It was just about 2 years ago that I was reading The Artist’s Way by Julia Cameron. I had been avoiding it for several years, but the title kept popping up in various places to the point that it was just easier to shut up and read the book than keep ignoring it. In Artist’s Way-speak, this is called synchronicity (that is, the occurrence of unlikely related events, not the bitching about it).
I was coming off of a productive summer. I had finished my second Beat Journey, biking a long distance in Japan and recording music as I went. I had just joined a shared artist studio called Ponte M in east Osaka. I spent part of the summer preparing for a gallery exhibition in Kyoto with Rowan O’Brien and Masahiro Nakata.
After all of that, I hit this weird lull in the fall. I was still busy and making things—lots of things—but I wasn’t happy with what was coming out. Everything seemed like a lonely dead end. I spent days cooped up in my studio from morning to night, and I would leave frustrated and confused. It was a completely new experience for me.
Between this lull and what seemed like the universe telling me to read the book, I figured it was a good time to stop spinning my tires and redirect my focus for a while.
I have no intention of reviewing The Artist’s Way. I’ll just say that I think it’s a fine book and if you think you should read it, you probably should read it. If you don’t want to read it, don’t.
I don’t think I can say that my life or my results were profoundly altered by the book in any immediate sense. There were no astounding revelations for me (although I’ve read that many experience deep revelations while reading the book, and I choose to believe that is true).
But I know that good indirect outcomes came from it, not least of which was a sense that I wasn’t alone in experiencing a sudden and abrupt mismatch between my desire to move forward and my ability to do so.
One of the book’s teachings that has stuck with me to this day is the “morning pages,” a cornerstone of The Artist’s Way, which is the practice of waking up and writing three pages by hand every day.
In the two years that have passed since reading the book, I’ve stuck with the morning pages mostly without fail. I find them indispensable now as a way to get my brain in order each day. During the few times that I’ve stopped for a week or so, I’ve noticed an undesirable difference.
One of the great things about the morning pages is the ability to just scribble nonsense. It is freedom. Most of what I write is mindvomit, things I won’t ever go back to and read. It doesn’t matter. I’ll never go back and look at all of my past jogging either. The ability to review isn’t the point. The action is everything.
And so the pages for me are both aerobic and meditative. My brain feels more in shape and centered when I do the pages.
Just a few side benefits are that new ideas come more often, bad ideas are exposed more quickly, I start the day off with a firmer grasp of how mind is doing, I’m a lot less reactionary, and well, I guess if you write that much, over time you will accidentally become at least a little better at expressing yourself in writing. That last one wasn’t a goal of mine when I started, but it’s been a welcome improvement.
This is all to say that I would highly recommend the practice of writing every morning to anyone.
If you’re looking for something good to add to your day, give it a try for two weeks and see what you think. It’s not always an easy thing to do, but the hard days just might be when you need it the most.