I was doing a video shoot for ClassPass a few months back and was chatting with Lindsay Tigar, ClassPass’s Editorial Director. She’s a writer, has been published on tons of websites, magazines, and blogs, and majored in journalism so I asked her if she had any books she’d recommend to me as I try my hand at writing. She mentioned to me The Artist’s Way by Julia Cameron. Now the subtitle threw me for a loop here, “The Spiritual Path to Creativity” since I was in search of writing help. But as I approach this latest interest, I wanted to clear my mind of any preconceived thoughts that could cause me to talk myself out of something new. I bought the book, and it has changed my days.
I used to write pretty haphazardly, whenever a topic came up in my head. I’d try to write it down, at least a few scribbles, revisiting and filling in the gaps whenever I had the urge. After reading The Artist’s Way, I now write every single day. The book is full of exercises to complete at the end of each chapter, but Julia’s overarching exercises that must be completed throughout the 12-week “creative recovery” period are the morning pages and the artist date. The morning pages, three pages (750-1,000 words) of free flow, mind-purging writing done shortly after waking up, have changed not only the way I write, but have helped me with a number of other things.
Habits are naturally instilled over time and will drive how your entire day proceeds. Sometimes they’re unproductive habits, like scrolling through Instagram or reading gossip websites. And sometimes they’re super beneficial habits, like exercise, healthy eating, flossing, or planning out your day. The morning pages have forced writing as one of my habits. In fact, it’s the third habit of my day, after waking up at 5am and making a cup of French press coffee.
I have written morning pages now for over 100 days (full disclosure: I missed five days!) and I can feel a difference in the way I can now project my thoughts. It’s easier to share what is running through my head, whether I’m writing or speaking.
Sometimes you need to talk to people about aspects of your life. It helps to get those feelings and thoughts out as you think through upcoming events or decisions. Sometimes you don’t need advice from friends or family, you just need a listener. Good listening allows you to talk through your decisions yourself and often gives you a sense of relief. The morning pages have acted as my listener, allowing me to purge my thoughts and feelings to achieve a sense of calm and talk myself through my own solutions.
Now Julia would be mad at me because I’m not handwriting my morning pages, which she swears by. But, I took it upon myself to type for several reasons: I hate handwriting because it hurts after a while. My handwriting is small and can get really sloppy. And I can’t use it unless I want to retype it. So why not type it anyway? I’ve researched and found scientific evidence confirming the benefits of handwriting, but I think typing is way better than not doing it at all.
Taking the Small Steps.
Writing just a little bit each day has made me realize that the daily writing by itself may not be much, but if I continue writing every day, after three or six months, I’ve written over 100,000 words. Now not all of that will be useable content for a book or blog, but some will absolutely be repurposed. I routinely jot down blog ideas as topics for my morning pages. And I now understand how established blogs have built up such an impressive collection of content. They were able to see that doing just a little each day, every day, can result in massive output in just a short amount of time. It’s confirmed in me the power of starting now.