Back in September I embarked on a course called the Artists Way.
For those who haven’t come across this before, it’s a 12 week course in recovering your creative spirit.
I first completed this course when I was around 21. Now, 20 odd years later, I decided to do it again as a way of delving deep into my art and what it’s all about. However, this time I didn’t take a solo trip. Two friends came along for the ride; one artist, one musician. Every Monday morning we met in a botanical garden, in front of a fire and discussed the chapter and the homework that accompanied it.
But it turns out that I’m a bad school girl.
Most weeks I skim-read the chapter the morning of the meeting and rarely did the accompanying exercises. Alongside reading the chapter and answering the questions, two other commitments required were:
1. A weekly Artists’ Date - which involved taking yourself off for a joyous creative rendezvous.
2. Morning Pages - three longhand stream-of-consciousness pages of writing.
I failed to complete any of one Artists’ Dates in the whole 12 weeks.
However, the one thing that I did do, were the Morning Pages.
Somehow, in the packed out, brimmed full experience of my current life, I managed to write three daily pages of complete and utter drivel. This often happened at 5am in the morning, but sometimes happened at 9pm at night. It happened in the car as I waited to pick up Reid from school or when waiting for one of the other kids to turn up and get a lift. Somehow, despite the chaos of daily living, the Morning Pages actually happened.
And weirdly, that’s where the magic happened too. Here’s how:
The idea with the Morning Pages is that by writing down whatever comes into your head, you channel it out and get rid of it. Kind of like “brain drain”. But it turns out, I have a lot of waffle in my brain – and it doesn’t just disappear if I write it down. Yep, the junk just keeps on coming!
But amongst the junk is reflection, expression, hopes, fears, thoughts, dreams and in those pages I found the sort of companionship that I deeply require in my life. A non-demanding place and space to communicate and be heard without question or interruption. This space was always there whenever I needed it. All I needed to do was pick up the pad and pen. In my life, a lot of people and things lean on me. The morning pages let me lean on them and they gave me the space to find answers while asking for nothing in return.
I found my words again. See, although I write books and articles and marketing posts, there’s another creative voice in me that hasn’t had the chance to express for many years. I try to give it the opportunity, but the moment a laptop comes out, the words run a mile. My voice sees a screen and literally flops to the floor like a puppet whose strings have been cut. For a long time I’ve thought that this was a creative block, but through doing the morning pages, the words have crept forward again and it’s become clear that they simply require ink on a page through a human hand. My words and stories enjoy scruffy pads and textured paper. They delight in non-tech environments. Since this discovery, I’ve started writing in cheap pads with ink pens and the words have begun to flow more than they have in years.
I’ve learnt to push through distraction. When I began the Artist’s Way group, I purchased a pad that the author of the book had produced specifically for the Morning Pages. Unlike a small note pad, these pages were A4 and had a zillion lines on and my writing is little, which suddenly made 3 pages a LOT of writing to be done each day.
But the rule was 3 pages.
So that’s what I did.
And even if what I wrote was utter shit, the rule was still 3 pages. I have now developed a daily practice of writing 3 pages of words, however bad they are and have learnt to push all distraction to complete them. It’s become clear to me that the power of focus is possibly one of the most important skills a person can learn. How can a craft develop from play to mastery if we don’t develop the ability to see something through to the end and push through despite boredom, annoyance and lack of motivation?
The Artist’s Way course came to an end a while ago - but despite that, I have continued with the Morning Pages and I will keep going with them for as long as I will. Over 3 months I’ve mastered writing 3 pages of shit a day. Now I’ve bolted on another 3 pages to the first- though these 3 are in a different notebook and are the tale of a gypsy character who appeared through the Morning Page’s shabby paper and blotty ink, 3 weeks after I began.
Do I recommend the Artists Way?
Mmm, no. I feel its outdated and old fashioned. There are better books on creativity available.
Do I recommend the Morning Pages as a practice and getting together with your friends to discuss creativity, imagination and making a container for art and magic?