I often feel that the same imagination that helps me plot and write novels works against me in real life.
The What If questions writers use to create significant conflict in fiction can also prompt us to scan our personal lives for danger. And our need to escalate conflict in our stories can bleed into envisioning worst case scenarios for ourselves.
Thinking that way can become a habit that makes it hard to enjoy life.
Looking For Happiness
To counteract that, over the years I've made an effort to use my writing to enhance happiness, not fear.
One wonderful way to do that is to focus on what we're grateful for.
If you’re in the middle of a truly difficult time feeling grateful can be hard. But you can start small.
For example, you’re reading this article, so right there is something to be grateful for. Not everyone can. According to the Chicago Literacy Alliance, 30% of adults in Chicago, where I live, have only low basic literacy skills, and 61% of low-income households in Chicago own no children’s books.
So right now you can take a moment to feel grateful for being able to read.
And there’s more good news. Gratitude gets easier with practice. The more you look for and note, ideally in writing, things that you’re grateful for the more of them you’ll start to notice.
Vivid Writing And Gratitude
Writing about what we feel grateful for fixes it more firmly in our minds.
It also creates a record of the good things in our lives to look back on when we need it. And, as with any other kind of writing, the more detail, the more real it seems and the more fixed it becomes in our hearts and minds.
For instance, if you’re grateful because your cousin, whom you don’t see often, came into town and you had a nice dinner don’t just write Dinner with my cousin.
Instead, use your memory and writing skills to expand on the parts of the evening. Make them vivid by using all your senses:
- Lasagna came out just right—the fresh garlic and fresh tomatoes made it taste fantastic
- Shared stories about our parents—heard ones I never knew about my mom which helped me understand some things she said to me when I was growing up
- So enjoyed the gourmet root beer – reminds me of summer vacation as a kid and going to A&W as a treat
- The warmth of the fireplace and the sparkling white holiday lights looked beautiful and made me feel cheerful and relaxed
- Fresh-baked chocolate chip cookies for dessert made the whole apartment smell great and feel warm and cozy; loved the dark chocolate for the chips
Even if you’re also right now worried about whether you’ll find a new job, or whether your books are selling, or how you'll finish your novel in the few spare hours you have, it’d be hard not to feel good while writing a description like that.
What are you grateful for?
Take ten or fifteen minutes and write it down. I bet you'll feel wonderful.
Until next Friday–