What’s your morning practice? If you’re like me, it involves drinking buckets of tea and stumbling around, tripping over newspapers and an old cat. On retreat, it is easy to spring from a bed and vault into a yurt for yoga. At home, there is all this – well – home to deal with. How can you keep that retreat feeling going with a sink full of dishes and an empty fridge?
My mornings begin with Morning Pages, an old idea that I first came across in Natalie Goldberg’s Writing Down the Bones, though it was probably Julia Cameron who coined the phrase in her iconic The Artist’s Way. Natalie talks about timed exercises and writing to fill that time until the bell rings. This is, perhaps, an offshoot of how she sees her meditation practice. For her, meditation and free writing go hand-in-hand. Julia prefers to fill pages rather than an amount of time. As a writer, this works for me, too. What, after all, are we trying to do other than fill pages? I have been filling lined notebooks for much more than a decade. On those lines, I have celebrated, whined, mourned and worked through things. I have also found the first nuggets of ideas emerging, from a series of unconnected and random thoughts while in “write dump” mode. That is the big idea behind Morning Pages or any kind of free writing. Don’t think. Don’t analyse. Don’t try to connect thoughts or ideas. Just write.
But that’s just how I use it. There aren’t any rules. Does it have to be morning? No, especially if mornings aren’t your friends. Does it have to be pages? No. And thank goodness for that. My many years of filling notebooks are unreadable, unintelligible, indecipherable. Like so many chickens having a scratch. But the good people at 750words have come to my rescue, creating an online place for morning pages, for fingers more accustomed to keys now than pens. And what’s really fun about 750words is that you can use meta tags on your writing, to find things later and refer back to them, and that the site reflects back your keywords after your writing, giving you a glimpse into your preoccupations and your states of mind, as well as placing them in context with writers around the world, as in the picture above, which appeals to my Inner Geek. If you’ve tried morning paper pages and found them not to your liking, give online a try. Couldn’t hurt, anyway. You only have to try and see what works for you. And then to practice and practice and practice.
It is a practice, like yoga or meditation. It is like a full-body stretch for the mind. It is a wake-up call or a place of stillness. It is a place for lists and petty fears. It is a place to write mindful detail of what is around you, what happened yesterday, what you want to happen today. For me, it is a way to tame my monkey mind. After morning pages, the brain says “OK, you’ve heard me, I’ll get out of your way and let you write.” And sometimes, it actually does.
What is your morning practice? What rituals or states of mind leave you ready to write?