Tuesday, November 25, 2014

What's the Best Thing that Happened?

Back in the summer, I kept a logbook--see this post for more details about a logbook.  It's much easier in many ways than keeping a journal or writing blog posts.

As I was going back through it, I came across this idea, which seems infinitely adaptable for Thanksgiving conversations.  Maybe we can avoid the family arguments that so many of us dread around the holidays.

I came across this idea when reading Austin Kleon's Steal Like an Artist.  It's a quote from Nicholson Baker*, talking about writing The Anthologist"If you ask yourself, ‘What’s the best thing that happened today?’ it actually forces a certain kind of cheerful retrospection that pulls up from the recent past things to write about that you wouldn’t otherwise think about. If you ask yourself, ‘What happened today?’ it’s very likely that you’re going to remember the worst thing, because you’ve had to deal with it—you’ve had to rush somewhere or somebody said something mean to you—that’s what you’re going to remember. But if you ask what the best thing is, it’s going to be some particular slant of light, or some wonderful expression somebody had, or some particularly delicious salad. I mean, you never know… "

It's a variation on the gratitude exercise, it seems to me:  list 5 things each day for which you are grateful.  Your life/outlook will change.

I wrote this down, thinking I'd use it at work.  Maybe when people come to me to complain, to fret, to blow off steam--maybe I'll start remembering to use this prompt to shift the conversation:  tell me the best thing that's happened to you this week.

And maybe this week, during my Thanksgiving travels, I'll ask this question about the best thing that's happened in the past year.

*I realized I'd never really heard of Nicholson Baker, or at least, I thought I hadn't.  So I did what modern people did:  I Googled.  I came across this fascinating article from a few years ago.

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