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On being grateful

It’s easy to get caught up in the obstacles that make it hard to attain a creative life—lack of resources, lack of time, lack of support, the list goes on. But, it can be useful to shift that way of thinking towards something more productive. As we approach Thanksgiving, why not take time to reflect on the things you appreciate about your work, your process, and your community?

As Christine Garvey put it in her recent guide, How to feel like you have enough, “Getting grateful helps you flip the switch from ‘this is what I’m missing’ to ‘look at everything I have.’”

This isn’t a call to look at everything with rose-colored glasses. Instead, it’s an invitation to realize that every half-empty glass really is also half-full. As we’ve seen in countless TCI interviews, optimism and gratitude can be vital assets for bringing creative work to life.

As we head into Thanksgiving week here in the US, we’ve compiled some thoughts from the vast TCI Archive that might help you ease into your own feelings of thankfulness. We hope you find them useful.

Carlos-Dengler
Actor, Musician, Writer, Memoirist, Composer, and Filmmaker
Michael-McDonald
Muscian, Songwriter
Scott-McClanahan
Writer
-Jlin
Electronic Musician, Producer, DJ
Dr. Eve-Ewing
Poet, Author, Sociologist

“Many times during the day, it is a lot harder than I thought it was going to be. And then I just have to take a step back and remind myself that I was headed in a direction where, if I was still doing that as a 45-year-old man, it would have been tantamount to a literal prison of the soul. I wonder if I would still be alive. So, I have to always express gratitude—no matter how hard it is today, it’s always a victory. But it’s difficult.”

“I’ve grown old enough to be wiser about what success really is, and at times I’m struck with this overwhelming gratitude about everything that has happened to me. It’s still very complicated. The other day somebody asked me what my plan was for the next five years and the only thing that I could think to say was that I just hope to stay above ground, basically. I don’t really think beyond that much. Hopefully I’ll be healthy enough to pursue some artistic endeavor, whatever it is. If I’m not able to perform and sing anymore, if my arthritis gets so bad that they have to strap a paintbrush to my fist so I can paint, I’ll be okay with it. Because life is a gift, you know, and it’s already been given. It’s all what you do with it.”

“Mostly you need to realize that you make your own place as a writer. You make your own New York, your own Beat Hotel. Look, your friends are amazing! Just look at them, you don’t have to become famous and hang out with cool friends. Your mom is much cooler and more complex than you can even imagine.”

“People see when you give something your all, and I think they recognize it. I try to exercise everything that I have to the maximum. To me that is what gratitude is. I show it everyday, every time I sit down in this chair and work. I try to not only express myself, but literally do and not just say. And not just doing because something is trendy, but because I’m actually exposing myself and putting myself out there in some way. It is very rare that I’m like, “Oh, this is very comfortable and I’m having a great time.” The creative process is crazy sometimes, a lot of the time actually. But you have to trust yourself.”

“I have a few tricks that I do. One is that I always forgive myself for what I’m not doing. I focus on something really hard and I forgive myself for everything that I’m not doing. Part of it is that I’m very blessed and privileged to be at a point in my life where I’m really only doing things that I love. When I was working on this second book I was miserable in my office at like 2:00AM, and my mom said, ‘Try to find the positive and see it as a blessing.’ At first I was super indignant. There is nothing positive about me being here thinking ghosts are gonna come murder me in my office in the middle of the night, right? But then I sat back and I was like, someone is paying me to write a book, right? This is literally my dream. It’s literally my dream! I have an office. I don’t have to leave ‘cause Starbucks is closed, or be up late at night in a space where I have five roommates and I can’t work. I have a desk, I have a key.”