After reading Brene Brown’s Daring Greatly, I began to understand the purpose of gratitude journals. Before that, I figured I was happy. What’s the point? Why take the time out of my busy day to keep a journal? But that’s me. I’m not a fan of writing. I am a fan of the visual. Are you with me or are you a writer?
I’ve discovered many things recently about photography and writing – that they share a lot of commonalities including a voice that starts with your heart. I discovered this towards the end of my 365 project when I discovered the benefit of gratitude journals, and now I highly recommend one or both.
I understand that you may not want to get into a project like a 365, or if you’ve tried it and didn’t finish, you really may not want to start one up again. It seems daunting. It is daunting. There were times I thought I should quit because I was only taking a picture to take a picture. But then I’d pull my lazy self out of it and force finding a technique I wanted to try.
You may also think, what’s the point – no real benefit (same thought I had about gratitude journals). I get that. It was one of the main reasons I didn’t want to do a 365 as well: I didn’t want to put that pressure and extra work on myself, especially with two toddlers hanging on my arm.
Or, you only really want to get great photos of your kids but half the time you forget to pull out the phone and snap, much less use a real camera. You need an easy way to get those images but chances are by the end of the day you’ve forgotten. Am I right?
If you aren’t sure what a 365 project is start here. (No worries – it opens in a new tab so you can jump right back here).
When I picked up Daring Greatly I was 3/4 of the way through my 365 project and already written 3 posts based on what I was learning. I was photographing every day and learning more about photography and improving my images as the weeks rolled on. I was also finding a style in my photography. I was recognizing that I loved so many other styles, but what made me super happy about mine was different from most of those styles, and that was ok.
The thing is, prior to reading Daring Greatly, many days I was shooting just to shoot. Or I was concentrating on a technique, which is great, especially when you are learning, and those days it helped me improve. But now that my project is over, I’ve looked back over my images and come to several conclusions.
If you keep a gratitude journal then you totally understand what I’m about to talk about – yay! If you don’t and feel like I did about them, give me a chance and read on!
Gratitude journals, in the act, are simply writing down what you are grateful for that day. But! The thing is when you start doing it and you get past that 30 or 60 day mark you start to run out of ideas to write in the journal. You are sick of writing down that same line each time. It’s like my little brother’s prayer every night before bed when he was 8 – ‘Thank you Lord for this beautiful day, let it be beautiful tomorrow’. Every.single.night. See? I remember it still to this day for that reason.
The point is when you are writing down the same thing every other day it starts to lose meaning, and in essence, you are no longer as grateful for that thing than the first time you wrote it. Yes, you are still grateful, but the overwhelming gratefulness lessens a little more with the writing. You start looking for other things that you are grateful for and it’s hard some days.
I get it! A project 365 where my purpose was to photograph my girls and our family life everyday became just like that. I was photographing the same thing over and over, and it was losing meaning and purpose. I tried new perspectives and techniques but the photos no longer had the heart that the first month’s did. I love the photos from the first month and I love the photos from the last 3 months. In fact all the photos in this post are from the first or last 3 months.
Why do I love the photos taken at these times? Because they have my heart. Because I was capturing what I was thankful for and what I loved – and what I mean is that overflow of I have to capture this because I am absolutely in love with this moment, this light, that smile, the wind, her eyelashes, the movement. Whatever it was. That is when my photos began to speak to me. Several months after I discovered my photography style, I finally found my vision.
In the last 3 months, I turned my 365 project into a gratitude journal, and it works!
But here is the kicker. My project is over. I don’t have to take photos anymore, but looking for the moments, the light, anything I can capture that I love is still a habit I ingrained in myself in the last 3 months. I can’t stop looking for those things that make me really glad to see it. In fact I think I’ve taken a photo almost every day since the end of my project, and now I am now photographing with my heart.
So my 365 project became my gratitude journal and even though I’m not so rigid about making sure I’ve ‘written’ in it every day, I’ve found I’m more grateful every day. Most importantly, I’m not afraid anymore of saying that I love something wholly, something Brene Brown mentions is essential and flows from keeping such a journal. I really hope my heart and soul shows through my photography now because more of it is in there these days.
Only 5 days after ending my project 365 I was reading a devotional and at the same time was reading a book about Joshua in the Bible which both coincided in the same thing. In Joshua, as the Israelites defeated armies, God wanted them to create a monument so that generations upon generations would remember what God did for them. The devotional I read that day was also about gratitude and highlighted Joshua as well. The purpose, glaring in my face, was God wants us to remember the good he does for us. A gratitude journal, a 365 project or whatever you use to show your gratitude is like a monument in thanksgiving to God and a reminder among the many frustrating things in our life that he exists to give goodness in our lives.
Simple but worth that little bit of effort. So, now that I’ve spilled my love and gratitude out, if I haven’t convinced you to do a project 365 yet I’ve got more!
In a list!
- Technique and style – yes, because you have to take so many pictures you learn what works, and what doesn’t. You also learn what you like about your photos and what you don’t. The key is you have to go back every so often to all of your chosen photos and look through them. I kept a specific 365 folder on my computer that I would scroll through. It is perfect for remembering what you are grateful for as well.
- Half way through, it became a habit. Yes, much like a gratitude journal probably works, it’s a habit and now I can’t stop but at least the rigid pressure isn’t there to get a shot.
- I am a better memory keeper. Before this I wasn’t very good at reaching for the camera. Now I am selective and have some great shots of great moments.
- I am a better storyteller. Late in the game when I realized my 365 was like a gratitude journal, I started asking myself what I was trying to say with each shot because I wanted to really capture in 1 photo what I was loving. It isn’t easy. I had a puzzle to figure out – how to say what I wanted through one photo.
- I found I had more gratitude than I knew. There are probably a lot more out there too that I need to discover, and there are many more I haven’t captured yet. I allow myself to feel more, looking for the gratitude. Usually I would go through my hectic day, hour by hour, my mind whirling with the next thing I needed to do. Now I pay more attention to my feelings, and not letting my mind whirl. My husband knows this and loves to ask me in the moment how I am feeling. My responses at times shock me.
- For me I am combining the gratitude journal with something I love; photography and you can’t beat that.
Love the Dorothea Lange quote above? Click here to get a pdf printable version: Lange quote
And don’t forget to follow me on Instagram to see some of my grateful and love worthy moments!
Here is a link to Brene Brown’s book Daring Greatly: How the Courage to Be Vulnerable Transforms the Way We Live, Love, Parent, and Lead. It is an affiliate link but only means I may get a small compensation if you buy it. It costs nothing extra for you but helps me out, and I appreciate it.