Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Coffee and the Morning Pages

During the summer, when my hectic life couldn't handle even one more thing (not to mention, I had mono and couldn't do much more than sleep and sit in front of the TV next to my 3-year-old in a Dora the Explorer-filled daze), I started reading Julia Cameron's The Artist Way and added yet one more item to my daily to-do - the morning pages.

Show of hands - who does the morning pages?

For those of you who don't know what they are, it's three pages of daily blathering. Whatever you want to write. Nothing creative. Don't even TRY to be creative. Just write three pages.

Since adding my daily three pages of blathering to my composition book, you'd think my hectic life would cause my brain to explode and I'd end up in a coma and then probably die. But truthfully, since starting my morning pages, my hectic life has become less hectic.

Why would adding yet another thing to my schedule - and THREE PAGES of writing, no less - help things become less hectic?

Because my morning pages are where I get rid of all the icky stuff that mucks up my day. If I need to whine about life, I do it in my morning pages. If I feel overwhelmed by my schedule, I talk about it in the morning pages. If I'm not sure what to do with myself, I give Marisa Hopkins a pep talk in the morning pages.

It's not a diary. It's not meant to be read by anyone, not even me. If someone were to pick up my morning pages and start to read, they'd probably think I am the whiniest, most dissatisfied person on the planet. And in between that, they'd wonder if I have multiple personalities, because the voices in my head (I like to call these the characters of my books, but if you want to call it schizophrenia, go ahead) sometimes interrupt my whining to say a thing or two before letting me get back to my whining in peace.

Like this piece of dialogue which ended up on my page like this:

September 6th

I've been out of town for Jenni's wedding so I haven't done any morning pages for days. I'd like to say I'm all settled and ready to start my week, except there's no milk for my coffee so things aren't getting off to the best start imaginable (note to self - vanilla yogurt doesn't do a great job replacing missing milk). On top of that, I'm hungry, but for what, I do not know. Things also not great: I have a cold, or something, coming on. And my stomach hurts.

"Do I have a sign on my forehead or a sticker on my shirt somewhere that says Hello, my name is Catherine and I'd like to be in a complicated relationship? I don't think so. Now go away."

Catherine Snowfield won't shut up again. Okay, so, yesterday I got an email from a friend on Etsy....

And I went on about that email, totally forgetting my bit of dialogue, which is fine, since it's not dialogue I'll use anytime in the next couple years, if at all.

Three pages of whining each day might not sound like a great thing, but in that whining, I usually have a revelation or two. Like this one, from just this week:

December 12th

(me blathering about my struggles with the revision of my book)

I need to set goals and then stick to them. If I set goals I'll then have expectations of when I'll be done, right? And I can hopefully hit those goals. Okay, so it's settled. I need to write down a set of goals.

Actually I have. Twice. But this time I'll MEAN it.

Haha, wow. What's wrong with me? I want to write! I want to finish SLEEP! Share it with my crit partners, make it better, then query so I can share it with the world! What is stopping me?

Oh. I spend all my free time on Facebook and Twitter. And blog reading.

Okay, why am I stopping me? There I go. The question I've been waiting for - why am I stopping myself from reaching my dreams? I want to make excuses for myself, say things like, "revision is not something I can rush and it will be better if I take my time anyway..."

But the truth is this - I haven't been spending more than minimal time on my book each day.

So there you have it. Thanks to the morning pages, I frequently slap myself in the face. And now above my desk is the sign WHY AM I STOPPING MYSELF FROM REACHING MY DREAMS?

Some days I don't have three pages of whining to do. This is when I write my weekly shopping list, plan a schedule, talk about my favorite books, or gush over Victorian poetry and the movie Splash.

But when those pages are done and my coffee cup is empty, I shut my composition book and get on with my life. My brain is usually calm, or else inspired to get moving, but my life doesn't seem so hectic when I work out the problems bugging me in my morning pages. And it's nice being able to close the book on them until another day.

If you're a person who loves to live life creatively, or would like to try, but are not sure where to start, I HIGHLY ENCOURAGE YOU to pick up The Artist's Way by Julia Cameron. You won't be let down!



Alyssa S. said...

Sooo, I'm thinking I should do this too, huh?

Leslie Gidden said...

Marisa! I LOVE this! I am going to do it! And if you don't mind post a link to your blog about this too! Fantastic! I SOOOOO need this! :)


Unknown said...

Alyssa - I think you could benefit from reading The Artists Way. It's all about overcoming creative blocks. Not that I think you are blocked specifically, but just about all of us artists/writers are in one way or another. This book is excellent!

Leslie - Go for it!! Glad you love this and I hope it works for you!

beka said...

Hmmm. That 3 pages thing sounds like a good idea.....

Kelly Polark said...

Good for you for doing them and sharing with us. It does seem to get your mind in order for the day. I like the handwritten part too!
I write to do lists in the morning instead :).

Meeling said...

Great post!
Sometimes getting it down on paper is the best way to get all those "thoughts" out...they seem to rest for a while after that.
I've done it before, but not in a long while, but it's good to hear I'm not the only one it works for...makes me feel more normal! ;-)

jamberry_song said...

I've heard of that, and have looked at that book before. There's no time in the morning for me, though, so maybe at night instead... Hmm.

Anyway, amusing post! How long have you been working on your book?

mshatch said...

This is pretty cool; I may try it, thanks :)

Leah said...

I need to start doing them again...but with a baby and a not-yet-three-year-old, I always seem to get interrupted & I haven't even bothered for months.

Lola Sharp said...

You know, I've owned this book for a while now and haven't read it. I need to crack it open.

Lovely blog you have here. :)


Unknown said...

Beka - sometimes they are annoying, but wow, the way they help me get my head in order is amazing! :)

Kelly - Oooh, I love me a good to-do list :D The only way I get anything done in my day!

Meeling - Haha!! Are we artsy craftsy types ever normal?? :D Probably not, but I also love knowing there are other artists doing morning pages, too!

Unknown said...

Jamberry - I wonder if doing them at night would help settle a busy mind?? I might want to try that!! Also, I've been working on my book since Fall '09 - finished the first draft this past Fall, and am now beginning the revision process!

Marcy - I hope you do!! I find they help me organize my writing in my head when I get stuck!

Leah - Oh yes, I can imagine the busyness! Haha, I put Nick Jr. on for my kiddo when it's time to get mine written... that is the only thing that works. Too bad it gives me an annoying soundtrack to work to, though!

Lola - I haven't done the entire book - only started it... but I did get into the Morning Pages habit and I am so glad I did. :)

Karen Faulkner said...

The Artists Way is one of the best books I've ever read. I've done the morning pages off and on at various times over the past six years. Really great for draining all the superfluous stuff from your mind!

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