"Morning Pages" is a concept originally created (or more properly "discovered") by Julia Cameron (@J_CameronLive) - check out "The Artists Way" for the full story. I was introduced to the idea through Jackee Holder's course Paper Therapy (@JackeeHolder). I adopted the practice as part of that course in February of this year, and have yet to miss a day. For those not familiar with the practice, it is an element of journal writing that involves taking time first thing in the morning to free-write three pages in your journal. Three pages, whatever size those pages might be. The point – as with all free-writing is that you do not censor what comes up, you just get it down.
On Twitter a few days ago, someone was asking if this gets easier and if rubbish is ok. My answer to the first is that some days are easier than others. Sometimes it flows, others it stutters. There's a metaphor for life right there.
As for the second question…we don't always know for sure that it is rubbish until a while later, when we read it back. I never read back until weeks or months later. Some days it is mostly rubbish, but there may just be a sentence, an expression, a thought that is worth rescuing: what songwriter Steinman called the 'ruby in a mountain of rocks'.
On a personal level I just find it a really calm way to start the day – not rushing to get out the door, or immediately switching on the computer and getting direct into work. It means that I'm honouring my own role in my own life by having at least half an hour a day to ponder, quietly…to ask the questions and listen for the answers as to what that life is and what it could be…to express the emotions that would be unhelpful if shared with those provoking them, but poison if bottled.
On days when I've neither pent emotion nor burning issues, then just looking around the room gives me pause for thought, for memories, gratitude, ideas.
Some days I default to affirmations just to fill up the space. Maybe that's why one or two of my favourite affirmations are really long.
Either way – it's practice. For me it's practice in the craft of writing, the stringing together of words, hoping that they work in a way slightly, but only slightly, subtly, beyond simple communication.
But it is also a spiritual practice. In a way it's like a meditation, only rather than watching the thoughts pass by, it's trying to capture them, to hold them and look at them, with curiosity and wonder, questioning, as a child would, what to make of them.
We're told very often that we need to quieten our 'monkey-brain' – but what if our monkey mind, that insistent irritating never-ending white-noise chatter, has something really important to tell us? What if we did it the favour of not only listening, but taking it seriously enough to respond, quietly, rationally, intentionally? Might that not be a better way to quieten it rather than drowning it out with distraction or ignoring it in the hope that it will go away? It might not be screeching because it wants a banana. It might be trying to tell you that your house is on fire.
They say that talking to yourself is the first sign of madness. I think it may be the first defence of sanity. I say that unless we talk to ourselves, how will we know what we really think?
We learn to understand others through conversation and debate. It makes sense that we learn to understand ourselves the same way. I am not brave enough to stand in the park loudly decrying my arguments and counter arguments. Even wandering around quietly muttering to yourself will get you funny looks (including from me). So an alternative is needed. The morning pages come to the rescue. This is the place to have those conversations.
I write in first and second person interchangeably in my pages. I assert myself, I talk to my self. "I was going to say" is a phrase that comes up time and time again in my pages, because in the very act of writing something down, I realise it's not true, it's not what I genuinely believe – some countering evidence bubbles up and I must re-evaluate.
So it's also a place to challenge my unhelpful beliefs. Some I find sticky – helpful or not. Others come undone easily under proper scrutiny. Arguably that could be true of the helpful beliefs as well as the unhelpful ones, which raises the question as to how helpful they will be long-term if they are demonstrably false.
What about those affirmations for instance? Playing by the rules of affirmation you must state a wished for state, a potential future state, in the present tense as if it were already attained. If it were attained, I would believe it and I would not need to be writing it down. So here is a perverse scenario of something I don't believe, being expressed as if I did believe it, by way of a crutch to help me reach the state where it becomes self-evidently true and I no longer need to say it.
My only explanation for this is that even as I write the affirmation I know it to be more prayer than faith. Not so much a supporting belief as a signpost. A reminder of the chosen direction and an indicator (in context) of whether I'm still on the right path and heading the right way, or not.
When I read back through my journals, much of what I find is utter twaddle. Whinges, complaints, idle thoughts on last night's dreams. But I do find snippets that become poems, or turn into articles or blogs. I find ideas that send me scurrying off to research history or science or family tales and fables. I find options for current problems in unresolved rationalisations around unrelated issues. But still – none of that is the point. The point is that quiet 30 to 40 minutes with a cup of tea first thing in the morning, which is absolutely utterly entirely and increasingly almost sacredly 'mine'.
What gets written isn't the point of the morning pages at all, or isn't all of the point or always the point. It is the writing of it that matters. It is a practice in perseverance. If we want to achieve anything in art, in business, in life, perseverance is the common denominator. We can be lucky, we can be talented, but still, we must persevere or all will come to little. My pages are my demonstration to me that I can persevere. If nothing else, this I can do.
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