morning pages

10 lessons from 100 posts.

Here are some things I’ve learned while writing the last 99 posts.

  1. Write things down. We have so many thoughts running through our head how will we ever know which ones are significant? Of course writing a thought down does not make it significant, but if you catch yourself writing the same thought over and over it’s time to take a deeper look. It’s nearly impossible to get that clarity if you keep everything jumbled up in your head.
  2. Create a supportive community. One of the reasons why I was afraid to blog was that I’ve read so many mean-spirited comments on the internet. Blogs seemed like the place where people let out their worst thoughts, and I didn’t want to invite that into my life. However, I’ve been pleasantly surprised by how nice and supportive strangers have been. This goes for the real world too. I’ve actively drawn more positive people into my life, while avoiding negative people.
  3. Make your goals public.It holds you accountable, and it makes you realize that other people are rooting for your success and happiness.

    Termites build these impressive structures one grain of sand at a time.

  4. Things add up. Whenever you start something it’s easy to discount it. After my first few posts I thought what’s the point. I’m just wasting time. But after steady accumulation the whole it greater than the parts. Sure there are some posts that are silly and unnecessary, and sure there were some heartfelt posts that felt really good to share, but in the end I’m able to look through it all and say, wow this is something I’m proud of.
  5. Take some time to study yourself. We spend years studying math, Science, history, etc, but when do we sit down and really examine ourselves? And why not? We have to spend the rest of our lives with ourselves so shouldn’t we be the greatest expert on our own ideas, memories, and dreams?
  6. Just say yes. If you’re not sure you will like something try it out. Take every thing one day at a time. One of the hardest things about finding a new job after I quit was not know what I liked to do. But how will you know what you want to do if you don’t try out a bunch of different things? It’s just as easy to say no after you try something out. But to say no first will prevent you from knowing for sure if something is your cup of tea.
  7. It doesn’t matter if it’s been said before. It’s so easy not to write something because you think it’s a given, or a cliche. But chances are it’s new for someone. And even if everyone in the world has read it before sometimes we need to read it again. Sometimes I just need to hear something at the exact right moment for it to sink in.
  8. Talk to someone different. It’s our tendency to surround ourselves with like minded people. I often realize what a bubble I live in (especially when I see the kind of politicians people are actually voting for…Santorum? Really?). One of my favorite parts of teaching English as a second language is meeting people who come from different worlds. It makes life seem so much more complex and beautiful when you know that it can be done so differently.
  9. Wake up an hour earlier. I used to think that getting an extra few minutes of sleep was more important and beneficial than eating breakfast, or having a chance to take a deep breath before heading out to work. Ever since I started doing the morning pages I’ve been waking up at 6:30 and I love it. Of course I’m tired, but I’m going to be tired no matter what time I wake up. Now my mornings feel peaceful. There’s something special about the early morning sunlight.
  10. Notice synchronicity. I don’t really care if it happens by chance, or if it’s God’s way of saying, “hey I’m listening,”there’s something so fun and exciting about noticing coincidences. In my morning pages I wrote, “I hope my boss gives me another class,” and that day he gave me another class. Last week I thought, “I really don’t want to do the laundry,” and a minute later Mike walked by with the laundry bag and said he was going to do it. Noticing these funny coincidences makes you feel like an all powerful superhero. It makes you think that you can get anything you put your mind to. It encourages you to dream bigger, because if you can will one person to do your laundry maybe you can will someone else to publish your book.

Disposable creativity

“Many of us wish we were more creative. many of us sense we are more creative, but unable to effectively tap that creativity. Our dreams elude us. Our lives feel somehow flat. Often, we have great ideas, wonderful dreams, but are unable to actualize them for ourselves. Sometimes we have specific creative longings we would love to be able to fulfill – learning to play the piano, painting, taking an acting class, or writing. Someimes our goal is more diffuse. We hunger for what might be called creative living – an expanded sense of creativity in our business lives, in sharing with our children, our spouse, our friends.”

Julia Cameron, The Artist’s Way (pg.5)

If you haven’t read The Artist’s Way yet, for gosh sake just click on this link and buy it already. Every creative person I know attributes the growth of their creativity to this book. I’m not over-exaggerating. And if you’ve been following the HeSo project for a while now, you’ll remember that when I interviewed Lisa Bourque, a fabulous life coach, she said the book changed her life.

It is Julia Cameron’s opinion that everyone has the potential to be creative and that creativity is a like a muscle that grows the more you use it. Creativity is not just for the arts; it can be used to improve your outlook on life, the way you problem solve, or handle your relationships.

One of her famous exercises is “the morning pages.” The first thing you do every morning is fill three pages of paper. There’s really no wrong way of doing this. If you have nothing to say you can fill the pages with a grocery list.

Sometimes the pages become very negative and your “censor” comes out. Your censor is that voice in your head that tells you everything you do is garbage. Julia suggests that it’s better to let the censor out on these pages so it gets exhausted and won’t distract you when you want to do something more creative and challenging. It sounds silly but when I dabbled with the morning pages before, it really did help me feel more free and confident when I was working on my creative writing later on in the day.

My boyfriend has been doing these morning pages for over a year now (way to go Mike!) The pages have taken many twists and turns for him. They started off as an outlet for his censor, then they became an outlet for his story telling, and now he’s using that time to compose music – something that he’s always wanted to do. Sometimes what we always want to do is the hardest thing to do because we give it so much weight. We think, to do that something poorly would be worse than not doing it at all. By using the morning pages to compose he’s getting the practice he needs without the debilitating pressure to produce something “good.”

Lately I’ve been feeling like there’s a void in my life. The BeddyBye project felt very exciting and creative at first, but now as I’m talking to safety commissioners, manufacturers, and parenting associations (I’ll write more about this later) I’ve entered the more taxing, stressful part of the project. I write a lot for this blog, but it’s not the same as creative writing, something I’ve loved doing since childhood (I remember writing stories about how I was born on Mars and raised by apes. I made photocopies and tried to sell them to the kids on my block. I guess I invented vanity publishing!). So I decided to instill some creativity back into my life and embrace the morning pages again.

I started this past Friday. In the morning, before breakfast I spent 30 minutes writing a short story. I used The Writer’s Toolbox for inspiration. The Author, Jamie Cat Callan, offers a bunch of suggestions for first lines. I picked a random one and started writing. The opening line was: “Dad gave me a wink, like we were pals or something.” I ended up writing about a daughter finding out that her parents have had an open marriage for her entire life and she’s just now meeting her father’s girlfriend of 16 years. I don’t know where that idea came from, and for the life of me I would never have thought it up if I just sat at my computer and tried to come up with a story.

The exercise helps you to see that everyone has a wealth of untapped imagination inside them and you just need a safe place to let it out. Knowing that I didn’t need to complete the story, and that it didn’t need to be part of something greater was liberating. It’s what I like to call disposable creativity. I know that sounds terrible, especially in our green-conscience society, but looking at creativity like it’s a finite resource is not productive. I’ve been in many writing classes where people hold on to stories that aren’t working, and I think it’s because they’re scared they won’t be able to come up with anything else, when that’s simply not true.

Today was my fourth day of morning pages and I’m going to continue for at least 17 more days (research shows it only takes 21 days to form a habit). Does anyone else want to join me? It doesn’t need to be writing, you can start every morning strumming a song on the guitar, drawing a picture, or dancing. The point is to start every day off in a creative, non-judgmental fashion. I guarantee you’ll feel more creative and excited for the rest of the day! If you join the challenge send me some of your work or your reflections and I’ll add it to the blog!