After I published my first book, I thought I would write a second book straight away. In fact, I was working on a second book in 2019. But then the pandemic happened, my world shifted, and I stopped focusing on this project.
I was still doing author interviews during this time, and one question I always got asked was "What are you writing now?" I felt like I wasn't writing anything.
I had long since set aside my manuscript and was in the midst of a very painful, very challenging experience of just trying to make it through each day. But while I wasn't writing a book, I was still writing.
On a regular basis, I sat down, took a deep breath, and wrote little notes of gratitude and affirmation. Simple delights that I actively chose to focus on in my life rather than let them slip by in the waves of worry and stress otherwise rocking my world at that time.
Not because I wanted to publish them or turn them into a book, but simply because they helped me shift my focus to the beauty in life and greatly increased my experience of joy. As I wrote, I noticed my brow unfurrowing and a smile returning to my soul. I always felt lighter, more grateful, and more hopeful afterward.
For a long time, I thought I was deviating from my path as a writer. I kept feeling like I should be focusing on writing another book. I felt like my gratitude and affirmation practice was separate from my work as a writer—a detour.
But over time, my understanding of what it means to be a writer began to shift. If I'm putting words on paper, I'm writing. If I'm shaping my ideas into lexical form—for whatever purpose—then I'm writing.
As I expanded the definition of myself as a writer, I simultaneously began to see broader implications for the writing I was doing. According to Laurie Santos, Professor of Psychology at Yale University, "Experiencing gratitude can increase your mood and lower your stress levels. It can even strengthen your immune system and lower your blood pressure."
Because my gratitude and affirmation practice has been so helpful to me, I realized it could help other people increase their joy as well. Because the past few years were tough for a lot of us. So I created a workshop, Writing for Your Mental Health, to share these ideas and help people practice a little bit of gratitude writing themselves.
And suddenly I realized that maybe I wasn't on a detour at all. Maybe I'm simply on a different path. And it's right where I need to be.