Minnow Park

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The First Thing I Do Every Morning

I wanted to share a practice I’ve implemented in my life that has helped me be more creative and prolific in my work. They have been the catalyst for these letters, my personal and professional work, and hopefully beyond. The first one I want to share about is called morning pages.

The practice is from a book that I’ve mentioned many times so far called Artist’s Way (it’s going to be a whole other thing for me to talk about). The book is a 12-week course, where a caring but stern mentor, Julia Cameron, wants to shake you up and help you see the artist you are meant to be. Her insights and suggestions have a lifetime of wisdom not just from her life, but those that she’s encountered through this course. Becky and I have been going through it together and it’s challenged and awakened us in some deep ways. Really, this is a whole other thing that I shouldn’t get into right now.

But from the beginning of the book she shares about this practice that she’s personally been doing for decades, called the morning pages. What is it? It’s writing longhand, meaning pen and paper not keyboard and monitor, three pages strictly stream-of-consciousness, every morning.

Every. Single. Day.

In that simplicity lies its profundity.

Just Do It

Just because morning pages involves writing, it doesn’t mean this is for people who are or want to be writers. The act of writing is just a tool, because what you write about is not important. You’re not supposed to read what you’ve written until weeks or even years later. The point isn’t to create something worth reading and analyzing. I write my pages in a $1 composition notebook, to in further enforce this for myself.

The point is to get into the habit of creating something everyday.

There are no rules to what you can write about. You are essentially dumping your subconscious onto the page. And by doing that you are moving to action. The rest of your day may be a struggle to be productive, but at least you’ve done your pages. You are moving forward. It takes away the self-talk. the “what if this isn’t perfect,” the “I don’t have enough time” excuses. As soon as you are awake enough, you sit down and write three pages. You are building momentum.

Mapping Your Interior

The other thing morning pages do is “start to map your interior” as Cameron says. Because you can’t write about nothing day after day. You start to see the truth on the page, and you start to check-in with yourself. You’re faced with your inconsistencies. It forces you to start taking action, and close the gap between what you think and what you do.

As the momentum starts building day after day, your mindset and perspective will start to change, and you’ll it back to these pages. If you miss a day or two, you start to feel like something is out place, and things aren’t clicking. That’s when it starts to become essential.

I’ve worked out tangled problems on that page. I’ve been able to process and face intimidating issues by pouring it onto the page and then making sense of it. Sometimes I get a great idea for a topic to write about, or what to shoot then I take a second and jot it down in my real notebook. This one is a way for me to clear the weeds so that I can start planting my art.

Showing Up

The last thing I’ll mention that morning pages has done for me is build the discipline of showing up. Because this is something you do everyday, it’s inevitable there will be days where you really, really, really don’t want to do them. I’ve admittedly gone months without doing them, until I started again a year ago.

But sometimes doing something you don’t want to do is a good thing. It’s helped me follow through on what matters most to me. Because these pages aren’t for anyone else. It’s just for me. The effects of it may translate to the rest of your life, but these pages are for me. Being aware of myself, understanding where I need more attention and care has been crucial markers for me as I continue to create.

So I encourage you from the tip of my toes to the bottom of my heart, to start doing morning pages. It doesn’t take much to start. Pick up cheap notebook (8.5” x 11” is the perfect size) and just start. Try it for a week, and tell me how it is. It’ll be awkward at first, and your wrist will be sore because it’s doing this unfamiliar thing of holding a ben and writing, but it’s worth it.