I start every day with four simple things: a) a cup of coffee b) a hard bound notebook with blank, unlined pages, c) a pen and finally d) a place to sit comfortably
I take a few deep breaths, open the notebook and begin writing. But it’s not just any kind of writing, I write three things.
The First Ten Things
I write ten things I’m grateful for that morning. Each of them goes on a single line and is as short or long as is needed to express my gratitude to this world. Last week, these were a few of the things I found myself grateful for.
- Writing for a living.
- Great ideas in the morning.
- Readers who help.
- Readers who don’t and this keeps me thinking.
- Blue skies and Southern sunsets.
- Rain when you need it most.
- Butter – soft, sweet yellow butter that melts onto hot popcorn
- Sweet dew-laden morning air and screened porches in which to sit and enjoy it.
You get the idea I’m sure. Ten things. That’s all. As short or as long as I like. I don’t need a lot of words as I’m not trying to explain or describe this – I feel the wonder of the thing I’m grateful for quite nicely – so short form is fine as a simple acknowledgement.
I find this two minute exercise gets me focussed in the right direction. Instead of worrying about the latest atrocity or political scandal I look for the blessings in my day. Those are easy to do and the longer I do this, the easier they become as I suspect some part of me is becoming more and more aware of the great things around me.
It’s an easy attitude adjustment.
The Second Ten Are More Interesting
The second ten-thing list I write are ten new ideas under a heading I call my Idea Factory, I borrowed the idea from James Altschuller and his book Choose Yourself. The objective of the idea is to come up with ten new ideas.
Now before you start quaking and wondering how you’d ever do this, let me say a few things.
The first is that these don’t have to be real or workable. They’re ideas. Fantastic fantasy about something you’d love to see happen, somebody invent, write, paint, do, or … Well, anything you can think of.
The ideas don’t have to be workable by you right now. I have some really great book ideas and a ton more really, really bad book ideas in my lists. But they’re new and they’re written down. I have a great many tool ideas, boat ideas, futuristic technology, impossible ideas – heck, my ideas wander all over the map.
I can hear you saying it now. You couldn’t do ten creative things. Altschuller suggests if you have problems with ten, then start with twenty. Seriously. If you’re aiming for twenty, it will be a piece of cake to hit ten. (I did exactly that the first two times I did this. Now I don’t bother.)
The objective in this
The objective isn’t to get your mind to produce ten workable ideas. The objective is to start training your mind to expand further than it currently looks. To be free enough to find something outrageously new and different and look at any world or situation in a creative manner.
I’ve been doing the grateful notes for four months now and I find myself finding more and more things in my life to wonder at and be grateful for. The more I am grateful and the more I express this, the more things I seem to notice. I think it makes me a) more aware of all the good things going on around me and b) expands my understanding of how the myriad events in my life all combine in a whole to produce things I can be thankful for.
The idea factory is newer – approximately two months and yes, I’ve done ten things almost every day for 60 days and yes, that means 600 new ideas. There may be a few repeats in there but for the most part, they’re new (and very, very different).
Of the 600, there are approximately 10 book ideas I might do or could do. Maybe a few more or more likely, less. In another month or so, I’ll take an hour over coffee and go through the pages and pull out the workable books or ideas.
If there’s a good idea in there but I won’t do it, then I’ll offer it to my friends for their consideration.
The Third Step Is The Easiest.
The third step is the easiest. I fill two pages – give or take – with whatever’s on my mind that morning. There are no rules and no boundaries. Some mornings, it’s a letter to myself. Some mornings, it’s lists of things I’d like to do someday. Some mornings it’s two pages of the most sorry-for-myself drivel you can possibly imagine.
As I said, there are no rules other than to clean out the garbage in my brain and take whatever is on the top of that machine inside my head up to highway writing speed. It’s like a fine tuning of the writer’s engine to get rid of the crud in there.
A new attitude, ten new ideas, and a clean slate for the day’s activities – I think that’s pretty good for a half to three-quarters hour while I drink my coffee.