A couple of friends and I were talking at lunch the other day, how making something non-negotiable—whether it be getting to the gym, changing the dog’s water, or sitting down to write—takes all of the mental chatter out of the equation. A thing needs to be done and you do it. Simple. No need to burn energy mulling over the pros and cons or deciding if you have enough energy. You just do the thing. Every. Single. Day.
In just eleven days, Morning Pages have become my non-negotiable. I wake up at 5:55 am. Get up. And write.
The other day I had to leave the house by 6:30 am for an out-of-town doctor’s appointment. The old me would’ve said, “Morning Pages can wait. I’ll just write Evening Pages instead.” Or I would’ve skipped them altogether. But, nope, I got up at 5 am and wrote out those three pages—admittedly bleary eyed, but I wrote them.
Just like I make my lunch and iron my clothes the night before, I pick out a pen and set it on top of my journal right before bed so that I can get up and immediately put nib to paper. I know me. If I didn’t do this, I’d be futzing around with all of the options, burning precious morning time. With that decision made, I find myself looking forward to using that day’s pen and ink combo which makes it just a little easier to sit down at my desk while the rest of the house is asleep.
I worried about having something to write about, but that hasn’t been an issue. I tend to dream movie-length, technicolor dreams, with involved plots and a large cast of characters. In the past, these dreams would be hard to shake, causing me to walk around exhausted all day, suffering from a kind of dream hangover. But last week, after a dream that had me stranded in a foreign city with someone else’s cellphone (no stress there!), I sat down and wrote out the entire dream. Doing so, caused it to retreat in my head, so that, yeah, I remembered it, but I wasn’t living it all day long.
In addition to dreams, I write about petty chores, big and small worries, the high highs* and the shitty stuff a day can throw at you; the feelings that are rooted deep inside my heart and all the teeny tiny stuff floating on the surface. This is what has surprised me the most. That I’m never at a loss for words. And how good it feels to put those words—those inconsequential thoughts and heartfelt emotions—into a journal, all in a jumble as they flow from my pen. Line after line. Day after day.
Another bonus—my pens are getting used in a big way, and I am plowing through ink. The pens you see above are the four that I’ve been rotating through lately—a Kaweco Liliput Fireblue [Kaweco blue cartridge], a Franklin-Christoph Model 45 XLV in Coco Pearl [Kaweco sepia cartridge], a Jonathon Brooks Charleston in Combustion acrylic [SBRE Brown ink], and a TWSBI ECO [J. Herbin Emerald of Chivor]. As I empty these, I’ll ink others, slowly making my way through my collection. I’ll identify true favorites, and maybe set aside some that need new homes. I’m writing. I’m really writing. Man, this feels good.
This Nanami Paper Seven Seas “Writer” A5 journal is a dream. Its Tomoe River paper is well-suited for any nib and ink combination I might use. There’s no feathering, no bleed-through, and very little show-through. There are plenty of pages—enough to keep me going for 160 days at 3 pages per day. Admittedly, I have a long way to go (149 more days!) before I need another “Writer,” but that didn’t stop me from ordering a backup today. You know, so it’s waiting in the wings.
I’m hooked. Eleven days in and I’m hooked. What’s ridiculous is that it took me 57 years to give Morning Pages a try.
Now there’s no going back.
*I had an appointment with my neurologist last Friday to go over the first set of MRIs I’ve had done since my MS diagnosis last year. While there are two small lesions present (one brain and one thoracic), and I still have strange electrical sensations in my feet, there aren’t any new lesions. And one that was “iffy” last year is now GONE. He feels that we caught this very early and kept saying that I will do “really well,” as long as I keep doing what I’m doing—eating well, exercising, stretching, and taking my medication. Talk about a high high.
Thank you to the folks who contacted me after I wrote this post, to join my fledgling Morning Pages group. Knowing that you’re writing right along with me gives me the shove I need when I have the urge to linger in bed a little too long.
A friend and I meet at the gym twice a week. Week in and week out. I’m there for her. She’s there for me. Sometimes our schedules don’t quite mesh, but we do the best we can to keep each other on track. It’s been a game-changer for this “always picked last in gym” person, who used to avoid the fitness center like the proverbial plague.
Our current workout program ends with either extended lunges or prolonged squats. Twenty seconds doesn’t sound like much, but when your thigh muscles are screaming, it feels like an eternity. Twenty seconds times four rounds. We push each other through this part. Honestly, she’s better at that than I am. She’ll remind me to breathe, while I’m thinking “How can you talk??!!” Point is, left to my own devices, the odds are significantly higher that I’d make an excuse to give up.
It’s all about accountability. I show up because she does. She shows up because I do.
Over the weekend, I dug out some books from the “to be read” pile, and settled down on the patio during a steamy Sunday afternoon with Julia Cameron’s Finding Water- The Art of Perseverance. In it, she lays out what she calls her “basic tools”—Morning Pages, Artist Dates, and Walking. I skimmed one of her other books, The Artist’s Way, years ago, where the same tools were described. The idea of Morning Pages has intrigued me ever since, but do I ever get up and write? Nope. Never.
I have this terrific Seven Seas “Writer” journal with 480 pages of exquisite Tomoe River paper, well-loved and inked fountain pens at the ready, and yet, when I wake up, I screw around on my phone. Then it’s time to shower, cook breakfast, make my tea, and zip off to work. Lather. Rinse. Repeat.
So I’m putting this out there. I need an accountability partner (or partners) for my morning pages, just as much as I need one at the gym. Anybody game?