Five or six years ago, on my way home from a meeting with my writing group, I decided that I’d dabbled blindly long enough. If I was going to make any progress with this novel-writing thing, I had to change what I did or how I did it…. But I didn’t know exactly what to change about the writing or how.
So right then I detoured to the bookstore and bought The Artist’s Way by Julia Cameron.
For the next three months, I faithfully worked through the exercises and then I adopted one of Cameron’s two main recommendations.
I tried the other, the weekly solo artist’s date, but although I can see the value in doing something fun and refreshing, I spend so much time on my own (as what writer doesn’t?) that it isn’t really a treat for me to do yet another thing alone.
The one that I have stuck with is the morning pages. Three sheets, handwritten, first thing every day. They can be about anything or nothing, coherent or not. The point is simply to put a pen on paper and write whatever comes out. This has always felt to me like hosing out the crevices of my mind, clearing away the gunk of petty worries and ugly thoughts and fears logical and otherwise – all the stuff that greases the wheel for the poor hamster trapped in there.
Writing morning pages is like rinsing all that muck down some subconscious drain or, as I realized when I was up to my wrists in cold water and slime this weekend, it’s like clearing the eavestroughs after a year and yet another storm have filled them with cast-offs from the surrounding trees: slimy old leaves from my neighbour’s oaks, and branches, cones and needles from the big firs in my own backyard.
It’s satisfying to unblock the conduits and feel ideas, like stagnant rainwater, flow. Some of them go down the drain, sure, but some of them make it to fertile ground and help seeds grow into trees, which eventually will shed their leaves into my gutters….
Clearly, I need to work on my metaphors. But hey, that’s just one more thing I’ve learned since I started taking my writing seriously.