Thursday, July 30, 2009

Morning Pages

I took an artist's inspiration class at church one semester. We went through the book The Artist's Way, by Julia Cameron. It is a book for re-discovering your creativity, helping artists of all kinds (painters, sculptors, writers, actors, etc.) get past their creative blocks.

In it she prescribes what she calls "Morning Pages", an assignment to write three pages every morning in a journal. It must be handwritten (she explains her reasons in the book but I can't remember now) but it doesn't matter what you write. It is "stream of consciousness writing", which means that you write whatever you're thinking. No pressure; just write. It doesn't have to be pretty, make sense or even stay on the lines. Just write. Even if you have to write, "I can't think of anything to write. Why can't I think of anything to write? I hate assignments. Three pages! What the heck am I going to write about? I hear a fly buzzing outside. Is it hot outside?" Just write whatever you're thinking. Eventually the writing of your immediate thoughts will lead you somewhere. I've been very surprised at some of the places my Morning Pages have taken me.

It's not hard for me to write in a journal. I love writing. However, in the past I tended to write only when I had something specific to write about. It could have been an activity or event, a conversation, a problem, a question for God, a prayer for someone or myself. Because I was not in the habit of writing every day, I would often get backlogged with things. And then it would get so cumbersome and intimidating to catch up that I would put it off even longer. Next thing I knew, it'd been 6 months since I wrote anything.

Morning Pages took away all the perfectionist standards I placed on my journalling. Doesn't have to make sense? I can do that. Doesn't have to be neat? I can do that. Doesn't have to be spelled right? I can do that. I didn't realize I was defeating myself so much with subliminal perfectionism but once I received an assignment to let go of it and some here's-how-it-looks instruction on how to let go of it, whew, what freedom! I'm sure you would suspect...I often write more than three pages. (No surprise there, Vicky Verbose!)

So I began doing my Morning Pages faithfully while I was in the class. I've been doing them for a few years now. I sometimes have spells where I don't write faithfully for a period of time. Sometimes they're a vital part of my life but I don't do them everyday; sometimes I don't do them in the morning. But, I do find that the morning is the very best time because I am not yet swamped by the day's responsibilities.

Writing three pages a day, I've discovered, serves to unclutter my mind. I didn't realize how much clutter was occupying my mind until after I'd been writing consistently for a couple weeks. No wonder I was burdened and unfocused, with so much stuff lingering around in my head and heart. Writing brought it out. Whether it was compounded stress from multiple tasks or projects, stimulus overload, backed up emotions gone unidentified and unresolved because I'd been too busy, or whatever...Morning Pages helped me get cleaned out. More than once over the years, after a spell away from them, I have found myself all cluttered up again. I know I need to get back to my Morning Pages.

Writing daily, especially in a stream of consciousness manner, has also opened my eyes to my surroundings more. While in the past I would have held myself to a strict flow of content, now I freely interrupt my own sentences to write something like - "Oh! A squirrel just climbed up the porch steps, looked right at me and then casually went his way to the end of the porch. How fun!" It has opened my eyes and caused me to live more observantly and reflectively. Instead of only noticing with a brief enjoyment and then quickly resuming the order of things at hand, now I stop. I look. I enjoy. I take it in and find it worthy of not only interrupting my previous focus but also worthy of writing about. It is such a pleasure, such a relaxing, refreshing pleasure, to see and enjoy more moments like these in my life. It's what Ken Gire's book, Seeing What Is Sacred (that I mentioned a couple days ago), is all about. Morning Pages help me live more reflectively.

Sometimes I just write about events and "daily diary" kind of things. But sometimes my writing leads me to surprising places and really profound, helpful things I had no idea were stirring around inside me. Questions get brought up I hadn't noticed or articulated before. Sometimes answers are even heard. My Morning Pages are a running blend of talking to myself and talking to God. As He is an integral part of my life, I am keenly aware of His presence and influence in my Morning Pages. They are as much a dialogue between us as they are me getting my thoughts out on paper. The uncluttering process helps make me more receptive to His voice as He "speaks" to me. Not audibly, of course, but with His Spirit residing in the heart of every believer, He speaks internally. Often times there is so much noise going on inside (noise, clutter, there are many descriptive words for our frequent and common condition) that we cannot make out what it is we need to hear. Decluttering with Morning Pages helps me hear Him.

When Mom grew seriously ill and passed away last spring, I didn't have much time or energy to write. Compounded stresses and emotions joined forces to beat me up pretty badly during that time. I knew I had to get back to my Morning Pages. This blog actually helped me begin writing them again. I took my journal to Alaska with me, like usual. But this time I kept it up front, right next to my feet, instead of in my bag in the back. Because I intended to blog about our trip, I wanted to keep it handy, be more observant, and be more diligent about recording multiple factors of the trip. I grabbed it often when I'd see something special (like there wasn't something special EVERYwhere up there!) We experienced SO much. The next noteworthy thing tended to come so quickly on the heels of the last, I found I actually forgot stuff we'd experienced just a week or a few days before. Had I not written these spontaneous things down as blog fodder, they may still be lost in the background of my memory. Things like the way the grassy hills of Montana looked as they gradually grew into rugged snow capped mountains, and how they made me feel. Or funny street names, or quaint little towns we zipped through, books I found in stores that I want to buy someday, or the funky bathroom at the lodge on the long and lonely Cassiar Hwy in Canada. (Yeh, and like forgetting to blog about the earthquake we experienced, and planting Mom's flower seeds on our property, and driving the backhoe!)

So, I'm back with my Morning Pages. Notice how I keep saying "my" Morning Pages? Saying simply Morning Pages doesn't cut it. They're very personal. They're not just generic morning pages, they are my morning pages.

Maybe you'll create your Morning Pages, too. cute is this? Now I'm typing and using the mouse in competition with my sweet black and white cat who is purring loudly and repeatedly cuddling up against my arms and hand as I try to type, looking for loves. I luv dat puddy!

1 comment:

  1. someone once said to me,'dont write anything down that you don't want someone else to read' hence a severe road block in the journaling.
    It is missed but effectively blocked. Then again someone else said to me that I have things to say...

    I do so love the subliminal perfectionism.....wooo whoooo