I love routines and journals. That’s why when I read about the “morning pages” exercise, which includes routine and a journal, I immediately decided it was for me. I began on March 19 and I’m still doing it.
I don’t remember how exactly I came across it but I got inspired to try it thanks to the website of Julia Cameron who I don’t know as an author (yet). So what’s the idea? When you open your eyes in the morning, the first thing you need to do is fill three pages (approximately A4-sized or in my case – six pages in an A5 journal), writing about everything that comes to your mind. By hand. Without thinking too much about grammar or punctuation. In the best case, using the “stream of consciousness” technique but if your mind doesn’t “flow” this way, I think you can safely do with a more orderly style either. Mine didn’t flow this way, not in the beginning. I have full stops and all. Now I no longer have capital letters but I do use commas, although I don’t think about it. Blame it on all these years of writing.
A lot of people who have tried this exercise claim that somewhere on the third page quite interesting ideas start to appear, different from just telling the dream you’ve just woken up from or describing your tasks for the day. I dare to agree with them. I don’t know if these ideas would appear upon the pages of someone who isn’t a creative but I’m really curious to find out if it is so. By creative I mean someone who expresses his thoughts, feelings and ideas using text or other medium and not someone identified as an “author” in the public space who has publications or exhibitions behind his back. Because otherwise I’m excluded by definition.
The morning pages work in a very nice way for me. They are what makes me put my internal world at first place in my daily schedule – something completely new to me. The last few years I’ve been so busy with someone else’s things that my internal world has always been left at the end of my list of priorities. Internal worlds, of course, can’t bear with such an attitude all the time and sometimes overflow like water in a stock pot that had been forgotten while boiling. And then, like it or not, you ignore everything else and turn your attention to them. That’s why I keep a journal. In it I write down all the thoughts and ideas which come from somewhere, breaking the wall of arrangements, of things-I-really-should-do, of physiological needs if you want.
My morning pages journal is different. I don’t try hard to write legibly and nor do I save its pages only for “exceptional thoughts and ideas”. And this lack of concern about content or aesthetics feels liberating to me. It also feels awakening – I start writing with half-opened eyes but at the end of the sixth page I am already fully awake. Sometimes I don’t know what to write, other times I run out of space (as far as I know you are not “allowed” to go over the limit) but on average filling the pages takes half an hour. I afford myself to do it even when I have arrangements in the morning. I’ve also woken up earlier because of them.
I must note I don’t write every day. Before, when I tried following some practice, I would always feel remorse for not being able to do it every day because of arrangements I had but mainly because of all sorts of excuses. This time I feel no remorse. I only write when I wake up alone in bed which, ever since Lukáš started working, happens quite often. The first days I tried writing while he was sleeping – I’ve never imagined a pen pressing on paper could cause so much noise!
I realize this is some kind of a compromise – limiting my creative needs for the sake of someone else’s convenience. But I try not to scold myself that much. Instead, I teasingly turn to Cameron, who can’t hear me, explaining her that the fact she’s been writing morning pages for years is most probably related to her living alone in a house full of cats. And she can do whatever she wants. You can taste a drop of jealousy in my tease but I know very well that in another version of my life – where I live alone and create all the time when I’m not busy with my cats – I would miss the person next to me and even the responsibilities of family life. So I write when I can and I don’t have a Nazi attitude to the exercise.
In fact, thanks to this exercise I won a huge victory over myself. I’m that sort of a person who won’t start anything new if he knows it will be just for a short time or that there might appear some obstacle to it in the future. My need for something universal, something I could do always, regardless of the circumstances, has limited me a lot in my life. But in this case it didn’t prevail. And the thought that – if everything goes well – my life will turn upside down in two months and the definition of “morning” will probably get blurred in numerous times of having to get up at night didn’t hinder me from trying this practice. It may sound like a small victory to you but only I know how significant it actually is. I wish that I have the same attitude to other new things in my life too.
The morning pages shouldn’t be shown to anyone – they’re only for us. Otherwise we’d censor ourselves. But here I decided to break the rules again. I don’t censor myself but I also don’t exclude the possibility to share something with my readers should anything that’s worth sharing appear along the lines. My blog has begun to look too much like a memoir anyway and, although I believe in the power and even in the universal elements of personal history, I think I should go back to the posts where I just shared meditations, poems, opinions. After all, with me being married and giving birth soon, the big events in my life will end and I don’t want to use my blog to tell you about the everyday life of a diaper-changing, breastfeeding mother who is not even likely to travel in the next few months. I could tell you about parenting. When I learn something about it. That won’t happen soon. In the meantime I can try, for myself and for the readers of this blog, to use the time filled with a routine activity of a bit more absorbing, disturbing, possibly slightly smelly kind to look up at the bigger picture. I must do it. As my little sister and I discussed not so long ago, children should become part of our lives and not turn it upside down. Not take us away from the things we want to be part of us. Not make us less whole and later suffer because of that.
Waking up in the morning and writing six pages in the journal is my first step to making/stealing time for the needs of my soul. What the next will be… I have no idea.
For now I enjoy my days and neither do I try to slow them down, nor am I in a hurry. And I’m going to use the remaining time to write morning pages. And then – if there are mornings, there will be pages. If not – well, there won’t be. It’s as simple as that.
I am planning to collect here the more interesting among the thoughts and ideas that come to me in the morning on a monthly basis. I’ll conclude this post with excerpts from my March pages which began in the last third of the month anyway. I hope you’ll find them interesting. If not, I’ll stop.
And if anyone of you has written morning pages or has just been inspired to do so, I’ll be really happy if he/she shares their impressions with me.
I chose myself, albeit quietly. This is how it should be, I guess, in the life of a wife/future mother – if she can’t express her creative side loudly and freely, she can at least do it quietly. But she can’t give up on it.
I let my day show me what it can do, well aware that what it will be like is also under my control.
May I gather strength little by little! If I get up suddenly after a long time of lying/hibernating, my head will start spinning; I may quickly fall back on the ground. That’s not what I want. I want to get up, slowly drawing on power from the earth itself. I want to make friends with it so that I don’t see it as the place where I’m afraid to go back if I fall. To stand firmly into it; to have my feet growing roots and drinking life-giving juice while I try to reach the sky with my fingers.
Why is this ritual meant to take place in the morning – aren’t all creative people owls? They work at night when the borders between the real and the unreal are so blurred. It’s perhaps to make writing an activity “on the daily agenda” or to make use of the “restarted” brain which hasn’t yet organized the frames of the dream in its archives.
(photo taken from here)