You gain strength, courage and confidence by every experience in which you really stop to look fear in the face. You are able to say to yourself, “I have lived through this horror. I can take the next thing that comes along.”
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One of the exercises in my Artist’s Way catch-up was to read back through my morning pages. Of course, the book is set up as a 12 week course, so they’re expecting you to have about eight or nine weeks’ worth at this point.
I first started doing morning pages a year ago, but fairly patchily. Despite the patchiness, it took me a few sessions to read through them all.
I kept having trouble finding my page as it turns out I repeated myself. A lot. Probably the most commonly recurring themes were complaining tiredness, grumping about the DDJ and wondering if it was all worthwhile.
Tiredness was more or less a given – as I mentioned at the start of the year, getting up early is a sacrifice. I like my sleep, and I’m not one of these people who can get by on just a few hours a night. Or eight hours, if it comes to that. Nine is a nice round number. (Well, it isn’t, but it’s square, which is just as good.)
The dear old Dreaded Day Job was the leading cause of prayers in the morning pages – mostly along the lines of the classic prayer Dear God Get Me Out Of Here – and most of the grumbles as well.
I recorded us first seriously considering the possibility of me going down to four days in – wait for it – November 2012. It took nine months for that dream to come true, nine months of intermittent anguish and desperation.
Nine months! I could have made an entire person in that amount of time. Perhaps from another point of view I did – I made (or allowed myself to be made) a person who could cope with dreams deferred. Not happily, to be sure, but cope.
Or possibly this is a retrospective opinion. Ask me to give up my Mondays and See What Happens To You.
The gnarliest question of all, however, is Is It Worthwhile? How do the sacrifices and gains weigh up?
Nine months on, I find the sacrifice of sleep has been worth the development in my writing life that has eventuated – and training myself to be able to keep making that sacrifice with no short-term gain was invaluable.
That said, I don’t intend to keep writing morning pages, except when I have a lot of stuff sloshing about in my head and need to get it down on the paper where I can see it clearly. But I do intend to keep giving up that half hour of sleep.
Because the fire doesn’t fall if there’s nothing on the altar.