If there’s one thing that can counteract the emotional ups and downs
of the writing life, it’s gratitude.
I shared the many benefits of being grateful in another post, “How a Writer Can Save her Sanity Even in the Worst of Times.”
As a quick recap, practicing regular gratitude has shown in studies to help reduce stress, improve sleep, boost confidence, and encourage optimism.
In one study, those who wrote about what they were grateful for over a 10-week period felt more optimistic and better about their lives.
At this time of year (or any time, really), it’s good to remind ourselves to take out that sheet of paper and write down what we’re grateful for. It could be as simple as the fact that we can still write—that we have the ability to put our hands on the keyboard and spend the time recording our thoughts.
Even these little things can’t be taken for granted, as historical fiction author Lauren Gregory explains below.
It can be hard sometimes in the rush and worry world of publishing to bring ourselves back to the basics—our love of writing. To help encourage you, here are eight experienced writers who’ve appeared here on Writing and Wellness and their thoughts on gratitude.
I’m grateful that I’m a bestselling author!
Write down your goal. I believe in the law of attraction because it’s worked for me.
When I started writing Ice Massacre, I wrote my goal on an index card: “I am so happy and grateful now that I am a bestselling author.”
I put this over my alarm clock. When I rolled over and saw that at 6:00 a.m., it got me out of bed, because I knew that dream would never come true if I fell back asleep.
—Award-Winning Canadian Author Tiana Warner
Grateful for life…
My cancer doesn’t have a month.
You know, when everyone runs, raises money, wears pink and celebrates the boobs or testicles they do or do not have, grateful for life. Yet in all of those festivities I, too, rejoice in the joy of surviving. And as a writer I believe that all life experiences are fodder for the pen, including illness.
Those community events are great rituals for people; they aid in their healing whether they are the victors of disease and loss, or family members left behind. I’ve been both. Both are hard life lessons.
For me, the victor without a month, without a celebration, a run, or a color, my healing ritual is writing.
—Award-Winning Novelist Mindy Halleck
I’m grateful the writing process kept me focused…
Many people have asked if the experience [of writing about my daughter’s suicide] was cathartic, therapeutic.
The answer is complicated. It wasn’t therapeutic in the sense that it was a magic balm for my crushed heart and soul. That will probably never happen; it’s something I’ll live with forever.
But the writing process did keep me focused and distracted from the blackness of Casey’s loss, something that otherwise would’ve overwhelmed me. So for that I’m very grateful.
—Memoirist and Suicide Prevention Advocate John Brooks
I’m grateful I can still write…
It is frustrating having a physical disability that limits my function, but it is far scarier to be faced with a mental limitation.
The combination sometimes leads to feelings of hopelessness and despair. I mean, really—how unfair is it for a writer to have a condition that impacts their work both physically and mentally, and especially when I’ve only just begun my career in writing?
It’s like a singer losing their vocal chords and being unable to remember the words to their own songs. I am grateful that it hasn’t completely prevented writing at this point, but some days I struggle with depression and finding motivation to overcome the obstacles.
—Historical Fiction Author Lauren Gregory
I’m grateful for self-doubt…
The constant, for me, is self-doubt. That’s always been a default emotional position for me, even as a child. It threatens to derail me by telling me I’m not good enough, that the positive developments in my career have been flukes, that good reviews can be dismissed but bad reviews are true, that even though I’ve written and been happy with X number of books, this one, the one I’m writing right now, is the one I won’t be able to finish, the one that will fail, the one that will be awful.
I’m constantly having to pick myself up and make myself go on.
And yet I’m grateful for self-doubt. Because the flip side is that, in causing me to question absolutely everything about my writing, self-doubt makes it impossible for me to become complacent, steers me away from compromises and easy choices, and, by never letting me settle, pushes me to do the absolute best I can do.
The challenge is holding the balance between the productive self-doubt that makes my writing better, and the destructive self-doubt that tells me I shouldn’t be writing at all. So far I’ve managed to hold on.
—Science Fiction and Fantasy Author Victoria Strauss
I’m grateful I got to hold my life’s ambition in my hands…
There were times when pursuing my dream felt like crawling naked and belly-down through shards of broken glass that cut me to the very core of my being, and I wanted so badly to surrender to despair. I wished that I could content myself with being a cashier, or a sales rep, or really anything else. But I couldn’t, it was simply not an option.
There is only one thing I can say in response to those years: very, very few of us come into this world with an ironclad sense of what we must do with our lives, and even then, it’s exceptionally rare that we are able to accomplish it. When that moment comes—and you get to hold your life’s ambition in your hands—the joy is so sweetly transcendent as to be almost painful.
Whatever else happens in my life, I’ll be grateful until my dying day that I could have that moment, and that joy.
—Author and Artist Melissa Hudson
Grateful to other artists and writers…
Get weirder. There’s no one left to please.
This is how I give myself permission to not worry as much about what other might think, and to write the stories that come to me as honestly as I can.
The artists, writers, and people I admire most are those who ventured out on their own path and often met with resistance. But I’m so grateful to them for having the courage to do so.
By taking risks and feeding my weird, I try to remind myself to do the same.
—Young Adult Author and Writing Professor Todd Mitchell
Grateful for others’ opinions…
I suppose the worst was the time a colleague told me my first book needed to be redone from start to finish and even that I should delete a main character—a character I loved very much.
I sat back and asked myself how much I was willing to take his advice, or if I loved the book enough as-is to listen to my own heart?
I was grateful for his input, but it taught me to have an opinion about my work and not always be dependent on other people’s thoughts.
—Writer and Musician Amy Saia
Starting my day from a place of gratitude…
I usually have so many things going on, I can easily be at my computer from morning until I go to bed at night if I am not careful. I know this is not a good or healthy way to live.
I have a few techniques I use to keep myself in balance. One thing I do pretty consistently is start my day off reading short, inspirational pieces. I takes some time to reflect on those and then sometimes journal as well. I also take a few minutes to think about all the things I am grateful for in my life and make a point to start my day from this place of gratitude and calmness.
I find when I do this, my days go much smoother and I am able to accomplish more in a shorter amount of time because I am more focused and grounded.
—Freelance Writer, Instructor, and Author Kerrie Flanagan
I wake up every morning grateful for the life I’m living.
The darkest moments of my writing career had nothing to do with my writing and everything to do with my youngest son’s life-threatening illness and struggles with suicidal depression during his recovery.
I’ll tell you we’re still moving through those struggles one day at a time.
As for my true path, I’m going a little metaphysical here.
Every time I doubt my choice to be a full-time writer, some amazing person or opportunity comes my way to reaffirm what I’m doing. I dreamt of being an author as a child. I found my high school senior will the other day, and I said at the wise old age of eighteen, “I’ll be a writer working on my best-selling novels.”
It took me two careers, a failed marriage, three kids, and a lot of hard knocks learning to get back to my path, but here I am. I wake up every morning and feel love and gratitude for the life I’m living.
—Science Thriller Writer and Educator J. C. Lynne
What are you grateful for in the writing life?