In my last essay, I wrote about the importance of Taking Risks and Being Vulnerable in Our Art.
Today, I’m going to share with you a beautiful, life-long tool for artists and creatives of all kinds that will help you to be ready to take risks and be vulnerable (or real) in your art. And I’m going to share with you why this tool is so effective.
To be able to make art that arises out of your own rich experience so that others are moved and changed by it poses several challenges. First off, you have to actually get in touch with what you feel, sense and think at a very real level, not on the surface, the parts you might willingly share at a dinner party, but the deep stuff, the murk and muck of being alive. Even the so-called positive emotions, such as joy, can be scary when deeply felt. But to be able to share yourself in your art, you have to spend time with yourself and your feelings and thoughts regularly, to come to know who you are and how you tick.
In my classes and mentoring, I am regularly amazed at how frequently and thoroughly some people avoid being in touch with their feelings and deeper thoughts, even the sensations of their bodies, and then wonder why they have no inspiration to draw from.
To come to know yourself and be in deeper relationship with yourself there is no better tool that I know than the Morning Pages, which are a form of journaling. I know, I know. When I suggest keeping a journal, there is resistance. “I don’t know what to write,” or “I don’t have time for that,” “I always write the same thing day after day,” or “It stirs up too many unpleasant feelings.” But the benefits of this tool are many and rich. I will share them with you here.
But first. What are the Morning Pages?
The Morning Pages, as taught by Julia Cameron in The Artist’s Way are three full-size (8.5 x 11″) pages of long-hand writing every morning, anything goes, no holds barred, no rules, a record of your thoughts, feelings, experiences, imaginings, whatever wants to flow out onto the page.
They are not meant to be shared with anyone, and they are not meant to be art or “good writing.” They are a place for you to encounter yourself on the page, and they are one of the best tools I know for coming into a deeper self-knowing for any kind of creative person.
The Morning Pages are the place where we meet ourselves unedited on the page and thereby uncover, over time, an incredible treasure trove of emotions, memories, inspirations, fascinations, dreams, that are the raw material of our art.
The Morning Pages also make space to clear out all the gunk that would normally get in the way of our being able to create good art. We need unedited space to process our experiences, thoughts and emotions before turning them into art. We also need space to hear ourselves and get out our concerns, obsessions, dreams, heartache, excitement on the page, so that we can then hear what is wanting to become our next piece of art. If we do not first give these vital feelings and concerns our attention, they tend to clamor for attention and cloud our ability to listen to the deeper promptings of our art. For instance, if I’m writing a novel about the middle ages and I’m having a big fight with my neighbor. I need to get the fight out on the page first, in my journal, so I can get on with the business of my novel.
When using the Morning Pages, it is vital not to judge anything that you write, not to censor yourself, and it is best NOT to re-read the pages, at least for a couple months after writing them (except if you need to go back and retrieve a really good idea or a passage you want to use in a poem or piece of art). This space needs to be an open space where anything and everything is allowed to flow onto the page and not be judged. If you need to complain about your roommate, or pine for your lost love, for 40 pages or 100 pages, you get to do that.
The benefits of this open space are many. Beyond the essential tool of having a way to know and feel yourself deeply, so that you have this rich resource of YOU from which to make art that is compelling, alive and real, you also have a place to sort through your troubling challenges, to surprise yourself with solutions and insights, to dream your big dreams and not be shamed out of them, to work out your feelings and not carry them around all day, inappropriately smothering others with them. I believe the Morning Pages make us both better people and better artists. Try them and see for yourself.
Hey. If you loved this essay, if you got benefit from it, if it stirred something in you, I’d love to know. Would you take a moment to leave a comment here? I’d love it if you would. You might also share this on Facebook or with a friend. Thanks for spreading the love.