Wednesday, January 9, 2013

Everyday Gratitude - Jenny O'Connell

Two years ago I started a gratitude journal. Every day I would write down things I was grateful for, they could be "big things," like the people in my life who love me, and everyday little things, like the feel of the warm sun on my face. I started my journal at the beginning of the summer and I'd typically write in my journal while laying on my hammock in the back yard, staring at the blue sky and the green leaves.

Eventually I stopped. I am a horrible journaler, was never one of those teens who wrote her heartfelt thoughts down in a book and felt better afterwards. But that gratitude journal has sat on my dresser ever since. I opened it the other day and read what I'd written. And what struck me was how happy my little entries sounded. They were just a few sentences that started with "Thank you for..." or "I am so happy and grateful that..." Reading the entries I remembered how wonderful it felt every day to lay in my hammock and appreciate the small gifts, like the sound of my kids laughing or the way my cat snuggles up to me on my bed.

It strikes me that it's the little things that make a difference, both in life and in writing. I love quirks in characters, little details in stories that are seemingly insignificant until the story unfolds and you realize how truly significant those little details are. Just like life. I could have been thankful for my house and that I get to write books and have a job I love. But it's the unexpected acknowledgement of the little things, like an email from a reader with kind words about my books or cool crisp sheets on a summer night, that make me feel good inside, waaay inside where it makes a difference.

That realization has, hopefully, enriched how I write characters, made them a little more real, a little more nuanced. I know it has enriched how I look at my life. And that's why I started writing in my gratitude journal again and why I don't plan to stop.

5 comments:

  1. I think it's so important to pay attention and appreciate the little things in life, because they are much more frequent than the bigger take-your-breath away events.

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  2. I've abandoned my gratitude journal too--but I agree that it is the small things that make life so lovely.

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  3. Love this, Jenny! It's easy to forget how much we have to be grateful for. Thanks for the reminder.

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  4. I've also always been a HORRIBLE journal-keeper. Last year, I attempted to keep a "firsts" journal, and it gave out around mid-February. I've honestly never tried a gratitude journal. I think I'm going to have to give it a shot...

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  5. I have a journal that I jot things down in about my day (every day that I remember which is um 3 to 5 days a week) and adding something I'm grateful about has been a new year's resolution because those little things ARE the most important things.

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