Those of you who have been with me for a while may recall I spent twelve weeks a few years ago completing the lessons from THE ARTIST'S WAY, a Spiritual Path to Creativity, by Julia Cameron. Whether you buy into the word spiritual or not, the book is chock full of suggestions and methods through which to open yourself up to the inspiration locked inside. Without Julia, I’m not sure I would be anywhere near to putting the final touches on my second novel.
While working through the readings and assignments, participants are requested to complete what the author calls Morning Pages—three long-hand pages written as soon as you wake each day. There is no requirement on subject matter, punctuation or editing. It’s likely you may never read them again (although she does require it partway through the twelve lessons and I found some jarring insight). Essentially, Morning Pages are a brain dump to help clear out the excess garbage, allowing you to start the day fresh and clean.
This autumn, I felt things slowing down for me. Perhaps you’ve noticed my lack of presence here on Middle Passages. I’ve been writing, but I’m getting close to finishing my second book and struggling with the story at the beginning of a third. I tussled with a query letter, giving too much credence to that nasty little voice asking, “What’s the use?” and I became a little afraid all my industry was going to grind to a halt. In truth, it was time to dare myself to move forward. In that vein, I purchased another Julia Campbell tutorial: WALKING IN THIS WORLD, the Practical art of Creativity though I confess. I have yet to make it through the first chapter. But Morning Pages are a part of this program too, and I’m a week into them.
Last time, I cheated. My daughter was still in high school and I was already rising at 5:30. Rather than forcing myself up earlier, I got up, showered, made her lunch, ate my own breakfast and then sat down with my pen. This time, I’m following the guidelines. As soon as I wake up, I turn on the light, stick one of my husband’s extra pillows on my lap as a desk (he leaves for work very early) and reach for my notebook.
Each time I’ve completed my pages, I’ve felt a sense of peace upon getting up from the bed, as if I've already realized my primary goal of the day. Even if the “real” writing I’m supposed to do goes poorly, or not at all, or if I struggle during the hours I spend at my paying work, I look back over the river of time and know in those predawn hours, words streamed out. A purple notebook filling with blue flowing script bears witness. I’ve completed twenty-one pages so far.
It is as though, while completing this morning ritual I pare down to my elemental self. There's no story being told, no ark, no layering, no characters to flesh out, no conflict, no resolution, no audience. It's just me, a lined notebook, a ballpoint pen and a growing reminder of the joy that abounds whenever words pour onto the page.