I am a writer. I’ve spent years trying to pretend this isn’t true.
You see, writing takes so much time. And energy. And it brings up all these inconvenient feelings. Sometimes, writing is like stirring up a bucket of water after all the dirt and grime has sunk to the bottom. That grime is ugly and has sharp edges. I’d rather leave it undisturbed while I, say, zone out in front of a full season of Modern Family online.
For years, I thought I wasn’t a “real” writer because I didn’t always want to write. Real writers, I believed, would always find writing euphoric and gratifying. They wouldn’t have to talk themselves down from the ledge every time they ran headlong into writer’s block. Also, they carried ultra-cool leather messenger bags to store their Moleskine notebooks.
So I wasn’t a writer, then. I wrote sporadically, letting enough time pass between each spurt to forget the joy of finding just the right word, the dizzying new dimensions I encountered in my feelings when I wrote them down. In the meantime, I spent all my spare hours narrating life in my head. Sitting in traffic, I’d mull over the perfect way to describe how my defroster melted through the windshield fog. I’d toss around bizarre metaphors like hacky sacks, exploring them from every angle. But I wasn’t a writer.
A few summers ago, I found Julia Cameron’s The Artist’s Way in the “Recommended Books” bar on Amazon. I’m a sucker for an interactive workbook, so I bought a used copy for $3, out of both skepticism and curiosity. Julia Cameron believes that everyone is abundantly, powerfully creative, but some of us are blocked from accessing this creativity. With intentional practice, though, she says, we can all work through these blocks to access our creative energy. The first practice? Writing three pages. Every morning.
I balked. I was not a writer (have I mentioned this?). I didn’t feel like writing every morning. I didn’t have enough to say to write once a week, let alone every day. Poring over the book, I checked back to the Amazon page and read the gushing reviews of the “morning pages” practice, as she calls it. I told Julia I’d give her a week.
So I wrote, then wrote, then wrote. For seven days, I rolled out of bed, grabbed my notebook with sleepy eyes, and wrote. I wrote against a backdrop of chattering voices that told me I DID NOT WANT TO WRITE. I wrote alongside the loud assertions that I HAD NOTHING TO SAY. Some days, I even wrote: I have nothing to say I have nothing to say until my exasperated spirit said Yes you do! I wrote myself past all the reasons I wasn’t a writer right on through to that place in my mind that composed miniature essays in daydreams. I just wrote.
I wrote morning pages for months. Most of that writing was completely, embarrassingly unpublishable. But that was beside the point. It saved me. The lifeboat that saved me from my fear of writing was writing. Julia herself poses the question: “Why do we write morning pages? To get to the other side.” The other side of the fear-excuses-distraction-depression that keep us from reaching our joy.
Somewhere along the way, I got busy, of course. Frenzied morning rituals no longer allowed for thirty minutes of space for writing. But on those scattered days that I did write, I found that same clarity, that unexpected discovery – oh, there you are! – of joy. So, for these 31 days of filling the well, I am recommitting to the morning pages. I am writing myself past the doubt and fear and into the joy of doing what my soul is meant to do.
I don’t think this practice is restricted to writing. I think we can use it for whatever long-buried practice brings us joy – painting, playing the harp, running, or sewing. We can think of a million reasons why it’s easier not to do it. The only way to get across those reasons is to do it.
Today, daily writing is filling my well. May you fill yours too.
Music and words to fill:
If I started every day by listening to this song, I think I could do anything:
I could pick just about any words this girl writes, but these ones make me sing: