If there’s one universal truth about all types of writing and all types of writers, it’s probably that this is hard. Writing is difficult. If you pursue it with any persistence and passion, you’re certain to come up against obstacle after obstacle, even if they’re of your own making. And if you’re pursuing publication, many (too many) of them aren’t of your own making—and aren’t under your control. I’ll say it again:
This is hard.
It’s also wonderful. If we didn’t think so, we wouldn’t have chosen it, would we? Writing is wonderful. Not always, no. If we want it to be more than a casual hobby, we do indeed have to push through some harder and less-fun stuff. Even fun things have not-fun parts. But from the broad-view, writing is wonderful. It’s fun, it’s enlightening, it’s satisfying and important and good.
So how do we get back to that feeling of wonderful in those times when everything feels like heavy sludge?
The answer is easier than you might think. You don’t have to buy things or fix things or rearrange. You don’t have to take a hiatus. You don’t have to go to switch genres or go back to school. You don’t have to change a single thing you’re doing; you only have to change the way you look at them. How? Gratitude.
Don’t get eye-roll-y on me. Science backs this one 100%. SCIENCE! Taking the time to be grateful for what’s already here changes your mindset, your sense of contentment, your mental and physical health. And perhaps the best part is that it’s really freaking easy. It literally requires nothing but thought. No effort, no striving. Just stop and think about what you do have, what is already good.
Actually practicing is the key here. To most of you, this concept is not news. To many of you, it’s old hat. That doesn’t matter if you’re not actively practicing it in regard to your writing life right now. Knowing about gratitude is not enough. Neither is intellectually being aware of all you have. You have to take the time to actually sit and soak in it with intention and specificity. Not just know it but feel it.
A couple years ago I started a sort of gratitude depository (ah, poetry) where I placed sticky notes highlighting things I’m happy about, grateful for, proud of, etc. I call it my Joy Jar, and I’ve kept one each year since. (You can read about the beginnings of my annual Joy Jar here.) It’s become a tradition for me to go through all of the notes and read them on New Year’s Day, appreciating all the good the past year held before moving into the next. It’s been invaluable, and I highly recommend it to everyone for every facet of your life.
But more pointedly, writers, this is your ticket back to the happy train. This is (probably, maybe) not going to cure your writer’s block or change your editor’s feedback or get your book reviewed. But if practiced regularly and with real effort, it will change how you feel about those things—and how deeply they end up affecting the rest of your writing life (and life-life.) [Read more…]