The Mindful Practice of Morning Pages.

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Image found here.

There are many reasons to write Morning Pages.

Lately, I find that they are a great tool for practicing mindfulness. My focus is not as laser sharp as I want it to be these days, to say the least. Pretty sure I’ve rewired my brain to look for the next shiny thing on Twitter or Facebook which is not the best result for a writer.

In meditation, my mind wanders over and over again. The practice is noticing when that happens and coming back to my breath or body or mantra or sounds. Writing morning pages I feel the impulse to lift my pen over and over again before I get to the end of my three, handwritten pages. When I lift my pen, my mind drifts. When my mind drifts it is oh so easy and tempting to reach for my phone or click on a tab on my laptop.

When I feel that impulse I just keep the pen moving In fact, I actually write, “just keep writing.” I feel the ink flowing across the surface. I hear the sound of the pen scratching against the paper. I see the trail of pink left behind. At this point, the words don’t even matter.

What matters is staying present.

What matters is not letting my hand lift, not letting my mind wander. Not checking my phone.

What matters is rewiring my brain to stay on the page, to stay in the moment.

As with meditation, keeping my hand moving, connecting to all the senses as I write leads me gently into that “serene encounter with reality.”

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The Solace (and Necessity) of Walking.

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I’ve started walking about three to four miles several times a week.

I take my dog, a podcast and head out either through our neighborhood or to the parks nearby. Walking has become my antidote to the constant barrage of awful news. I get outside, into the real world, away from the on-line world that feels like an echo chamber of doom. I step into the sunshine, into the fresh air, see the beautiful sky, the trees and  feel a certain solace.

It reminds me that there is more going on than just what I see in the news or on-line.

So many writers are proponents of walking. Julia Cameron suggests walks as one of the tools for creative recovery.

Brenda Ueland says, “I will tell you what I have learned myself. For me, a long five or six mile walk helps. And one must go alone and every day.”

In his essay “Walking” Henry David Thoreau wrote, “I think that I cannot preserve my health and spirits unless I spend four hours a day at least — and it is commonly more than that — sauntering through the woods and over hills and fields, absolutely free from all worldly engagements.”

Listening to my podcast doesn’t leave me free from all worldly engagements but it does leave me not quite as tethered to them.

It’s not surprising that writers are especially drawn to walks. I think it provides a necessary complement to all the sitting, to the stagnation we can begin to feel in our bodies and our minds.

Walking is helpful to literal digestion but think it also helps me digest emotions, news, idea. I digest what I am reading, what I am writing.

Not only that, but walking seems to stimulate our creative juices. According to a study from Stanford University found that walking led to more creative thinking than sitting did.

If I haven’t convinced you to start a daily walking routine, maybe Austin Kleon can. I love what he says here:

“Almost every single morning, rain or shine, my wife and I load our two sons into a red double stroller (we call it The War Rig) and we take a 3-mile walk around our neighborhood. It’s often painful, sometimes sublime, but it’s always essential to our day. It’s when ideas are born, when we make plans, when we spot suburban wildlife, when we rant about politics, when we exorcise our demons.”

Exorcising my demons is exactly what it feels like. And that is both a solace and a necessity.

The Company of other Writers.

Write Smart, Write Happy

Today, I find myself sitting at the bookstore cafe with a grande soy chai, notebook and laptop open. Not an unusual scenario.

What is unusual, these days, is for me to be drawn to a book on writing. A book that promises to help me “become a more productive, resilient, and successful writer.”

Now, I used to devour these books daily when I first knew I wanted to write. It was how I taught myself to write. I read books on writing fiction, writing essays, writing from prompts, writing practice, the writing life, writing goals. You name it, I bought it and read it. What I didn’t do was write very much.

Oh, I’d write Morning Pages and I filled notebooks with writing practice gleaned from Natalie Goldberg’s “Writing Down the Bones.” I loved how she made writing so much more accessible by declaring that just as an athlete practiced drills or a pianist practiced scales, a writer also needed to practice. It bought writing back from that lofty pedestal I had placed it on. It took the fear out of it by calling it practice.

I hunkered down into my writing practice for years, filling notebook upon notebook. The problem was, I got stuck in practicing. Don’t get me wrong. It served me well. I learned to put pen to page and write under pretty much any circumstance. I learned how to make space and time for writing in the life I was currently living ( a stay-at-home mom with young children) instead of waiting for the perfect time. I learned to write past my censor.

But I didn’t use what I had learned to actually get in the game of writing. When I finally began writing stories, taking classes and workshops, that’s where the bulk of my learning took place. Writing and finishing stories taught me how to write.

I’ve written dozens of short stories, some published, some not. I have a completed novel-in-stories (looking for an agent). I am well into my second novel, about 6o,000 words into the first book of a YA fantasy trilogy and am beginning to gather notes for a memoir on writing and yoga.

So, with all that writing under my belt, why  do I find myself drawn to this particular book today?

Because it’s a process.

Because I am always a student.

Because I am not afraid to be a beginner.

Because of course I want to be a more productive, resilient and successful writer.

Because now I know that I can read a book like this but, more importantly, I know I have to follow through with action: writing, querying, submitting, reading, setting goals and meeting those goals.

I know there are no quick fixes or shortcuts to being a writer.

I know that merely reading about becoming a successful writer is not enough but I am humble enough to be open to advice from others along the path.

I know that I am willing to put in the hard work necessary. And these kinds of books feel like my own personal cheerleading squad, telling me I can do it. Telling me that I am not alone.

Telling me that it’s okay, that we can walk this path together.

I am grateful for their company.

The Artist’s Way ~ Week 12

Week 12 ~ Recovering a Sense of Faith

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As we come to the end of this 12-week journey, it feels like just the beginning. While I have dipped in an out of this process many times over the years, this is the first time I feel like I fully committed to it and fully reaped the benefits.

Just a few of the changes I’ve noticed:

~ I am more compassionate with myself. Expecting less perfection and more just showing up in whatever way I am able at the moment.

~ I am having more fun. Laughing more, playing instead of producing.

~ I am taking more risks. Sending our stories that feel dangerous to me, diving into the darkness on the page, sitting there instead of running away from what I find.

~ I feel more in flow with life. Even when I feel off or stuck, I am confident it is just part of the process and don’t immediately jump to the conclusion that I need to force myself to do something rather than just be or that I am lazy.

~ I am more aware of the synchronicity in my life, all the ways, big and small, that the Universe supports me.

~ I feel like I am living my life like an Artist’s Date rather than just relegating it to one hour a week. Bringing more fun, spontaneity, beauty and play into my life.

~ I am able to ask for help.

~ I feel lighter.

~ I feel more vibrant.

~ I feel more connected.

So, yes, this 12 weeks is over but this whole process of living my life from a place of faith is just beginning. I commit to continuing to do Morning Pages because they connect me to myself and what I want, need, think on any given day, at any given moment. They clear my mind and my energy.

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I commit to continuing the Artist’s Dates. I recently bought this book described as “the merit badge handbook for every grown-up girl who’s said, “I wish I could…” Jam-packed with practical advice, here is step-by-step instruction and kick-in-the-pants encouragement for achieving 60 exciting badge activities.”

I commit to staying active within the Facebook group I created that supported us through this journey.

I commit to revisit and complete the tasks I avoided or didn’t take/make time to do.

I commit to continue living a creative life and shining my light out into the world.

 

The Artist’s Way ~ Week 10

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Week10 ~ Recovering a Sense of Self-Protection

  1. I did my Morning Pages daily. Still have not taken the time to read (decipher) them. Resistance? Probably. I’m surprised at how much I still resist the process of writing them. Doubts and boredom and irritation crop up regularly and I have been writing them on and off for over 20 years. So the lesson? Show up anyway. Show up to the doubt. Show up to the boredom. Show up to the irritation. The energy almost always shifts after the mere act of writing them.616p9BDEPbL._SX258_BO1,204,203,200_
  2. My Artist’s Date was going to be painting. I found this book hidden under my bed,”Life, Paint and Passion- Reclaiming the Magic of Spontaneous Expression” by Michelle Cassou and Stewart Cubley. I’ve had it for years but never actually painted as part of my exploring and reading of it. So, this week I went to the store and stocked up on supplies; paints, brushes, paper, tape. I covered a door in our basement, taped up a piece of vellum and there it hung, all week, still white and pristine. Instead, I ended up getting a massage for my Artist’s Date. Not as creative as I wanted to be, but thoroughly nourishing since I hadn’t had one since before the holidays.
  3. Synchronicity: I found a podcast on my phone that had an interview with the writer of the book I chose for the Book Club I facilitate at the yoga studio where I teach. And it turns out, he is from our area, which I had no idea when I chose the book, “Big Love” by Scott Stabile.
  4. This week pretty much slipped past me. I didn’t even finish reading the entire chapter. I did some of the tasks. But my efforts all felt very half-hearted. I was so tired and then it was pointed out to me that we all have cycles of energy and that I was subbing a lot of classes which I honestly hadn’t even considered. I put a lot of myself into teaching yoga and one thing I have uncovered through this process is that I want to put just as much energy into my writing. Right now, it feels about 80/20. It needs to be at least 50/50.

The Artist’s Way • Week 5

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Check-in

  1. I did my Morning Pages every day, not always in the morning but every day. Often I’d hit this wall of “what is the point of this?” It feels like a waste of time, a waste of paper, a waste of trees as I struggled to fill three pages. Today, as I was whining about that very thing again, it hit me that this is a process not a product. It matters less what I write but that I write. That I show up. That I honor the commitment I’ve made to myself, that I just fill the pages without expectations of having a breakthrough or insight or even as Julia Cameron calls it a “truth point.”
  2. Even though I took my BFF as my date I’m going to go ahead and count this as my Artist’ s Date and here’s why. I was tempted to turn down this Artist’s Date that was literally gifted to me for free. A student had tickets to Yamato-The Drummers of Japan and offered them to me when she was too sick to use them. My initial response was no. No, I don’t even know who they are. No, I don’t want to go out after having to teach two classes early in the morning. No, I don’t want to drive up there and back late at night. Then I remembered this process of honoring my artist, of playing, of saying yes whenever possible. So, I googled who they were and they looked amazing and I said yes. And it was amazing. The show was engaging on so many levels: visually stunning, I not only heard the music but literally felt it thrumming through my body. It’s made me wonder why my initial reaction to something new is usually no. I am trying to catch myself and saying yes more and more.
  3. Synchronicity: Looking back the one thing I noticed is how I got the tickets. When she realized she couldn’t use them the went on Facebook to find somebody to give them to and I was the first person she saw. I haven’t actually been keeping an eye out for synchronicity so that is something I need to start consciously holding as an intention.
  4. Other issues: This week it felt like I kept this whole process on the back burner. Even though I did my Morning Pages daily, and went on my AD, I feel like I dropped the thread of the theme, of the process this week. I did a couple of the in-chapter exercises early in the week then nothing. Today I did all of the tasks. So it felt like I bookended my week with this work rather than letting it flow through me and around me throughout the week. The good news is I don’t feel bad about it or about me. It’s just something I noticed and thought, “Huh, this isn’t working for me. Let’s change it.”