Last month, I read The Artist’s Way by Julia Cameron. I’ve blogged about it many times. It’s one of those books that can change your life, as hyperbolic as that sounds. It changed mine in big and small ways. I know I read it in September because that’s when I started writing morning pages, one of the two things Julia Cameron recommends as an artistic practice, in much the same way that meditation and yoga might be regular parts of a spiritual practice.
The idea is that, first thing in the morning (well, after you start the coffee, of course), you write whatever is on your mind for three pages. WHATEVER is on your mind – no matter how inane, or whiny, or pathetic. (You may be getting some idea of what my morning pages look like.) Once you’ve done that, the theory goes, you’ve cleared your mind. Emptied it of the crap that might otherwise keep you from being creative or productive.
It works. Not perfectly, but it works. And, Julia says, there is another benefit. If you find yourself bitching about the same thing over and over again, your pages will move you to action. You’ll deal with the issue just so you don’t have to hear yourself whine anymore. Unfortunately, that hasn’t happened for me. I find that the themes of my dysfunction remain constant, and the only thing that has happened over the past nine months is that I’ve become painfully aware of them.
It’s frustrating, frankly. So yesterday, in my morning pages, I ranted. I got mad. I wrote a list of things I’m sick of… the things I keep writing about over and over. I didn’t call it a list of things I’m sick of. I was more frustrated than that. At the top of the page, I wrote, “Fuck the following,” and then I made a list, which I’m not going to share because Julia says the morning pages are private and besides… you don’t need to know how angry and angsty I can be.
But the last thing on my list (what I think I was maybe trying to get at all along) is worth sharing. Here’s what I wrote.
(Fuck) the little voice in my head that keeps telling me I’m wrong, I’m less, I’m too open, too closed, too much, too little. The voice that makes me so afraid of misstepping that I don’t step at all; the one that tells me I’m not alright if I’m not what other people want.
I decided to share that one because I don’t think I’m all that weird or special. I think a lot of us struggle with that voice (or one equally damaging). For me, there was something freeing about writing it down. There is a certain focus that comes with anger. Rants have a way sometimes of clearing the emotional decks, making it possible to roll up your sleeves and get to the work of changing whatever is wrong.
Having written that, I know what I’m listening for. I’ll know when I hear it that it’s THE voice… the one I’m not listening to anymore… the one shouting ineffectually as I turn up the music and head north.