Preparing Our Creative Self, or Gratitude as a Way of Life

As artists, we’re all on the lookout for inspiration.  We’re always on the lookout for amazing art fodder (something I’m tend to post about a lot as well).  We’re always reaching for the next a-ha moment, where we get smacked upside the head with our next creative idea.

I would like to suggest that one of the best ways to keep the ideas and inspirations coming is to train.  You know, train like an athlete, who not only has to practice the actual physical activity he’s pursuing, but train like an athlete that is working to keep his mind and his spirit in harmony with his body.


It takes discipline to master anything.  It takes focus.  And it takes a positive mental attitude.

I realize that not everyone is looking to become the next Picasso, but even anyone who is looking to create for personal joy can benefit from finding that place of positive mental attitude.  Keeping our hearts and spirits and minds in the right place can keep the inspirations flowing.

Reflections on Gratitude

Gratitude for all of the blessing in our lives is likely one of the most important pieces of maintaining the right mental attitude for our creative selves.  And gratitude for what we have already in our lives is a great start to bringing in more.  I personally have way more fun when I give to someone who appreciates it, as opposed to someone who doesn’t.  It’s not that the giving is about receiving gratitude.  It’s that if I can choose where to offer my help or my time or my resources, why wouldn’t I choose someone that feels gratitude rather than someone who doesn’t??

I’m certain the same force works when we’re talking about God and the Universe.  If we’re ungrateful, or even if just not actively grateful, why wouldn’t the blessings go to someone else, who IS actively grateful?

Even with a plea for inspiration, the same energy holds true.  And so to keep ourselves in top form, to make sure that we’re living the life we imagine, and to really prepare ourselves for the creativity, we should start with being in a place of active gratitude.

Casa de St John

In our little family, we have cultivated a habit of gratitude.

It started years ago when our eldest kiddo was a little bitty guy.  He liked to do bedtime prayers, the traditional kind where he would bow his little tow head and ask God to bless his mom and his dad and his grandma and his grandpa.  It got to the point where he would rush through it (like many super young kiddos will be prone to do), and it definitely got way less sincere over time.  Not that he wasn’t sincere in wanting God to look out for all of his family members, but insincere in the way that he was going through the motions without any thought or feeling.

We decided to shake it up a bit.  We started gathering together on our big bed and take turns saying something to God each night.  At that point we had kid number 2 with us.  And it did help for a while, but eventually, it got to where they were arguing over not wanting to go first, and the prayers were the same old thing every night, without thought.


That’s when we came up with Thank-You-For’s.  This is a routine that has hung on for years, and through the addition of 2 more kids, numbers 3 and 4 (I do sometimes call the kids by their numbers, especially when they’re all being super loud).

Here’s how it goes: Each night, we gather ’round the beds in the little kids’ room (it’s a part of the tuck-in routine, and the little ones are first).  Someone different starts each night.  We go around to each of us, and when it’s your turn, you get to say something that you are thankful for that day.  It can be anything.  What it cannot be, though, is some gripe, or some wish that something had gone differently.  It can’t have some kind of modifier on it, like “Thank you for the sunshine today, even if it was a bit hot” (don’t laugh, I heard that one at the beginning).  It’s got to be something clean, something you’re actually thankful for.

The thank-you-for’s range from cartoons to one of the pets to friends to family members to toys.  We’ve been thankful for clouds and rainbows and worms and rocks.  We’ve been thankful for monster trucks and motorcycles and air soft guns and care bears.  My favorites from the kids are when one of them is thankful for another one of the kids.

Just When I Need It

This has helped through so many rough days, those days when I just can’t wait to drop into bed, thinking that maybe I should have stayed in bed all day long.  It has helped with those days when I’ve been stressed about finances or kids griping all day long or when I have had a client in my business give me a really hard time.  It all seems to melt away when we sit down and focus on that for which we are truly thankful.

It sends us all of into dreamland with thoughts of joy and gratitude.  And it sends us all there together, as we’ve shared in the gratitude, and the whole energy of the household is positive and warm and happy.

How to Get Started

You might not need a huge routine for gratitude.  That’s not what’s important…what’s important is that you find that place of gratitude.  Everything else can built from there.  I have a gratitude journal app on my iPhone, where I record the top 3-5 things that I’m grateful for every day.  I create in my art journals quite often about my gratitude.  I make lists in my sketchbooks, I find posty-notes with gratitude lists stuck in the bottom of my purse.

So find yourself a way to focus your gratitude.  Make lists.  Use one of those extra little spirals or Moleskine notebooks or hand-made journals.  Grab a little book at the Dollar Store.  Start a list on your computer, or get an app for your iPhone.  But get to it.  And save those lists.  They are a terrific reminder on those days that feels a bit ungrateful that you do have something to be grateful for.  They can remind you of how wonderful your life is, right now.  They help you keep your heart and mind open and connected to the Creative Source and all of the inspiration out there for you.

Prompt: What are you thankful for RIGHT NOW?  Make a list, on a card, on a tag, on a piece of patterned paper.  Use that in an art journal page.  Do it again tomorrow 🙂

9 thoughts on “Preparing Our Creative Self, or Gratitude as a Way of Life

  1. I just started my gratitude art journal. I found a really nice one for really cheap with heavy pages that are holding up to gesso and acrylic well I’ll be posting it later today.

    I’m grateful for my parents. They were full of dysfunction….but without them, I wouldn’t be here. Without their problems, I probably would have been an entirely different person – less mature, less insightful, less empathetic.

  2. Pingback: Altered Book Gratitude Art Journal | The Sprightly Writer

  3. I keep a daily gratitude journal that I write in at bedtime each night. And like you, many of my art journal pages are about things I’m grateful for.

    We also have this routine at the dinner table each evening where we usually ask and answer the following questions: “what was your favourite part of the day today?”, “what did you learn today?”, ” what is a nice thing somebody did for you today?”, and “what is a nice thing you did for someone else today?” to remember to be grateful for the little things, and the people who help us along the way. And to rem,ember to be nice and helpful to others. My daughter loves it, and I can’t wait till my son starts talking so he can take part in it too 🙂

    • That’s a nice thing to ask the kids. We say dinnertime prayers for teachers and friends, but I never thought to ask them what nice things someone did or they did for another. What a great way to teach them to notice and acknowledge these small gestures that can have so much of an impact.

  4. Pingback: Gratitude is always cheap! « Surviving on a tight budget

  5. Pingback: Gratitude changes Attitude | Dancing for Joy

  6. Pingback: Positive Attitude – Have a Gratitude Heart | QUOTES OF ENCOURAGEMENT

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s