The Gift of Gratitude: Take Time to Say Thank You

As you reflect on the year’s accomplishments and undertake your planning for the coming year, I’d like to suggest a powerful tool for focusing in on your priorities: the thank you note.

We know that relationships are a key element to establishing our creative rhythm, but when faced with the blank page or buried deep in the code of our latest design, it’s easy to feel alone.

The truth, though, is that many people influence our creative process, from the initial design spark, through each iteration, to the final presentation. Taking the time to recognize and express our gratitude for these people is important to cultivating healthy relationships. That should be reason enough to indulge in ample giving.

There is, however, a wonderful reciprocal effect: clarity on who to turn to for help when we get stuck.

Gratitude is a glue that binds people together. To give it is to receive it because to receive it you must first give it. This is a beautiful circle. With it, harmony is struck and serendipity is found. When your friends and creative allies engage with you in this flow of thanks, you’ll never again be alone and wanting for help.

We all possess the fire necessary to fuel this exchange of energy. Energy it is as it alights our hearts as much as our minds. And a simple note of thanks is often the initial spark.

I recently experimented with expressing gratitude at a heightened level. I set the goal of writing at least one thank you note a day between Thanksgiving and Christmas. My intent was to express thankfulness to the people that affected my creative process this year. But I have also found it to be surprisingly handy in my planning process for 2012.

If you care to join me in amplifying your gratitude (and I sincerely hope you do), I offer these pointers for your aid.

1. Make a list of the people who fostered your creative process this year. Some will be obvious—your printing vendor with the critical eye, an insightful mentor—while others may take some reflection. Walk yourself through the year, paging through your calendar or portfolio. No contribution is too small; your goal is to identify any interactions that feed your process. My list included many of my coworkers and friends, but also a local shop owner who gave me good advice, and a reader who emailed me with feedback.

2. Write a detailed thank you note to each of several people on your list. Being specific requires you to clarify both how the person assisted you and why you are grateful for that help. “Thanks for the feedback,” is a nice sentiment, but is not specific. A detailed statement provides the recipient both with genuine thanks, as well as a reminder of how you can work well together in the future. “I appreciated the time you took to review my articles with me. I better understand your needs as my editor and the feedback has greatly improved my writing.”

3. Apply what you’ve learned during your quarterly checkpoint. Reflect on what you identified as you wrote the thank you notes. You’ve identified not only who is influential to your creative spark, but how they feed your creating. As you plan for the coming year, how can you intentionally integrate these relationships into each stage of your process? I realized that a coworker whom I have relied on to critique my finished work is, in fact, one of my best sources for new ideas. We’ve made plans to meet regularly for brainstorming sessions.

Tis’ the season for giving and gratitude. So, please, while you’re enjoying a hot cocoa, warm cider, yummy nog, or some other delight, take the time to say thanks. Feel free to start by reflecting on this thought starter…

How has gratitude feed into your creative process?

The comments are always open! I’d love to hear how saying thank you, whether through cards or another method, has fostered your creating.

Happy holidays and thank you for being here with us!

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Image by Woodley Wonder Works

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