Thank Your Muse: Gratitude Enhances Creativity

If you don’t appreciate the beauty of the flame, you take away its oxygen.

The Novel Idea

If there’s one thing we writers specialize in, it’s self-loathing. We tend to beat ourselves up, whether we’re stuck in the muddy middle of a rough draft or slogging through a seemingly endless revision of a novel. We somehow forget the wondrous flow of a mellifluous sentence we write one day as we clank our way through a ragtag snarl of words the next. The novel idea we were once so thrilled by too quickly becomes a burdensome yoke around our neck.

Our demands are akin to a candle snuffer that smothers the flame of a candle. We forget how to appreciate the beauty of the flame, so we take away its oxygen without even knowing it.

Despite all the artistic mythology built around the anguished artist creating great works in fits of dark thrashings, ideas are like people: they’re attracted to positive energy, warmth, kindness. They don’t like being taken for granted or used and tossed aside. They don’t like to be ridiculed or disparaged or abused. They yearn to be lifted by the love and excitement around them — and when they feel the buoyancy of such exultation, they call out to their friends to join in the merriment.

So it’s good to pause and give thanks for your story, to bow to the transcendent powers of your creativity, to remember those fine moments when your words glowed, and pay heed to the specialness of your ability to conjure them.

Give thanks that you have a story breathing within you, and that you have the pencil and the paper or the computer to write it. Instead of focusing on the things you think you deserve or your inadequacies, take a few moments to focus on all that you have. Give thanks that you have a desk or a favorite mug for your coffee or tea. Give thanks for your singular life experiences — experiences that only you have. You’ve traveled to another planet in your life, and it’s a planet whose terrain only you know. Give thanks for your imagination, all those synaptic sparks constantly firing in their mysterious ways, seeking meaning, seeking thrills, seeking life.

Gratitude makes you healthier, happier. Gratitude makes you less self-centered and friendlier. Gratitude leads to more exercise and better sleep. Gratitude makes you a better manager or employee, a better teacher or student. Gratitude makes you more optimistic and builds your self-esteem. Gratitude builds your resilience and improves decision-making. Gratitude builds empathy and reduces envy.