How to Be a More Grateful Writer

Today, I’m guest posting on Write It Sideways, an excellent blog and resource for writers. The topic? Gratitude. Something I quite honestly suck at.

Grateful
Photo credit: Paul Harris (Creative Commons)

I’m naturally a negative, cynical person. For the longest time this destroyed my art. And I’m not the only one.

Many writers, I’ve found, are just like me in this respect. Maybe it’s our intuition or focus on the inner life, but we tend to be sensitive, slightly neurotic folk who are always looking for the downside of something (even when there isn’t one!).

We need to stop. And we need to stop now.

Why?

Well, because no one was ever inspired by someone who just complained about stuff. And that’s why you endeavored to be a writer in the first place, right — to change things?

I thought so.

So let’s get started. Here’s how we begin counting our blessings.

Tell the truth

Be honest. It’s not as bad as you think it is. When you say, “Nobody cares what I write,” you don’t mean it, do you? I don’t care who you are or how crappy your content is. Someone out there cares. I promise. (That doesn’t mean you should keep writing, crap, though.)

Say what you’re grateful for, out loud

Tim Sanders taught me this. I try to do it every morning. Before I start my day, I go through the previous day, and I thank God for something that I can truly grateful for (usually a few things).

Then, I do the same for the coming day — almost as a prayer of what I hope will go right today. As crazy and positive-thinky as this sounds, it works. And it’s pretty easy. Give it a try.

Think of those worse off than you

Don’t be morbid or give way to an entitlement mindset, but consider your circumstances relative to the rest of the world. If you’re reading this, you’re in a place of remarkable privilege that the majority of the world doesn’t enjoy.

Why are you squandering such position on feeling sorry for yourself? You have a lot to be grateful for — a computer, a house, supporting friends and family, opportunity to advance yourself in life, and so on.

Don’t insult those who lack such basic necessities and opportunities by being a grump today. Look at your garbage. Yes, your garbage. How much do you waste every week? Even that is a luxury that many do not have.

Remind yourself that, although you may not be as good as you like, you do indeed have a gift. Others have told you so. So be grateful for what you have — your talent, your wealth, your relationships.

It may not be as much as you like, but it’s what you have to work with. Use it and thank God for it.

Gratitude is not a feeling

It’s a discipline. Something you habitually practice. And the more you do it, the better you get. I know this, because I’ve done it (in my own awkward way). And you can, too.

I hope you will. Because the world doesn’t need another drunk, bitter writer. We need hope. Will you give it to us?

For more on why you should begin practicing gratitude (and how to do it), read my guest post on Write It Sideways: Become a Better Writer by Practicing Gratitude.

36 thoughts on “How to Be a More Grateful Writer

  1. I love what you said about gratitude not being a feeling but a discipline. I’ve been keeping a gratitude journal for the past few years — each night jotting down at least one thing from that day that I have to be thankful for, something that has been a blessing. Many times I can’t stop at just one. This one act (this discipline!) really helps me have a more positive perspective overall — plus, it must make God smile to hear me say “thanks”. Yes, I’d say gratitude is a very good thing!  

    1. Cheryl,

      You remind me of a family practice we did when our son was young. We’d take time at the dinner table to talk about God and His blessings then we’d write them down and put them in a coffee can. That can stored daily glimpses of God’s blessings.

      I agree with Jeff. That’s a great discipline.

      Tom

  2. HI Jeff,

    Beautiful post, and a good reminder for all of us about not forgetting to be grateful- even for the smallest of things. We all do tend to over look things and tend to crib about what we don’t have or could have had! 

    An apt quote- “Learn everything you can, anytime you can, from anyone you can – there will always come a time when you will be grateful you did.”
     Sarah Caldwell 

    Thanks for sharing 🙂

  3. The world would grow so well if everyone followed your advice, Jeff.  Every night before I go to sleep I try to think of five wonderful things that have happened to me that day.  It’s amazing how that list (which is often longer) reframes my thoughts and helps me to sleep.

  4. I tell my self to be grateful to have the freedom to write freely. In other countries they don’t have the freedom as we do to speak our mind, and sometimes we abuse that. Thanks for this post Jeff!

  5. It’s funny. Complaining come easily. I don’t have to really try to complain. Gratitude, however, can be hard. When my perspective is off then being thankful is the hardest.

      1. we have a choice: easy now HARD later or hard now EASY later.  I saw this in a presentation once with a play on fonts and bold text that makes this statement more dramatic.   It can be applied to all areas of life.

  6. Even for those things that went poorly this day, what did we learn?  I am grateful for all the things I’ve learned from those mistakes.  I loved Tim Sanders new book!

    Well done Jeff!

  7. Great Post.  I like what you’re saying about how no one is inspired if we just pour out our complaints.  Gratitude is a discipline.  Years ago a friend inspired me to give thanks verbally for five things every night before bed, and more than just Pollyanna positivism, it really does work to change my attitude when I am DISCIPLINED to actually do it.

  8. Wow…Jeff…

    First time reading your content…great thoughts here…

    I just wrote a little bitty post about How this labor day…some folks were still going to celebrate it for the rest of the week and for some time to come because of unemployment….

    it’s a win win in the sense that…i’m grateful for having his platform and well…a job….

    and praying for those who need one….

    thanks for this insight!

  9. Thanks for this . . . I was totally struggling with my attitude today and kept telling myself that the remedy was to be thankful.  It’s taken me all day, but am finally ready . . . was just sitting down to write a ‘thankful’ post.   Thanks for the reminder to stop procrastinating on this one!

  10. In a deserty time of life right now so it helps to be encouraged by something as simple as this post and to keep matters in proper perspective. Many thanks.

  11. Jeff, you offer a positive daily practice anyone can do–recount why you’re thankful for yesterday’s blessings. I appreciate your passing on Tim Sanders’ sound advice. I hope to read his latest book some day soon.

    You also cause some good memories to resurface, ones worth sharing some day on my own blog. Cultivating a grateful heart can be like planting a garden. If you don’t plant the seeds today and do the work, you won’t have the harvest when needed.

    Thanks for the reminder and the challenge.

    Tom

  12. Good call on not encouraging people to continue writing crap. 

    No, seriously. 

    I don’t like what I write sometimes and it requires some humility to want to improve that.  I’m noticing lately not everyone wants to improve their writing though, which is sad because I have to admit…

    I’m pretty grateful for the awesome, easily available resources we have, like your blog and many others that give great advice and tips.  Instead people want to be stubborn and basically turn down a free opportunity for growth.  I just don’t get it.

    Anyways, I agree, there’s a lot to be grateful for.  Great post & reminder!

  13. I was just introduced to your site by C. Hope Clark!
    I have been thinking about the word “gratitude” vs. “complaining” the past few months. I agree with what you said totally. My other conclusion was watching who I hang out with…are they people with gratitude or not? Hanging out with people that are not grateful, sure makes the discipline part a bit harder. 
    Thanks for pointing out that as writers, not being grateful can relate in our writing, which is not what I want at all. 

  14. Jeff, this is so inspiring! Yes, as a fellow writer…I find myself easily snookered into thinking (and complaining) doldrums of life. I normally keep the complaining writing in my perosnal journaling…but often times (usually in hindsight) I can see where my dissent, angst or just flat out negativity about something that just bugs me oozes through just enough to sour the encouragement I always seek to focus on when talking with others. Perhaps I need to take a good healthy dose of my own encouragement myself on the days I am just in a foul minded (and hearted) mood? 🙂

    Thank you for sharing this…it really has my gears turning (in my head and spirit).

  15. So true – we need to remind ourselves often how lucky we are, and feel grateful for what we have, and who we are.

    I head research has also demonstrated that fear and gratitude can’t co-exist in the brain – they use the same neuro-pathways. So by focusing on what we’re grateful for, it dissipates the fear. That’s, to say the least,… useful 😉

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