I love the week leading up to Thanksgiving, when expressions of gratitude dominate social media and I am reminded many times a day to slow down and notice the blessings in my life. The simple act of noticing requires presence. And when we are present, we see our own truth and become more of who we are.
Contrary to what some may think, writing memoir is not about “dwelling” in your past. It is about being present to your past so that you can see—and ultimately craft and shape—the truth of your experience. It is about making sense of your life experiences for yourself and for your readers by seeing your past from your present state of conscious awareness.
In her audio workshop “The Art of Writing Memoir: Finding the Past in the Present,” Natalie Goldberg says, “The more you are present, the more your past will come up and be alive. Only right now can give you your past.”
Writing memoir, then, is an act of presence that invites you to notice the glimmering truth of your past. When you are present to your writing, your past begins to reveal the deeper, universal truth of your experience.
But how can you become more present in your writing practice so that “your past will come up and be alive” on the page?
That’s where gratitude comes in.
“The real gift of gratitude,” says British psychologist Robert Holden, “is that the more grateful you are, the more present you become.”
And what better time of year to begin incorporating gratitude into your writing practice than Thanksgiving?
Keep a Writing Gratitude Journal
By its very nature, gratitude—noticing your blessings—trains you to see the glass half full rather than half empty. When you incorporate gratitude into your writing practice, you literally shift the way you see your writing.
Instead of noticing the inner critic that makes you doubt your writing (glass half empty), gratitude helps you to see the beauty in your writing, the significance of your story, and the truth of who you are as a writer (glass half full).
A Writing Gratitude Journal—a journal devoted to gratitude for your writing—is an easy way to make gratitude an integral part of your writing practice.
Begin your Writing Gratitude Journal by listing three things you appreciate about your writing. These can be anything from your unique voice and vision to a piece of writing you are proud of to the effect your writing has had on your self-awareness. No appreciation is too small. Anything and everything that you appreciate about your writing is worth noting.
Commit to adding three things you love about your writing to your Writing Gratitude Journal daily. Why daily? Because turning your attention to the things you love about your writing on a daily basis will deepen your relationship to your wise writing self. Over time, you will approach your writing from your writing truth rather than from your inner critic.
And your writing truth imbues your writing with your presence—your unique voice and vision—which makes your past present on the page.
So, as you head into the glorious bustle of Thanksgiving Day, take a minute to practice gratitude for your writing. In the comments below, write one (or two or three!) things you appreciate about your writing. Give yourself the gift of being present to the truth of who you are.
Marilyn, I love this idea. I keep a gratitude journal but rarely think about being grateful or appreciating anything about my writing. The critic is always talking at me.
I have just started a new notebook and now I’ve started my list!
Happy Thanksgiving! I’m grateful for finding you and this site this year.
Hi, Elaine. I, too, am so grateful that you’ve found Writing Women’s Lives. Keep practicing gratitude for your writing and watch/hear your inner critic quiet down. Keep me posted! Best, Marilyn
What a great idea for practicing gratitude! I am grateful for the way my writing makes me feel: calm and collected. I’m grateful that my writing forces me to slow down and sit still and pay attention to what is going on inside and out. Finally I feel gratitude that I’ve been gifted with a way with words; not everyone can write, and I feel lucky that I can!
Hi, Charla. How wonderful to see you here! And what an excellent gratitude list. A good reminder to all of us that writing is a gift we sometimes take for granted. Lucky, indeed. See you in class tonight! Best, M