you of one thing: the Dalai Lama himself says that the purpose of life is to be happy.  Ergo, the goal of being a happy writer is an important spiritual motivation.  So quit feeling guilty about it and see if you agree with what it takes to make a writer happy:

Process.  Or, to put it another way, writing.  Being involved in the actual process of writing is the single most important thing to make a writer happy.  Obvious, right? I know, I know.  But sometimes we get so engrossed in the peripheal stuff that we forget this.  If you need some help writing regularly, I've got seven practices that will help.

Balance.  Sitting at the computer and writing all day makes Charlotte a dull girl.  And a broke one.   I tell myself I'd love nothing better than to write all day, but when the opportunity presents itself, I procrastinate.  I need variety--a little of this, a little of that.  Working on a huge editing project makes me long for my novel writing.  And vice versa.  It's all about the balance.  There's also the idea that writers need something to write about--as in a life well lived.  You've got to do a bit of both, with the trick being not too much of any one thing.

Support. The writer's life can be a lonely one.  Something that can help it not be quite so lonely is finding a community of like-minded writers.  I wrote about this topic last week, in a post you can read about here.  Never underestimate the happiness that connecting with other writers can bring.

Joy.  What brings you joy?  And why do I ask?  Because joy feeds writing.  For too long we've believed the opposite, that only angst-ridden writers produced deep work.  It's time to put that outdated paradigm to rest.  Joy is what gets my creative juices flowing. And having my creative juices flow makes me happy.  So what brings you joy?  Watching the sunrise through the trees? Taking your dog for a walk? Spending time with your family? Swimming in the ocean?  Only you know.  And only you can make sure you spend time in doing what's joyful for you.

Rest. A rested writer is a happy writer.  An unrested writer is a cranky, anxiety-filled disaster waiting to happen.  Don't buy into the old, stupid paradigm of the over-the-top writer staying up all night only to crash for days after.  Rest--eight hours of sleep at the least--fuels a consistent writing practice.  And that will make you happy.

So, did I get it right?  What would you add or subtract?  What makes you a happy writer?

**The one thing that makes me happier than anything is writing novels.  My Get Your Novel Written Now class starts next week, join me?  Read more about it here.

Photo by Hamed Saber