There’s No Wrong Way to Do the Morning Pages

Several months back I wrote a blog post about using Julia Cameron’s concept of the Morning Pages (from her book The Artist’s Way) as a form of regular journaling. As I noted then, I began to develop this practice not long after finishing my dissertation as a means of self-care in that confusing landscape post-dissertation life. I’ve since received a number of inquiries about the Morning Pages. Do I still use them? How do they work? How are they helpful?

Although I have offered of basic thoughts to people one-on-one, I don’t feel like I’ve fully explained how I still find them useful. This is partly because they have become so routine that I hardly think about them anymore. The Morning Pages are part of a comforting morning ritual that happens before my child gets up.  I write them (almost) every day, always with a cup of coffee by my side, and usually on my couch with a blanket draped over me (it’s still chilly here in the PNW!).

Sometimes when people ask I feel like I can only explain their value to me as much as I can explain why I always drink that coffee from the same mug.  That’s the other reason I trip over explanations: the Morning Pages are personal. Once you start to do them regularly they can feel like an old friend – and like an old friend, for each person, they’ll provide a different kind of value. Still, there are common features to the Morning Pages that make them broadly useful – as I remembered once I went back to Cameron’s book as I was preparing to write this post. What follows are some of the main reasons they are one of my go-to morning rituals. Continue reading “There’s No Wrong Way to Do the Morning Pages”

Meeting yourself where you are

 

Eighteen years later, I still remember the moment I first told someone I wanted to be a writer. The certainty of that idea developed over a year I will always hold close. It was one of the most challenging years of my life, but it was also the year I learned what it felt like to achieve a dream.

A year earlier, I had been uncertain of what I wanted out of college and unwilling to take out loans without more direction. I left school after my freshman year, and by late October, I was flying east to be a nanny for a family I’d never seen. It was one of the scariest and most thrilling decisions I’d ever made.

Continue reading “Meeting yourself where you are”

A New Goal Emerges: Writing and Resistance in 2017

This morning, I drew a tarot card to give my day some shape, and it was Death.

It was the card I’ve needed to see for a while. This post is about scaling back your goals and killing off that which does not serve, in light of new priorities.

Instead of resolutions for the new year, I spend each December crafting my writing goals for the following year. I write them and pin them above my computer so that I have to stare at them every day, and so that every day I take a step toward them. And this works. I’ve had a really productive and prolific run these past few years- I landed a literary agent with a killer book proposal, I made headway on my first academic manuscript, and I wrote a few novels. This is in addition to the writing and publishing (academic articles, press releases, etc.) that I do for my jobs. I’ve been riding that cloud of smugness for years now, with no real empathy for the people who have to bleed all over the page just to get a few sentences down.

And then disaster struck.

It’s no secret that the new administration hell-bent on running our country into the ground has got me raging. Anyone even on the peripheries of my life has heard it from me, several times. Their misbegotten and selfish decisions already affect me, and most of the people I love, in countless little ways. It’s as if the administration wants to kill us with the death of a thousand cuts: someone’s health insurance here, someone’s livelihood there, someone’s ability to own property, to plan their family, to live the American dream.

And that has real-life consequences.

Suddenly, writing feels less important. Continue reading “A New Goal Emerges: Writing and Resistance in 2017”

Handle with Care

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I am not good at being kind to myself. For more than two decades, I have been a self-starter, a highly motivated individual with often singular focus on a certain goal. I am very good at getting things done, and have been ever since high school. Time management comes easy; I have a strong, innate sense of time and how it will flow through my fingers once I set my mind to a task. It is not foolproof, but I am good.

This is handy for many points in life. Grad school, writing a book manuscript, reading tons of books each year, managing motherhood and career, teaching high school – everything I do relies on my ability to get things done.

Continue reading “Handle with Care”

Burnt-out ends of smoky days

I am fifteen and new to this town on the river. I know no one, and this lock-in at this random church is small and strange. There is a boy, one with a bland name and a crop of brunette hair and this smile that casts a spell so easily. I am not pretty; I am awkward. I do not know how to talk to boys, but this one talks to me. He assumes I know things; I play along. I do not know “The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock,” but I let him think I do.  I remember the poem for many years after; I see the boy once or twice. He is lost in the Google sea, where bland names do not survive. I fall in love with TS Eliot, not this boy who I no longer even see clearly in memory.

And indeed there will be time
To wonder, ‘Do I dare?’ and, ‘Do I dare?’

-TS Eliot, “The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock”

I used to think about TS Eliot in spring, but as 2016 draws to a close I keep returning to his works. I think they’re supposed to be depressing, but for me they’re more like these moments of memory, these evocative, mesmerizing turns of phrase and imagined worlds. As the dreariness of December falls, Eliot takes me to rose gardens and murky English streets and other times. Somehow, these places most put me in a mind for writing.

Continue reading “Burnt-out ends of smoky days”

Smart Women Write From the Heart About The Election

Dear Readers,

The election of the new president of the United States was the inglorious epilogue in the global spread of regressive, dangerous ideology. To the smart women who write, it feels like a very clear confirmation that something beautiful and important in the soul of  not just the  nation, but the world, has died.

Without consciously having orchestrated it, each of us (Tanya, Bryna, and Angela) wrote about living and writing and working with this stark confirmation fresh in our hearts these past few weeks. If you read all three posts together, they look a little bit like the disjointed phases of  grief.

Continue reading “Smart Women Write From the Heart About The Election”

Writing in the Apocalypse of 2016

“2016 is the year that killed satire.”

So many people have said it in the past few months that I don’t even know  who I should attribute this quote to. But it’s true: nobody can tell the difference anymore between awful reality and caricature. 2016 is the year that extinguished many of our heroes and filled the swamp with bonafide jack-booted villains who half-joke about rounding us up.

I’m not going to mince words: the world feels unspeakably grim right now. I know that my feelings are not 100% a reflection of reality, but they are a reflection of the uncertainty the US and the world are facing. They are also a reflection of the fear I have for  my own personal safety, and the safety of people I care about. A lot of things many of us were fortunate enough to grow up taking for granted, like universal human rights, are up for debate on a scale that only the most maligned among us truly saw coming. Nothing about this situation is normal.

Trying to peer into the future is incredibly scary, because the worst might actually come to pass. No one knows if it will or not, but it’s no longer out of the question. It’s a possibility. A deeply terrifying possibility.

So what do I do with that, as a writer?
Continue reading “Writing in the Apocalypse of 2016”