This past week was a difficult week for a variety of reasons that don’t matter here because just like this week’s quote, the week passed and this weekend was delightful. A friend from college came into town this weekend. We’ve been in touch again for a few years now, but we don’t get to see each other much. On Wednesday, I realized that this is my final full weekend in Oklahoma City (more on that later) and on Wednesday, I texted and said, “we keep talking about you coming into town so we can get some writing done. This is my last full weekend here. Can you come?” And she texted back, “I’ll be there.” And she was. (Spoiler alert – we got no writing done.) But we had great conversations and some of them were about writing. And we had nearly let this opportunity pass us by because we were busy and the calendar, as it does, kept speeding along.
We’ve known each other since we became RAs in my junior year. I was the RA for a community known as Muldrow 6&7 and she was on Muldrow 4&5. (Adams Center, the location of Muldrow Tower and three others was torn down this fall.) The person who started her career in residential life knows not only was this the right thing to do, but long overdue. The student who lived there mourns a bit of her history disappearing. The real point is that we’ve known each other a long time. Even though there have been large gaps in our keeping in touch, we fall right into great conversations. Which is why we didn’t get much writing done Saturday or Sunday.
But this morning, we started talking about Morning Pages. I know I’ve written about them here before, but it’s been a while and in our conversation I shared with her why I find them so useful and important. For those of you who don’t know or remember what Morning Pages are, here’s a short primer. Morning Pages are one of three tools, author and teacher Julia Cameron recmmends as part of her class and book, “The Artist’s Way,” The other two tools are regular walks and the Artist’s Date. Morning Pages are three pages of free writing done every morning, preferably by hand, preferably immediately upon getting out of bed. They are not journaling which is a way of reflecting upon the day that has happened and is a useful practice in itself. Morning Pages are more of a way to listen to what’s happening inside, often the stuff you haven’t been paying attention to.
I first did Morning Pages in 2003. I just realized it was November 2003 after an October Yoga retreat introduced me to Cameron’s book. I can see myself at the desk in our bedroom, in the dark with only a desk light on, dutifully trying this new thing. I don’t know how long I continued but I have stopped and started a couple times over the years. I restarted when I began the application process for the vice president’s position at UT Austin, and while I’ve missed a day or two here and there, I’ve been doing them continuously now for more than ten years. I don’t do them perfectly. I get up and get ready for the day and then do my pages. So I miss part of the purpose which is capturing those first impressions of the subconscious right as you awake, but I benefit in many ways and I do subscribe to Cameron’s ideas that some Morning Pages are better than none.
In many ways, regular Morning Pages are like an ongoing conversation with a friend who knows you well. Sometimes they know you better than you know yourselves. Both Morning Pages and conversations with friends can help you see things from new perspectives. New ideas for projects show up or new angles on on-going projects. New understandings, ways to identify what is important and why. In other words, both, in very different ways, help us find our way forward.
Oh and one last thing. Morning Pages work best when written by hand. It tracks with the lesson I learned from Margaret Wheatley that “writing it down captures the idea”. There’s beginning to be science about writing versus using a keyboard. If you want to get the most benefit, don’t open a coumputer or iPad and grab and old pencil and a scarp of paper. Sometimes analog is best.
Thinking while writing by hand and find time for good conversations about things important and silly, both make a difference in our lives. Are you missing one or another in your life. If you are, I highly encourage a meal with a friend, or a phone call, a few weeks trying Morning Pages, or maybe starting the next thing you need to think about with a pen and paper. Trying something new, returning to something old are both good ways to add to your life. I hope you’ll give one or more a try. All are ways to pay attention to life as it passes by day by day.
Best of luck!
PS: No newsletter next week since it’s the Thanksgiving holiday. I hope you have a great holiday and can take a bit of a break. I know I’m thankful for each of you!
This week’s quote:
“Old friends pass away, new friends appear. It is just like the days. Ad old day passes, a new day arrives. The important thing is to make it meaningful: a meaningful friend – or a meaningful day.”