The Practice of Gratitude

A writer’s life can be lonely and disheartening. We work away in our little cubby-holes.  We wonder if our stories are worth telling.  We worry that no one will buy them.  We worry we’ll get bad reviews.  We worry that we’re wasting time and space in our lives.

Of course, if you get “the call” from a publisher or agent, you get validation, and life isn’t so worrisome. If you get tons of sales on your self-published novel, your time and effort is validated.  But between those moments, there are many days, weeks, even years, when a writer can feel cut off from readers.  It’s easy to feel discouraged.  It’s easy to give up.

I have found a solution.

Some years ago I read Ann Voskamp’s 1000 Gifts. I found the book inspiring.  I followed her formula for finding grace in every day things.  I made a list, and over the course of a year, I reached 1000 gratitudes.  The first few were easy; friends, family, flowers, trees, rivers, pets, food on the table . . .  But one thousand?  I learned to break down the gratitudes into individual items.  Food on the table, one item of gratitude, became roasted chicken, glistening with perfectly browned juices; fluffy, white mashed potatoes piled in a blue bowl; apple pie made with fruit from my own orchard, spiced with cinnamon and baked in a flaky crust.  You see how it works.  One thanksgiving became three when each element was considered individually. The practice also improved my powers of observation which translated into better detail in my writing. Just writing out a gratitude became a mini exercise in writing emotion into description. 

After I’d reached the 1000 mark in my original quest, I stopped. I’m a goal-oriented type and I’d achieved the goal.  I noticed, though, that my days felt a bit flat.  Then I got busy and forgot about it.  But lately, that “flat” feeling has been creeping into more and more of my minutes.  I looked around, and, there on my desk, was Ann’s devotional journal, inviting me to live in gratitude. Beside it was a beautiful, leather-bound journal, a gift from a niece. All that was lacking was me. So, I’ve started again.  This time, my goal is to list at least five gifts every day, and no repeats until I’ve reached one thousand.  This is day three, and I’m feeling more hopeful already.

Whether you’re a writer, a reader, a homemaker, a doctor or a candlestick maker, I recommend a gratitude journal. We cannot control the world around us, we cannot control how others treat us, but we can control our own attitude.  A grateful heart and a mind full of thanksgiving will transform your life – even if no one buys the book.

4 Comments

  1. Lovely post, and so true!

  2. I love that, Alice! What a great idea. And a nice use for those beautiful journals we writers always seem to have in our possession.

    • Alice Valdal

      May 3, 2018 at 8:41 pm

      I know. This journal is so beautiful I felt I had to use it for beautiful writing — not grocery lists.

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