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Three Good Things About My Writing

A positive psychology intervention put into practice six years ago has made an improvement in this writer's journey.

By J. Greg Phelan

July 14, 2022

Lately, I’ve been going through my old journals from back when I started taking myself seriously as a writer. The entries are often painful to read. I was so down on myself for not getting enough done. For procrastinating, wasting time. I wish I’d known then about a positive psychology intervention I started to put into practice six years ago. It has made a big difference in my writing life.

The intervention is simple: every night before bed, write about three good things that happened that day. Big or small, doesn’t matter. I got an essay accepted. I had a nice walk in the woods. This simple habit cultivates gratitude by training attention on what’s good in my life. Research shows this has long-lasting benefits, substantially lowering depression and anxiety.

This intervention is super helpful for writers. Our job is tough, filled with self-doubt. Writing down three good things about my writing every night has become an essential part of my daily practice. Instead of being so self-critical, I focus on what’s going well. Nothing fancy or profound. I put in two hours this morning. I came up with an idea I’m excited about. I’m grateful I can make art with words. Cultivating gratitude helps me push through resistance and get work done. It helps me enjoy writing a lot more, too.

How about giving three good things about YOUR writing a go? I’d be grateful if you do.

J. Greg Phelan has written for The New York Times, America, and other publications. He is the co-founder and board chair of Project Write Now, a nonprofit writing center providing classes and outreach for writers of all ages. In 2020, he launched book inc, a community for memoir and novel writers.