The day after I wrote the last post about finding something to be grateful for in your writing (hey, it was Thanksgiving), the New York Times style section did a piece about gratitude journals entitled “Let Us Give Thanks. In Writing.” The reporter, Henry Fountain, found it a little hard to believe what Oprah and the psychologists were claiming: that by keeping a list of things you’re thankful for you could be happier, and the happier you are the more creative and productive you are. So he decided to start his own gratitude journal. He found that keeping a journal may be simple, but it’s not easy. He battled feelings of open-endedness and corniness, and finally: “I settled for much more specific feelings of gratitude. Being thankful for a tiny act, I found, was far more satisfying because it felt more immediate and genuine. So I was grateful for the free parking space I found at the train station, for the fruit vendor who finally had some ripe bananas……”
He’s so right about keeping a journal being simple but not easy – this is true whether your journal is about gratitude or full of whining. It’s never easy to start writing about your inner life. And my thought is that we writers need both the gratitude and the whining in our journals. Snarling and kvetching is just fine to write about – we need it for our work. Ripe bananas as well as the green.