Morning Pages

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.)

A Good Night's Sleep

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.

My Office.

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?

Justice's Scales

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.

Reading Deprivation

I can’t believe I’m saying this, but this week I am trying to take Elle MacPherson’s advice on reading: “I don’t think you should read what you haven’t written.”

Elle Macpherson at Myer 17 Sept 2011

Julia Cameron often includes an exercise in the body of the chapter, in addition to the Tasks enumerated at the end. Usually they’re mildly interesting and you glide over them without too much time or effort required. Remembering your favourite things as a child, for example. That sort of thing.
This month: go a week without reading.

Er – what?


Admittedly, I am presently nearing 19 hours into the reading deprivation, which may account for the edge of hysteria in my tone, but really!

Those close to me may wish to verify this, but I don’t believe I’ve gone that long without reading since I was three. And couldn’t read.


In the years since, I have gone to quite some lengths to avoid running out of reading material.
I would read the encyclopedia, or failing that, the dictionary. (The telephone directory was one A4 sheet, so not worth the trouble.)
At the age of six and a half, I ran through all my books on a family holiday and embarked upon my mother’s Agatha Christie.

This is a little more complicated than just not reading, though.
There are nuances.

The idea is to minimise input – especially in the form of words – so as to hear what is actually going on in our inner silence. Or something like that. I was too busy panicking to take in the delicate details.

Cameron makes an exception for her own book (gotta do those exercises!), and I intend to make an exception for reading Scripture – a girl’s gotta eat, after all.

However, since the aim is to drain out the words rushing in, that means no being read to (one of my favourite pastimes), no movies, no television, no radio. Silence.
I make another exception for conversation, since a) I am not a Trappist, and b) I have to talk at the Dreaded Day Job and if I don’t get to talk at home as well I Will Go Mad. Ditto for emails.

Madeleine L’Engle says “It’s a good thing to have all the props pulled out from under us occasionally. It gives us some sense of what is rock under our feet, and what is sand.”

The Ruined Castle

I think I am coming to realise just how much of a prop reading is to me.

When I’m stressed, I read. When I’m curious, I read. When I want to relax, I read. When I find a fascinating little morsel on the library catalogue, I READ IT!
Take away reading and being read to, and you have most of my week’s leisure time accounted for. Take away television as well, and you have the half hour that was left.

So what am I going to do this week?

Lots of sewing, knitting and mending – although I will miss being able to do this while listening to the Caped Gooseberry read. Say what you like, re-elasticising old jammie trousers is not sufficiently mentally taxing to hold the mind in thrall.

(Plus the CG has a really nice reading voice. He starts reading aloud, and catweasel #2 will appear out of nowhere to curl up on his lap and gaze at him adoringly. I find this annoying, possibly on the grounds that we despise most in others the weaknesses we see in ourselves.)

120301 Day 255 adoring

Sleeping – not much point staying up late to finish the book you aren’t reading. Ditto TV, although I don’t bother staying up late for that anyway.

And hopefully writing. These are the only words that are not only permitted, but encouraged. I shall write blog posts. I shall write journal entries. I shall write morning pages. I shall try to write as much as possible on my Work In Progress.

The clock stops at midnight next Sunday.
There are two possible scenarios at that point:
One, I am so thoroughly purged of the babbling detritus of modern existence that I glide serenely through life, possibly emitting a faint humming noise, and not even noticing that the reading ban is over, so enlightened am I.

holy glow

Two, I stay up late in order to feast my starved eyes on the fat deliciousness that is The Book. (Touch the book. Smell the book. Kiss the book. Read the book Read The Book READ THE BOOK!)
Brand me a pessimist if you must, but I believe the second scenario to be somewhat more likely.

Did I mention that due to the national commemoration of the war dead (i.e. ANZAC Day) I will have a whole extra day at home this week?

Did I mention how many books I have at home? (Hundreds. Over a thousand, I think. I haven’t had time to count them in the last few years. Possibly something else that can be done while Not Reading, if you’ve always wondered what it would be like to be Tantalus.)

Tantalus Gioacchino Assereto circa1640s

Did I mention that I bought an 878-page book online last week, and it arrived today?

My timing is impeccable.
All inquiries care of the Nut House.

February: a Sense of Identity

Do you have a person in your life whose ego is poisoning your creative well?
I don’t.

I am happy to say that all Julia Cameron’s descriptions of ‘crazymakers’ do not fit with any of the friends and family I have in my life. Admittedly, my roll of friends is not a long one, but quality beats quantity every time (except possibly in NaNoWriMo.)

Of course, it is well known that you can’t choose your family, so my thanks go out to any relatives who may be reading this for not being egomaniacs who insist that my world revolves around them. (I’d send you flowers, but all I seem able to grow are dandelions and buttercups.)


However. On with the chapter.
I have already made some mention of the ‘recovery of identity’ theme in my previous post, so, straight on to the Tasks!

Task 2 reveals there are 168 hours in a week, of which I spend 40 at the Dreaded Day Job, five getting to and from the DDJ, and five more of a morning getting ready for the DDJ.

63 hours are spent asleep (if I’m lucky) and 13 either preparing food or eating it. (That seems like a lot. Divide by 21 meals per week and it doesn’t seem quite so gluttonous. I think.)

That leaves about 41 hours for housework, reading, writing, resting, handwork and relationships with God, the universe and everyone.
The proportions thereof would, I think, repay more study than I have so far given them (navel-gazing not being on the above list).

My extended list of imaginary lives (Task 6) now includes a peasant, a princess and a mute. Kind readers will refrain from suggesting how I might incorporate the latter into my everyday life.

'A toutes les femmes qui silencieusement ont construit l'Histoire'

My life pie (Task 7) seems to have been involved in a side-on collision – exercise and romance are doing well, with spirituality holding its own, but friends and play are looking a little saggy and work is – well, the less said about work the better.
Moving on.

Ten tiny changes was a very enjoyable exercise. Although I haven’t done or started all of them, they are mostly quite achievable (#10, eat Weetbix, #5, light a candle).

#2, Have a Teapot, is accomplished, and very enjoyably. It turns out the secret to successful teapot-hunting (besides going when the charity shops are open) is to stop looking for the perfect teapot, and find the good teapot.

Blue Leaf Teapot
This is not my teapot.

The perfect teapot is probably better than the good teapot, yes, but you can’t drink tea out of it until you find it, which could be never. Imagine the prospect of drinking tea disappearing over the event horizon. Shudder. Buy the good teapot.

There’s probably a life lesson in there somewhere.

For my artist’s date, I was going to follow the tradition (i.e. the thing I have done once before) of spending $2, but there was a sale, so this week’s Artist’s Date is brought to you by the number 1.



Do we detect a trend of childlikeness here? Well, what of that? As the Artist’s Way says, don’t drag your inner child to a museum unless they’re that kind of child. Or it’s that kind of museum. (I paraphrase.)

Next month (this month) I delve into Recovering A Sense of Power. Muaahahhahaaah.