and Rule Breakin’
Last week we talked about taking care of your creative head space by filling the well and keeping a bit of fuel in the tank.
How’d you do?
YES, NO, MAYBE?
It takes a while, so give yourself some grace!
But – What if you got off to a good start but there just didn’t seem to be enough room in the “head space” for the good stuff?
Well, nothing changes until something changes. Time to gather our thoughts and clean house!
The Second Key Tool
As we discussed last week, Julia Cameron says there are two key tools to sustained creativity. The Artist’s Date was one. Now let’s talk about the other.
Unfortunately, if you want change, you must be willing to do the work. Sometimes it will feel like fun, and sometimes it won’t. But it will always be helpful.
We’ll be referencing Julia Cameron this week as well. In order to retrieve, enjoy, and expand your creativity, you’ll need to find it! Where did it go?
You may be asking yourself – “Where the heck did I put it? Where did I see it last? I’m gonna have to retrace my steps! I’m gonna have to take some notes!”
And the “notes” is precisely where we’re going today!
Last week I told you I was a rule breaker of sorts, and this week will be no different! I’ll explain the premise and then share my process.
Julia calls them Morning Pages. I’ll call it emptying the trash!
Here’s why I call it that. All that whiny, petty, self-pity, bothersome crap needs a place to fester- and fester it will! Like that old head of lettuce and the chicken bones at the bottom of the trash bag. You’re gonna forget it’s in there and then…you know what happens!
Empty it all out onto a piece of paper. Julia says three pieces, longhand. I say, use whatever it takes.
Now take note! This is NOT journalling! This is NOT prose and poetry. This is NOT so you can go back and read how miserable you were and ruminate on that! This is NOT perfection. This is trash, crap, sludge – pour it out for the purpose of getting rid of it…for a while anyway.
So how do you do it? The rules say first thing in the morning, three pages, written long-hand, stream of consciousness writing, whatever pops into your head.
There is no right or wrong here…just write, rinse, repeat.
What To Expect
Let’s get this out of the way right now – It’s going to be babble. It’s going to be BS. It’s going to be boring.
In this over-stimulated, over-social, over-scheduled world, our brain tends to think that all that stuff is of vital importance. Once you start writing all the crap your worried about down, you’re going to see that much of it is NOT that important. In fact, it’s not even relevant. It’s just noise.
The next thing you’ll experience is resistance. You’ll tell yourself it’s silly. You’ll tell yourself that it’s a waste of time and that you have nothing to write! Uh-uh! Well, there’s something! Start writing about how you don’t want to write, how this stinks, and how much you don’t like it.
Rule Break #1:
There is something extremely eye-opening and cathartic when you write by hand. The slower pace helps keep your hand, head, and heart connected. BUT – if you can’t, won’t, or are using the “hand” part as an excuse for NOT doing this – then type it out.
Sorry, not sorry.
Just Google Steven Hawking! You’ll find a brilliant soul, whose speeches, lectures, and writings inspired much of scientific discovery – through the use of a single muscle in his cheek. So, if he can make a significant contribution without hand writing a single word, so can you.
Find a way to write those pages! Use technology if necessary.
And here’s another trick. Just like the artist’s date, the pages should be nonnegotiable. Because these “writings” are for “brain-dump” only, there’s are no grammar or punctuation rules. No spelling checks will be done. No grades will be issued. They can be absolute drivel, and no one will know! There’s absolutely no excuse because no one else is supposed to see these!
Uh-oh! And therein lies the problem! You will be tempted to lie to yourself. Since no one will know, why do I care! No one will know if I don’t do this! So, I won’t!
OK, have it your way. But I’m here to tell you… (tough love comin’ at you) Don’t keep complaining to me if you can’t find your creative mojo! I’m going to ask you what you’ve discovered in your pages. I’m going to ask you what you saw on your date. I’ll be asking you what you’ve been doing to try and unearth it…
If you answer starts with, “Well, you see, it’s like this. I just can’t…
Yep! I can lead you to water but I can’t make you drink.
You have to do the work.
A Month Down The Road
What will eventually happen is that you’ll recognize your safety zone. You know the one. If I keep TALKING about this, I won’t have to DO anything about it!
But here’s the deal, and Julia says the same thing. It’s impossible to complain about something day after day, week after week, without eventually being prompted into some kind of action. Eventually you’ll say enough is enough. Either do something or stop worrying about it. The pages will lead you out of the landfill and toward some unforeseen solution.
There are a few other things that can happen. The “problem” may abate on its own or you’ll discover it wasn’t a problem to begin with.
The reality is that around the one-month mark, you’ll begin to see the writing has shifted. You’ll see glimmers of creative projects and solutions starting to bud. You’ll notice that the pages are starting to work. You will discover that there are hidden gems within you that were simply concealed behind the trash.
You’ll notice that you can actually use them now to purposefully seek out a creative solution. Now you will start to use them to CREATE, not just to clear the path!
Anyone who writes their morning pages WITHOUT FAIL, will be led to a connection of their own internal wisdom. And it is so wonderfully weird when it happens.
The Inevitable Truth
Now, when I’m stuck on something, I go to the pages and ASK! My pages are no longer all about wishing and hoping. They are no longer focused on what I don’t have or can’t see, and are more about exploring ideas I have.
You’ll get to this point too! Even though the initial rule was to just dump and refrain from the “re-read,” you will find them becoming useful founts of knowledge to be used and possibly worth sharing. (P.S. – this is where the write-it-to-throw-it-out part kinda stops, just FYI!)
Once you get here, ask away. You may receive an answer right then and there. You may not. Never fear. It will come. Keep writing. After all, the Muse may need to use Google too!
Sometimes you’ll get an idea that is quick and easy. It may even seem like a joke or seem frivolous. I would caution you not to dismiss it in haste. Sometimes the best solutions are the most obvious and simple. And because it may seem simple, we may be tempted to ignore it. Surely it can’t be THAT easy, right?
Rule Break #2:
They’re called Morning Pages for a reason. Julia says to do them first thing in the morning. And, on a certain level, I can see the wisdom in that. But I often don’t have chatter that early and I prefer to move my body a bit beforehand. My stretching, my Cosmo (the cat not the drink), and coffee come first.
So, if you’re like me, here’s my advice: if the excuse is “I can’t do this first thing in the morning so why bother,” then do it a little later. There are 24 hours in the day. You can find a small spot for mind clean up anytime!
Just Do It
I have found that those who are most reluctant about this actually benefit the most! Hating this is a good sign. Liking it is also a good sign, but one personality at a time here!
If you hate the idea, you need it, so do it.
If you love the idea, you’ll use it, so do it.
If you couldn’t really give a rip either way, that neutral façade is actually boredom. Boredom is a mask for “what’s the use,” which is a mask for fear, and fear really needs the pages!
So put your fears on the page-
Put anything on the page-
In the words of Julia Cameron, “put three pages of it on the page!”
So, grab some old-fashioned notebook paper. You know – the kind with the lines and the three holes! Or grab an old notebook. I’m saying “old” because I don’t want you to start out thinking this is precious. It’s NOT!
Don’t start the process of morning pages with that attitude that it’s new, bright, and shiny so I shouldn’t mess it up! No! Start with a mess and it won’t feel so scary. You can upgrade later when you get to that shift part above!
Now, share your progress with us. Post a comment below and let us know how it’s going. You can tell us how you hate this, or how scary it is, or how uncomfortable it is. You don’t have to share anything about the actual contents unless you want to. And it’s perfectly normal to say, “I don’t know what to write” for weeks on end. Then…
Join me LIVE on my Facebook page, Virginia Leigh Studio, at 3:00 pm Central every Wednesday and we’ll chat about this. I’ll share my tips and tricks on how to make it easier and I’d love to hear from you.
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Find more purpose and meaning in your day!