Writing Prompts: Thanksgiving and Gratitude

by Matilda Butler on November 25, 2014

Writing Prompt LogoPost #198 – Women’s Memoirs, Writing Prompts and Life Prompts – Matilda Butler

Traditions vs. Gratitude

writing prompt, memoir writingLast year at this time, I reported on our lovely Thanksgiving celebration and discussed both old and new (first annual) traditions. This year, I want to focus on gratitude. Of course, traditions and gratitude are linked in many a mind because it is a fairly common tradition is to go around the dinner table and ask each person to state what he or she is most grateful for. We’ve almost always done that before we settle into plates loaded with turkey, creamy mashed potatoes and gravy, homemade cranberry sauce, salad with twice-roasted hazelnuts, rainbow swiss chard with preserved lemons, and several desserts. In fact, the year I decided to not ask each person to speak, my adult children said, “Aren’t we going to say what we’re grateful for?” Boy, when we start traditions, we have no idea how important they become to others.

But today I want to focus just on gratitude.

I’ve been thinking, reading, and writing about the value of “going deep.” It is fairly easy to do many things in life but to only do them at the surface level. I used to play piano. But I never really went deep. Sure I practiced but it was a kind of rote practice. It wasn’t the kind of practice that would enable me to become a professional. I love to cook but I have never bothered to learn knife techniques nor to understand the chemistry of food — skills that would enable me to claim that I am an expert. I could go on and on with examples. You can probably supply your own.

Writing prompts are great. I regularly write prompts on this blog and use them in my own writing practice. And while I will go on writing them, I have to admit that they often cause us to stay at the “easy” level. You don’t need to write for long, so you don’t have to dig very deeply into your life, your thoughts, your emotions. That’s why today, I want you to go deeper into what you are grateful for in your life. I don’t want your tip-of-the-tongue statement you make when it’s your turn share at the Thanksgiving table.

By forcing yourself to create a long list of your gratitudes, you’ll have to go deep. And about the time that you believe you can’t add to the list, I want you to try to add five more gratitudes. You’ll learn more about yourself. You’ll come to value “digging deep.”

Memoir Writing Prompt

Okay. Here we go.

1. Think about your life and everything in it that you are grateful for. If you can’t think of many things, then it might help if you focus on different decades in your life. Go deep. Go broad.

2. Write 30 things you are grateful for.

3. If you can do this quickly, then add another 30. I want you to keep going until you are thinking deeply about what you value, what aspects of your life are important, what you have done to bring about this sense of gratitude and what others have contributed.

4. If it is hard for you to write 30 things but you eventually can, try adding five more items to your list just to be sure that you are digging into your life.

5. To get even more out of this writing prompt, go back over your list. Read it silently. Read it out loud. Organize it by types of gratitude. Reorganize it alphabetically. Reorganize it by themes. Why? Actively working with your list of gratitudes will help you focus on the positive aspects of your life…even how you’ve turned negatives into positives.

I hope you get something out of this prompt. And for me? Lately I’ve had such a strong sense of gratitude for my life, for my experiences, and … for you and others in this community of memoir writers. You’ve all enhanced my life and for that I’m truly grateful.

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