Write It Sideways

Become a Better Writer by Practicing Gratitude

Today’s post is written by Jeff Goins of Jeff Goins, Writer. Thanks, Jeff!

I’m a naturally negative person. Call me crazy, but I think most writers are.

There’s something about being creative that causes you to be cynical. It must be the hyper-sensitivity to all things and the general intuitiveness that artists tend to possess.

If we’re not careful, this can lead to jadedness. Pretty easily, actually.

The other morning, I was reading a book that challenged me to list five things for which I was grateful. Without realizing it, I instinctively scoffed.

“Yeah right,” I thought. “Next…”

Whoa. Where did that come from? Was I really blowing off the idea of intentional gratitude as cliche?

Indeed I was.

So I decided to do it. I listed five things that came immediately to mind that I was grateful for. They were:

I let each of those stew for a moment. Immediately, I found myself smiling, somewhat uncontrollably. And then, other thoughts came to mind. Such as the opportunity to work on a book with my boss and being a part of a new team. In fact, the very prospect of being able to write as part of job made me grin uncontrollably.

“Wow,” I thought. “I must not be a very grateful person. Because this feels strange. But I kind of like it.”

My whole day looked different. All because of gratitude.

I believe we writers need to do a better job of intentionally reminding ourselves of the many blessings we experience. Here are three reasons why:

1. Because the world is a dark enough place, already.

And writers tend to empathize with the pain and suffering in the world. As artists, we internalize it and make it our own. This can be a beautiful act of compassion, but it can also lead to an unhealthy burden.

This heavy load we bear can lead us to feeling bitter. We can become jaded and even negative. Worse yet, we can begin to expect bad things to happen.

And this is not what we’re called to do. We are called to bring light and hope into the world through beauty and truth.

By identifying a few things for which you can be grateful for every day, you’ll find yourself able to acknowledge the harsh realities of the world without getting sucked into a cycle of negativity and pessimism.

2. Because you need to get over yourself.

Writers are also pretty insecure, envious people. Even some of the most accomplished writers and bloggers I know compare themselves to others. This is, to some degree, quite natural. And even a little healthy competition isn’t bad; it can motivate you to get better at your craft.

But unfortunately, this constant comparison can turn into a compulsion. It can kill your art and immobilize you as a creative.

It’s easy to feel sorry for yourself and the fact that you only have ten blog subscribers or that your book is barely selling. But no one ever changed the world by feeling sorry for herself. In fact, I’ve never met an insecure person who inspired me.

You need to kick this addiction to comparing yourself to others and be comfortable with the writer you are, and are becoming.

Paradoxically, the best way to do this is to get over yourself. Once you realize that your art is not about you, you can be free from expectation (even your own) to do what you need to do to create change. This isn’t about you or your fans or even money. It’s about making a difference.

3. Because you already have more than you realize.

Many writers I know are unnecessarily self-deprecating. They lament not being better or having more influence. And in so doing, they push away those whom they’ve initially attracted. It’s a terrible cycle, because this only causes them to feel even more sorry for themselves.

The truth is that you probably have more than you think.

Right now, there are people listening to you, watching you, tuned in to what you have to say. They’re waiting for your next move. And you’re oblivious.

I know this, because it’s happened to me time and time again.

Right now, someone is watching you. They’re paying attention to your art. Thank God for that. Treat this reality with care and respect. Be grateful for it.

As you do so, you will find others are drawn to you. Because gratitude begets confidence. And confidence is naturally attractive.

Plus, you’ll just find yourself enjoying your work more.

Can you be more grateful today? It could make all the difference to you—as a writer and as a person.

What five things are you most thankful for today? Please share in the comments section below.

Jeff Goins is a writer, marketing consultant, and pseudo-geek. If ideas in this post resonated with you, you can download his popular eBook The Writer’s Manifesto for more motivation to write for the right reasons.