Are you grateful? How you do express it? Author Catherine Ryan Hyde does so through photos. She committed to taking, and posting online, a photo a day. She chose to illustrate what she is grateful for with a photo. Once she finished the year – and she did take a photo every day for a year – she decided to continue it and to turn those 365 days of photos into an e-book published this year.
“I first got into gratitude when I first got into a 12-step program, which was 25 years ago,” Cambrian Hyde said. “Years ago, a good 12 or 15 years ago, I heard about making gratitude lists …. It shifts you from what is bad in your life to what is good in your life.”
About six or seven years ago, she started posting a daily gratitude on Twitter and Facebook with the hashtag “dailygratitude.”
“Other people will notice if you stop posting. It’s a different sort of commitment,” Hyde said about doing it publicly. While she had posted for years, it had waned a bit, especially around the time that her mother died.
“I decided that for a year I would post a photo daily gratitude. I did that without fail, without missing,” Hyde said. “It was a totally different experience doing photographs than just posting something. It literally forces you to look at things differently.”
The book will feature one photo from each day with a sentence on why Hyde took that particular photo.
“I did it for me, but if you do it for you and other people see it and do it, it’s also good,” Hyde said. “I do take photography fairly seriously – for me it’s about captures. I’m more interested in documenting with my camera what I want to show people.”
This e-book will follow Hyde’s 20-plus other books, which are all now in print. “Funeral for Horses” came out in 1997 and “Earthquake Weather” was published in 1998. By the end of this year, Hyde will have a total of 24 novels published Hyde is most noted for having written “Pay It Forward,” which was published in 1999 and, in 2000, was made into a movie starring Kevin Spacey, Helen Hunt and Haley Joel Osment.
“’Pay it Forward’ came out 15 years ago, I wrote it 18 years ago; God forbid it’s my best book,” Hyde said. “It’s just so different.”
Hyde’s process of writing is by starting with a character because she’s absolutely fascinated with human nature.
“I’m fascinated about why we don’t just do life head-on,” Hyde said. “Honesty is a good thing, but it makes lousy stories. I look back and realize there are themes that come up again and again in my work. One is kindness. Why aren’t we more kind? I’m always making a point about kindness.”
Kindness and an experience that she had in the late ‘70s influenced the story for “Pay It Forward.” In a video on her website, Hyde tells the story of how her car broke down in Echo Park in Los Angeles, where she lived at the time. She said she was in a bad neighborhood late at night and smoke was filling the car from under the hood, so she had to get out of the car.
“I looked up and saw that there were two men – two total strangers – running in my direction very fast and one of them holding a blanket,” Hyde said. “Many thoughts danced in my head, not a single of which had anything to do with rescue. … I really thought those were going to be the last few moments of my life. It never occurred to me that they’d be running to my aid, but that’s exactly what they were doing.”
One man took the blanket, opened it up, opened the hood of the car and used the blanket and his upper body to put out the fire. She said that if the tables had been turned, she would have gone to call the fire department, but not jumped out of her car to help a stranger like that.
“This was the biggest favor I’d ever gotten in my entire life,” Hyde said and added that both men had left before she had the chance to thank them.
“I found myself on the lookout for someone in trouble,” she said, which probably would not have happened if they had stayed around to be thanked.
Even with the success of the “Pay It Forward” movie and the Pay It Forward Movement, Hyde said that over the years she’s questioned whether or not she could make it as a writer full-time, something she has done since 1991.
“It seemed like things really clicked for me when all the ‘Pay It Forward’ things went on,” Hyde said. “There was a time [recently] I was wondering if I’d run my course as an author. In these last couple of years, things have really taken off.”
She said that sometimes people set goals and when it doesn’t work they say “see it didn’t work?” But Hyde said the problem is that people expected whatever it is to happen faster. Hyde’s mother told her that the problem with a fallback position is that many people end up falling back.
“When you really want something and it’s a hard thing to accomplish. … It is going to take longer than you think and is going to be harder than you think,” Hyde said. “If it’s something you really want and you don’t have a plan B, you’ll probably get there. What we need to know that success is just like failure that didn’t stop you that you move beyond.”
Though she had wondered if she’d been able to make a living as a writer, she wasn’t willing to give up and kept going.
“There have been enormous ups and downs. It’s not been easy, especially after ‘Pay It Forward,’” Hyde said. “It seems like life keeps giving you opportunities to give up, but if you keep going, it’ll all be worth it with the pot at the end of the rainbow.”
For more on Hyde or to get a list of her books, go to www.catherineryanhyde.com. For more on the Pay It Forward Foundation, go to www.payitforwardfoundation.org.