I was doing my morning pages on the Muni this morning. Have any of you ever used this tool? Morning pages, not Muni. If you’re familiar with The Artist’s Way, you’ve heard of the practice of writing three pages of longhand, stream of consciousness first thing when you wake up. It acts as a mental (and sometimes emotional) garbage dump, the theory being it clears out your mind of extraneous crap so it’s free and clear to focus on creative endeavors. It works too, at least for me. I don’t always do it first thing in the morning – I have a habit of rolling out of bed with just enough time to get ready for work and catch my streetcar (or, if I give myself an extra 10 minutes, I walk 45 minutes to West Portal and catch the train there). I like my sleep and love to dream and will stretch my ‘just five more minutes’ far past its 300-second allotment. Plus, have you ever tried writing in bed with a pen and a curious feline (or 5) in attendance? The pen is the best toy in the world and they KNOW you’re wiggling it around JUST for them. 10 minutes of morning pages becomes 20 minutes of entertaining the kids. Fun, but not what the author of Artist’s Way intended. These days I do them first thing on the Muni or when I’m waiting for it to arrive. I can’t read what I write, but that’s not the point of them.
I go through phases of not doing morning pages. Sometimes months, sometimes years go by. During these periods I go through frustrations, creative blocks, depressions and self-doubt. I’m not saying that NOT doing the morning pages brings on these symptoms. But I know from repeat experience doing the morning pages alleviates the symptoms and helps me gain perspective, figure out what’s blocking me up or causing the near suicidal moods. And yet stubbornly I won’t renew the practice when the moods first hit. OH no, that would be too easy and reasonable. For whatever perverse reason, I wait until the last possible minute when it’s either go to my doctor’s for antidepressants (something I’ve avoided so far) drive my loved ones crazy, and then something finally snaps and I start doing them again.
So very simple. I have to wonder at the way my brain is hardwired. I play observer a lot when I’m deliberately avoiding something I know would help – I am a big one for proactive behavior and taking personality responsibility. Yet in this one area, I am a stubborn kid who won’t eat her vegetables, even though she’s had them before and KNOWS she like the way they taste. Go figure.
So I reached that point a few weeks back and started doing morning pages again. I took a three-day break when I couldn’t use my right hand (the Dreaded Cat Bite Incident of August ’08), but picked them back up again as soon as I could hold a pen without excruciating pain (yeah, I’m still a drama queen). Sometimes I write down my dreams, like yesterday when I woke up with a piece of a dream stuck in my brain. I wrote it down and suddenly had a whole chunk of outline for one of my novels. I think that’s pretty cool.
Sometimes I write about the people around me on the Muni (they can’t read my writing even if they are looking over my shoulder). This morning was one of those days because my nerve endings hadn’t sheathed yet (I need at least two hours after waking up before I’m ready for any social interaction beyond my bed) and I was surrounded by chattering boys, teenage girls on cell phones (can you say VAPID?), and someone with a cold who was a firm believer in the snort and spit cure. Ugh.
I write out my frustrations with my job, my fears about my relationships, financial worries. I also write affirmations, intentions and remind myself I don’t have to lose 10 pounds to be attractive. I just want to ’cause I have such cool clothes that currently don’t quite fit. I make ‘to do’ lists so I won’t repeat them in a circular thought loop the entire trip to work. It pops into my head, it goes onto the pages.
When I’m finished with my three pages, I close the notebook, put my pen away and relax. Really relax. They’re an internal pressure valve release, those pages, and if there’s a more invaluable creative tool for me personally, I can’t think of one. I’ve written more in the past month than I have in three years if we count both blog posts and fiction. Three cheers and a tiger for me!
The blog challenge this month also has its part in motivating my output, but I’m not sure I could have stuck with it if I hadn’t been doing my morning pages. Or you might have read some scary posts all month…