Tag Archives: Morning Pages

Rethinking My Morning Pages

morning pagesScribble, scribble – my morning pages

I’ve posted a few times recently about being stressed—and often not even knowing I’m stressed until I manifest physical symptoms. So I’ve been working on ways to help me deal with my stress.

Doing Julia Cameron’s morning pages is one of the things I’ve turned back to. The idea of the morning pages comes from Cameron’s book, The Artist’s Way; the idea is to handwrite three pages of stream of conscious writing every morning, words which you will never go back to reread (so it’s nothing like a journal).

I’ve had great success in the past with morning pages, in terms of commitment—I did them for about an eight year period, during which I very rarely missed a day. I never reread any of them, either. I just kept them all in a stack, and when we moved to the city several years ago, I spent half a day putting all those pages through the shredder. (Not that I really had to. I could have just recycled them as-is. The picture above is a sample of one of my pages, and as you can see, it’s a scribbly mess.)

And I’m finding now they work really well for me when I’m stressed. Just the act of dumping all the things that are stressing me out—sometimes things I’m not even aware of until the words show up on the page—seems to provide the kind of relief I need. My day usually brightens up from there, and I feel lighter.

But I don’t feel the need to go to my morning pages all the time. I have mornings when I’m feeling inspired and motivated, which for me signals the start of a really great day. And I’ noticed something—on those days I put off doing my morning pages, and have to drag myself to do them. And then when I’m done, the inspired, motivated feeling is gone.

I say I “noticed” this, but what really happened was this: yesterday, while doing my morning pages (which I really needed, as I had a lot to unload), this observation spilled out as well. It took me by surprise, but when I examined it, I realized it was true.

The thing is, I did the morning pages for eight years. They felt magical to me. But the bottom line is, I never got anywhere closer to my dreams during the time I did them. In fact, I backtracked. I did hardly any writing at all. Those were my “lost” years when it came to writing, except I felt really productive, because hey, at least I was doing my three pages of stream of conscious, braindump it on the page writing every day.

Based on my past experience, I think I’ve figured out what works best for me. The morning pages are great for helping me let go of the stressors in my life. But it seems they also help me let go of inspiration and motivation, too. So I’m going to use them when I need them. And even though I don’t always know when I’m stressed, when I wake up in the mornings I can always feel if it’s going to be an inspired day, or if I’m feeling ho hum.

Those ho hum feelings? A sign that I’m stressed. And when it comes to blasting away those stressors, the morning pages are second to none.

Have you ever tried doing morning pages? How did they work for you?

Ten minutes

ten minutes

I am stressed.

But the funny thing is, I don’t feel stressed. Not in my mind, I mean. And that, apparently, isn’t such a good thing. Because my body, unable to signal to me that maybe it’s time to slow down, let go, and indulge in self-care, has to find other ways to tell me I’m stressed.

Last month, I went to see my doctor because I’d started feeling tingling and numbness in my hands, arms, legs, and feet. (Checking these symptoms online wasn’t such a great idea, as you all probably already know.)

My doctor listened patiently as I described my symptoms. Then she told me I didn’t have to worry about the worse-case scenarios. And then she asked me, “Have you been stressed lately?”

I thought about it. “No,” I said, shaking my head.

But even though I didn’t feel like I was experiencing stress, she said my symptoms were most likely the product of stress.

My body, she explained, reacts physiologically to stress.

It’s true, and it’s something I’m just now getting around to accepting. And my main problem? I don’t actually know I’m experiencing stress, not in my mind anyway. An example? When my doctor asked me if I had been feeling stressed lately, I told her no.

And yet … both my cats were ill and my mother had just broken her hip.

I felt exhausted, yes, but other than that, I didn’t think I was stressed. So obviously my body has become adept at signalling my stress in other ways.

This causes some problems. How can I let go of my stress when I don’t actually feel like I’m stressed? I don’t have problems sleeping and I don’t spend a lot of time thinking about the stressors in my life right now.

I could go the medication route. But I’d rather find alternate, natural ways to relieve this stress that my mind doesn’t feel but my body does. After doing some research into this, I’ve decided to try the following things:

Exercise. Exercise seems to be on every list of ways to destress. I haven’t exercised since last fall, and I’m obviously feeling it. Feeling it so much, when I walk anywhere these days I get all these “glad sensations”. My feet want to take off, go faster. My body says, yay, motion!

Ti of Book Chatter and I have been talking about making small, healthy changes, starting today, May 1. I’m always biting off more than I can chew, so small changes are a good fit for me. Ten minutes. That’s what I’m starting with. Ten minutes of exercise a day.

Meditation. It’s quite telling, but I’ve not been meditating for a couple of months now. And when I try to meditate, my mind goes crazy. An avalanche of thoughts. Nothing earth shattering though. Mostly mundane things, like what I’m going to eat for lunch. When will they turn on the air conditioning? My goodness, it’s hot in here this morning. But I do like the sunshine. On and on it goes.

So I’m going to go back to a tried and true method that’s helped me with my meditation in the past. I have several Brain Sync meditations. They’re supposed to be a scientific way to help you get into the meditative state. I don’t know about that, but I do know they’ve always worked for me. So, ten minutes. My month of small changes—ten minutes of meditating with Brain Sync every day.

Morning Pages. The book-reading demon has this theory about my stress. He thinks I’m not allowing myself to feel my real feelings because they’re not what I’m supposed to be feeling. I think he has a point there. I used to do morning pages—three pages of stream of conscious writing, quite literally a brain dump. They were my daily ritual, and I’d gotten to the point where writing those pages became my happy place. For eight years, I literally would not do anything until I’d done my pages. And then I stopped doing them because they’d gotten me to a place where I felt quite good most of the time and I didn’t need them any more.

But happiness and feeling good are ways of living that need to be maintained. I obviously need some sort of practice that will get me there and keep me there. And a daily brain dump will perhaps let those feelings I’m not aware I’m feeling flow out of me, onto the pages of my notebook.

Again, ten minutes. (Although I’ll probably revert to habit and do three pages.) Ten minutes isn’t a lot of time. These changes won’t work for me if I feel like they’re a burden, or I don’t have enough time to do them. I can’t resist “ten minutes” because it’s only ten minutes, after all.

So that’s my list. Do you have any tips on destressing? I’ll gladly add to this list because this whole body reacting to stress thing has got to change!

[TSS] My Year of Creativity

I’m not one to make resolutions – they just don’t work for me. And perhaps it’s a matter of semantics; “resolutions” and “resolve” have a hard-edged feel for me, and I much prefer the softer ease of “intention”.

So at the beginning of each new year, I like to make some general intentions for the days ahead.

Last year was my year of authenticity. And this soft, gentle intention had a great deal to do with 2010 being a very pivotal year for me. It was a year during which I got to know myself a lot better – who I really am, and what I really want out of life.

I didn’t exactly enjoy all the lounging-around-on-the-sofa-feeling-sick time I spent during Christmas week last week, but in some ways it was a gift; I had lots of time to look back over the past year, and look forward to the new year – and see what my general intentions are for 2011.

Despite flagging energy, I came up with a lot of ideas (many of which I’d actually been nursing during the deadline-driven months of November and December). And all these ideas gelled together and pointed in one general direction:

create

2011 is my year of creativity.

I’ve missed being creative. Last year, I added writing back into my life, and it has been a very joyful experience. But there’s more to what I want out of life than the writing. There are a lot of things that interest me, and this year, I’m giving myself permission to enjoy exploring and playing with all the things that catch my fancy.

So this means:

More Writing. But I’m not going to narrowly define “writing” anymore. I’m going for the everything-including-the-kitchen-sink approach. So that means not just novels and short stories, but playing around with writing prompts, writing essays, and (this is very tentative indeed!) more regular blogging here.

Janel has been my inspiration when it comes to my writing intentions. I am totally in love with her bowl of inspiration, and plan to pair it with this other idea I got from her blog – coming up with a story idea a day.

More Art. Once upon a time (read: pre-Dylan, my seven-year-old), I actually spent a great deal of time mucking about playing with paints and glue and paper and clay. I was never particularly good, but for me, making art isn’t about the end result, it’s about the process.

I’m going to start slowly; right now, I’m contemplating the idea of a Zentangle a day, or, more accurately, a Zentangle mandala. I found this great video on YouTube which makes me want to reach for my set of Pigma Micron pens and just do it – except, I don’t have a set anymore. So a trip to the art store is in order!

I’d also like to learn how to create digital art; I bought the Sketchbook Pro app for my iPad, and have a stylus on its way to me (in the same package as that Bluetooth keyboard I mentioned yesterday).

And digital photography! Molly posted today about her interest in photography, not just as a memory keeping device, but as a form of artistic expression. Photography is something I’ve been interested in ever since I was a teenager; I’ve just never made the interest much of a priority before.

More Reading. I also intend to read a lot more – for me, reading is a very creative thing. It’s rare for me to put down a book without it having stimulated an avalanche of new ideas. But this year, I’d like to add interesting non-fiction back into my TBR stacks as well.

For many years, after I had my kids, I read nothing but nonfiction, because fiction was just too gripping and I didn’t have the time to give to it (if you’ve ever found yourself having a really hard time putting down a novel, but it’s inching really close to 2 in the morning and you have to get up in a handful of hours to get the kids off to school, you’ll know what I mean).

So a few years ago, I made the decision to let myself read more fiction again, and I am so very glad I did. The more I read, the more I find myself itching to write. At the same time, though, fiction doesn’t quite appease my curiosity about things the way a very good non-fiction book can. So I’d like to have both types of reading in my life.

I suspect the Kindle app on my iPad is going to play a huge role in my reading life this year as well. It has been so easy reading on it (I recently finished Kathy Reich’s Virals, a real page-turner, and am in the middle of Naughty: 9 Tales of Christmas Crime, by Steve Hockensmith), and I’ve been finding myself looking through the Kindle store feeling very, very tempted by the selections there.

Morning Pages, My Way. I’m contemplating writing Morning Pages again; they were a part of my daily practice for about eight years, but I found myself outgrowing them. This time around, I’d like to do them with an added twist – I’d like to use them as a way to hold a conversation with myself, the deep-down-me who often gets buried in the unintentional busy-ness of life.

Meditation. And finally, there’s the meditation. I find it terribly challenging sometimes to quiet my mind (as you can probably imagine, by the length of my blog posts …) But I’d really, really like to incorporate meditation into my daily practice.

As a gift to myself, I bought a copy of Abraham-Hicks’ Getting into the Vortex Guided Meditation meditations; there are four 15 minute meditations on the CD, and 15 minutes is SO much easier to manage. It’s like the short timed writing goal for me – it’s nearly impossible for that naysayer part of me to tell me “you don’t have time for that”.

So these are all the things I’m looking forward to doing and being in 2011. What about you? Do you make resolutions? Mini-goals? What has worked (and not worked) for you in the past when it comes to new year changes in your life?

Do You Keep a Journal?

image

I love to write, but I’ve never been good at keeping a journal.

On the other hand, I’ve had some success with what I call “specialty” journals.

For example, I kept a gratitude journal the year after my divorce (and it was very, very helpful).

I’ve also worked on a few art journals, and one year I kept a “mandala journal” which resulted in a wonderful little book filled with gel pen mandalas that I still like to look over every now and then. I found the time I spent creating these little mandalas each day to be incredibly meditative.

Some of my favorite mandalas from that little book:

mandala mandala2 mandala7 mandala8

I’ve had my greatest success, journaling-wise, with “Morning Pages”, from Julia Cameron’s The Artist’s Way. I did them for about eight years, and toward the end, they, like the mandalas, had become quite a meditative tool. I still have several notebooks crammed on my shelves, even though I occasionally pull a few out to shred them (the whole idea of Morning Pages is that you NEVER reread them, so I’ve had no problems disposing of them).

But I’ve never been able to keep a regular “daily” journal consistently, something that I could pick up and read over older entries, see what I was up to on a certain day in a certain year.

A while back, I wrote about how I was inspired to give journaling a try. In fact, I titled that post much the same as this one!

I never did do anything about my inspiration last time around, though. Those beautiful Moleskine notebooks arrived but I never did anything with them.

Recently, though, I’ve come across a few articles online that have made me think about how wonderful it would be to keep a journal. And during our decluttering these past few weeks, I also decided to pull out the book Creative Journal Writing, by Stephanie Dowrick, from my TBR pile.

Those Moleskine notebooks from last year are still blank, and now I’ve decided I’d like to start using them.

And it occurred to me that maybe the problem I have with journaling is that I am just too eclectic – it’s hard for me to consistently write the same kind of thing every day.

So what if I let myself write whatever I wanted to every day? (Ahem. Much like I’ve been doing here, and thank you all for continuing to read, by the way.)

I’ve been thinking that I could write in it:

  • gratitude lists
  • story ideas
  • conversation snippets overheard or dreamed up
  • my dreams
  • quotes from things I’m reading or see online
  • any of those one-line thoughts that come to me in droves every day

Or anything else that might occur to me. Maybe sometimes I’d even write about what I did that day.

And some days, I might whip out my gel pens and draw something, create a mandala or maybe do a ZenTangle.

I’ve been thinking that this just might work. I might work in my journal consistently if I let the content be as varied as whatever might appeal to me that day.

Do you journal? If you do, do you have any tips for me? And if you don’t, do you ever think about keeping a journal?

Photo credit

On Writing: Do You Keep a Journal?

Yesterday’s word count: 0

NANTUCKET total word count:  60,874

HARPER total word count: 5,435 words

I didn’t make my writing goal yesterday; I didn’t even attempt it. At 1:30 am I was still working on my deadline, and the choice was there: keep plugging away and be free and clear for the next three days, or put the assignment away and write. I decided it would be better all around for me and my stress levels to have three days to clean the house for the housesitter (now I understand those of you who clean your house in preparation for your cleaning person) and get ready and packed for our road trip.

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So I’ve been wondering – whether you like to write or just like to read books, do you keep a journal?

Journaling is something I’ve never been able to do consistently. But with my recent success at writing my novel every day (well, nearly everyday), I’ve been thinking about giving journaling a try again.

Sometimes I think it would be lovely to have notebooks all lined up on a shelf in chronological order, documenting my life through the ages. On the other hand, I know this would never work for me. I have a wonderful life, but let’s face it: it’s kind of boring.

Where the real excitement happens is in my mind. I always have lots going on in there. I think that’s why I had such success writing Morning Pages, the exercise in Julia Cameron’s The Artist’s Way. I wrote Morning Pages every day for eight years. The reason why this was so successful for me was because you’re not supposed to read your Morning Pages, ever: it’s just a brain dump.

From there I moved on to what I called my “spiritual” journal. This was a couple of years ago, and I only kept it for about two months, but I have gone back and re-read this journal several times and it always gives me a lift.

So I’ve decided to begin a journal that will be all about whatever happens to be going on in my mind. I’m going to commit to writing in it every morning, because that’s what I did with my Morning Pages and getting things off my mind was a huge help to my day. But unlike Morning Pages, I want to go back and re-read this journal, so it will be more like my spiritual journal.

And what perfect timing – I ordered some Moleskin journals over the weekend. They arrived today!

What about you? Do you keep a journal? Do you record the events of your life in it, your thoughts, or a combination of both? How long have you been keeping a journal. Do you have any tips for me, on how to become a dedicated journal writer?