Completing The Artist’s Way

I’ve completed the 12 weeks of The Artist’s Way, a system of exercises aimed to recover the creative self. It was an anticlimactic ending, given that I dropped off in the last weeks on some of the more impactful exercises. I have been spending a lot of time working both of my jobs, and participating in animal rights activism.

There has been quite a lot of change in my life in the last couple of months, and there is a lot more shaking up to come. I love and embrace change, so this is an exciting time of transition. Given that I did not give my full effort in the latter part of the 12 week program, I will be restarting at week one in the near future. In addition, I am continuing Morning Pages. These are probably the most engaging part of the program because I love the ritual of getting up early to write.

Even if I am distracted and my sentences are disjointed, I am allotting the morning time to purging some of the ideas in my mind. This is very helpful because it still makes me feel like my day is mine.

Morning Pages Check-In

If you trace back my history with Morning Pages, you will know that this is my second time starting them. I began the second process about six weeks ago. Morning Pages is simply making the time each morning to write three pages. I recently talked about getting back into Morning Pages and explained that I decided to go through the workbook by Julia Cameron called The Artist’s Way.

I am currently on my sixth week and there is a definite change in my ability to think creatively. That could have to do with a lot of new circumstances in my life as well. But I will give large credit to the Morning Pages. This exercise requires me to get out some of the whirling thoughts in my head. Afterwards, there is more calm within me because I have exhausted some of the brain excitement I get upon waking up. At the same time, Morning Pages are stimulating. I have courses of thoughts about all areas of my life – I can buy an audiobook for my long commute, I can be “LA traffic” for Halloween, I can buy a book on investment, I can start running on my lunch break.

Getting out some of the brain clutter has helped tune my thinking. Some of the clutter is painful and I continue to write it down. I go through the act of writing – and at the end of it, I put my notebook down for the day. I can walk away knowing that I could express my pain in a healthy way. Working alongside the book is soothing because a lot of the topics covered are about self-care and negating self-defeating thoughts. The other primary tool of the book is called the Artist Date. I didn’t know about this concept the first time that I did Morning Pages. The Artist Date is a weekly date that you set with yourself. You go spend some time alone for a few hours. I’ve been taking myself on Artist Dates to museums and bookshops, hiking and surfing.

Artist Dates allow me to give myself permission to be with myself. Normally, I feel rather agitated if I am not working on something or learning something new. I like to be continuously improving my mind. Artist Dates are an assignment from my workbook, so I get to feel productive while getting to know myself a bit better. My Artist Dates recently have been going to the beach and surfing.  I get to be away from technology, in nature, and exercising.

Perhaps the most tangibly rewarding part of Morning Pages is having a morning routine centered around paying attention to my thoughts and feelings. And not in an analyzing way. Morning Pages are simple. Just write down whatever comes to your head. Stream of consciousness. The beauty is the discipline of repeating the pages day after day. The calm is having a record of thoughts and being able to leave them undisturbed within the covers of a journal.

Starting Morning Pages Again

Morning Pages are a practice developed and outlined by Julia Cameron wherein the individuals writes three pages every morning. These Morning Pages can be about anything that comes to mind, and this practice is not only for writers. I first heard about Morning Pages in late 2016 and started using them immediately. The results were tremendous – though I didn’t really correlate that practice with its creative manifestations at the time. During the time I was actively writing each morning, I wrote two books and took on over a dozen clients as a freelance writer.

I had never picked up Cameron’s The Artist’s Way until about a week ago, thinking it was a Christian book. I liked the exercise, but did not want the religious sentiment to impede my progress or cloud the point of me writing Morning Pages. But I kept hearing the book and Morning Pages crop up in the various facets of my life; I couldn’t ignore it. I went out to buy a copy and in the very first portion, Cameron addressed my trepidations about the book being religious. It is not religious in a Christian sense, of course unless you want it to be.

There were several factors that threw me off course when I was writing daily, and I stopped doing Morning Pages in July 2017. For the past year, I have continued freelance writing and writing articles for this blog, but I have definitely let my negative self talk over my creative self. Julia Cameron calls the internal voice that puts you down the Censor. This Censor backtalks you when you have anything positive to say about yourself, and continues to bring up old wounds.

I started Morning Pages again last week and am already feeling closer to my old, creative self. I’ve been prepping my new workspace, reassembling my old organization system, and taking myself a bit more seriously. Part of this process for me was creating a new writing space. When I was writing my novels in 2016 and 2017, I had a large desk with my laptop, notebooks, pens, and small decorative items. The desk overlooked the street outside, and I loved writing there in the evenings as people drove by, and especially when it was raining out.

My new setup is cozy – I have a smaller desk with a single drawer, a stool on a jute rug, a mason jar filled with mechanical pencils and pens, a decorative wooden sculpture, planner, laptop, and post-its. I’m not directly facing a window, but I have hung up some of my favorite prints and a poem that I always keep near. Setting up a space like this is a large step in my creative recovery. I have given myself space to again take my creative writing seriously.

Morning Pages are incredibly rewarding and require no more than a pen, paper, and thirty minutes each morning. Starting again only means that I stopped at one point, but not that I can never create more and become all the more productive.

28 Weeks of Morning Pages

Alright, it’s been 28 weeks of writing three pages (nearly) every morning. I checked in previously at 6 weeks, 12 weeks, and most recently, 20 weeks. Last time, I talked about using writing as a tool to recognize life’s true simplicity, writing to work out the kinks as a groundwork for writing later in the day, and working to define my days in a different way rather than constrictive definitions, like the day of the week.

Morning, photo by Timothy Meinberg

I get paid to write now, so Morning Pages take a new meaning. In the past eight weeks, I’ve actually started to do something I never thought I would get the opportunity to do – I get paid to write. This is big for me. It’s my time to really elevate my writing game. Morning Pages feel more selfish now; they have no “real-world” value. I push through that feeling, and even talk about it in my Morning Pages.

Morning Pages remind me to formulate my complaints. I’ve been complaining a lot lately and when I go to write down my complaints, they don’t seem to make much sense. I’ll begin writing something I don’t like about my life, and my brain’s logical sensors (thank goodness) come in and remind me I don’t have much to complain about. If I can’t formulate my complaints logically and clearly, I have nothing to complain about.

Morning Pages make me feel antsy. At this stage, and with having done this exercise for about 7 months, I’m feeling a little antsy about it. I’m still pulling through the issue of distraction. I actually end up thinking one train of thought and then writing about another. I almost feel like I am censoring myself in my writing exercise. I have to reconcile my thoughts with what I am writing, like I do in my novels.

20 Weeks of Morning Pages

Every morning, weekday and weekend, I get up early to write out three pages by hand. I last checked in about eight weeks ago and talked about feeling stable in my morning routine, missing a day and moving on, and working on my attention span. At the 20 week mark, the habit has set in.

Here are some thing I’ve been paying attention to in the past eight weeks in regards to Morning Pages:

Life is simpler than it seems. When I get back down to basics like handwriting and do things that ground me, I’m remarkably reminded of how simple life can be if I simply view it that way. Getting caught up in complexity is just that, getting caught. It often has nothing to do with the situation itself, but has to do with perception and with limited view of the realness of the matter at hand.

Writing badly works out the kinks. I write in the morning, throughout the day, and at night. If I have a day where I’m feeling bogged down or not my best, I can say to myself that my Morning Pages will be my “bad” writing for the day. That is, I’ll allow Morning Pages to be my canvas for funky sentences and even the occasional misspelling. When I’ve gotten this out, I can get to focusing on more substantial and robust writing.

New beginnings. After a couple of months, I found myself passively starting my daily entries with stating the day of the week. This seemingly insignificant and automatic starter to my days set off a gentle reminder to me that I was defining every day as a continuation and a badge of slowly making it through the week. It made me very aware of the fact that I was beginning my day by responding to linear time with too much weight. I have since been challenging myself to look beyond the day of the week and look for other factors to help define my beginnings.

All in all, Morning Pages continuously provide insight into my thinking processes and habits. I see no point wherein I will have no more to gain from participating in this daily exercise of mind.

12 Weeks of Morning Pages

Morning Pages are the three pages that I write every morning before going about my daily activities; I do these seven days a week and I get no days off. And I love it. Last time I checked in (six weeks ago), I talked about challenging myself to write only positively, using the writing to get in a mindset for a good day, feeling like it breaks up my routine, getting into author mode, and calming my overactive mind. Here’s my new list of learned things, because the best thing about being a human is learning:

  1. Steadiness. When I’ve been at my best, or what I consider to be my best, there’s always something in my life that is steady and sustainable. At this point in my life, I have a few of those things, and Morning Pages is just another wonderful component to feeling stable.
  2. I missed one day.  In the past, I have given up upon missing one or a few sessions of a good activity or habit I was trying to form. I would give up because that’s the kind of attitude I saw in a lot of people. With Morning Pages, I missed a day and shrugged it off, because the bulk of my work is not in one day, it’s in a culmination of days.
  3. The Sit-Still. Sitting still and physically handwriting three pages is rewarding, but it also massively tests my attention span. There’s Instagram, Pinterest, the cat, a squirrel in the tree outside, and you just have to keep refocusing. I’m enjoying training myself to come back to my one activity.

The benefits of establishing this routine and this practice are largely understated; in some ways, Morning Pages brought me back to myself. Coming back to those things you love, those challenging things that you’re so passionate about, grounds you and allows you to grow in ways you really can’t plan or predict.

Six Weeks of Morning Pages

For over six weeks now, I have made it a habit of getting up thirty minutes earlier than I normally need to for work. I brew some coffee and hop to my desk to write out three pages. Here’s what I’ve learned thus far:

  1. The Positivity Challenge. It’s much quicker to write about meaningless nuisances than it is to write positively. So I’ve begun challenging myself to write only about good thing. If I get stuck, I write down a quote from a philosopher, credit him or her, and move one.
  2. Settling with Myself. Hand in hand with the challenge, writing in the morning has allowed me to really position myself in preparing for the day. It lets me settle with myself before I have to talk to anybody else. Writing positively sets a mindset for a good day.
  3. Breaking the Routine. Rather than configuring to the normal format of getting up, getting dressed, and getting ready for work, I now have a wonderful thing to get excited about in the morning. It’s a small thing I can do for myself before I put on my customer service hat for the work day.
  4. Getting into Author Mode. When I write in the morning, I find it much easier to come home and start working on my larger writing project after cooking dinner. It’s about embodying that writer lifestyle, and making it a serious time commitment rather than just a hobby.
  5. Resolving Internal Conflicts. I have an overactive mind, I often wake up several times during the night to think. Writing in the morning has very slowly helped to ease that overactivity by allowing me a creative outlet.

Morning Pages is my practice writing time to refocus, recenter, and get in tune with myself before my other responsibilities kick-in. It’s a good way to slowly rewire the brain to think more positively and a creative outlet for the overzealous mind.