I have done it. I have went further then I have ever went before. I never make it past week five and Here I am at week seven. Unbelievable.
Today I want to talk about journaling. The piece of the Artists’ Way that never changes week to week, the Morning Pages. Julia Cameron believes whole heartedly in them and points to many graduates of this process who never abandon the journaling piece of the work. For those uninitiated, she require three pages of writing every morning to clear your head and get straight about yourself. She calls them The Morning Pages.
To do mine, I use loose, three whole lined meant for binders. I do this for many reasons. Most importantly because I remember reading Anne Lamott in “Bird by Bird”. She reminds aspiring writers to steer clear of fancy journals as the only thing you can ever write in a fancy journal is fancy thinking. She believes that writing is practice and therefore every writer needs permission to write junk. Lots of it. Only by practicing daily, and writing freely without the perfection editor in placec an the gems arrive. So in honor of that thought, I write on cheap paper that means nothing to me. I confess thought to keeping it in a very pretty binder though.
To the writing piece now. I spoke to someone yesterday about this writing of the morning pages and I met a response that was not unfamiliar. She was attracted to journaling and had tried several times and quit several times. The story she told me I had heard from many before her. When people try to journal they find that after you write for a few days about your lifes’ current situation, you have nothing left to say. Your journalistic musing then ends up settled on the toast and coffee level of your day.
When my mother and I were cleaning out my grandfathers chest from the war after his death we came upon several tiny leather journals. He had, as many of his experience, never spoken of the war, so there was some excitement to read about what that had been like for him. What we found though when we opened them up to read, was a dry accounting of the days “toast and coffee”.
“Got haircut by Bill. Crash today at landing, two badly burned. Had fresh fruit for dinner. A treat.”
Who was Bill? What kind of cut did he give? Did you like it? A crash landing? Did you see it? How did you hear about it? Who were these men? How does it make you feel about being in this place at this time with a wife and daughter back home? Did you hear your own mortality knocking at your door? Local fruit? Sweet? Tart?
I’m not asking him to write poetry but his shopping list of events didn’t help him live his day or me appreciate the man he was 45 years later either.
Journaling isn’t for everyone. I get that. But if you do write, or if you are tempted to write stop and ask yourself the age old but still effective question:
How do I feel about this? What does this remind me of? What is stirring in me as I think about this?
And further to this, don’t quit on page two. Julia is right to ask for three pages. At the end of page two I have come to trite and polite wrap ups, but on page three I name what matters- what I hate, what is thrilling and I discover the place I want to look next.
Page one says I’m having toast and coffee, page two says I wish it was a bagel, but that’s life. But by page three I’m starting my own bagel company. See the difference a page makes?