These are the doldrums between Christmas and New Year, flat land that stretches between the poles that define many of our calendars. 5 days of “Chrimbo Limbo” that span the time between the frenzied, all-consuming build up to a day of food – or faith – and the tail end of the year, one which many will be happy to leave. From our cars or sofas, from muddy woods or frozen beaches, we can feel the world turning. Time, flying. This is a hinge, a pause before the first new day of a new year, filled with possibility.
How can we hang onto this sense of time? How can we use it to prepare for a new year or a fresh start without creating the feeling that we should “do more” or “be more” or “be new” somehow, which is its own kind of all-consuming frenzy?
I return to the page and the old ritual of morning pages.
I have written about morning pages before, and how to get started on them; it is a practice that continues to sustain me. It has become a natural – and necessary – start to my day. A space and time to shape and sharpen my thoughts before the day begins and time sweeps me away in the wake of what it wants.
Morning pages are 3 sheets of A4 (or my preferred online method at 750words.com) written without planning, editing, or censorship. These are raw words, written faster than we can think, as we come to wakefulness. That is their power. It is us, when no one’s looking in a clean space that we define and refine, daily.
It is a place to flex and stretch, mentally and emotionally. An iron for the mind, smoothing away the wrinkles. A meditation made with moving fingers.
These last few months of 2017, I felt too busy to think. My mind was always scratching away in every direction, trying to make sense of tensions and disappointments, moods and missteps, conflicting bits of information and inspirations. When I felt there was no time for morning pages, I knew that they were more essential than ever. How else to keep some control over my own day, other than to take my first 12 minutes or so and write down how I felt, what I wanted, where I wanted to go? Morning pages became a place to capture 750 words of my work-in-progress, before I had to turn to other projects; somedays, it was the only work I was able to do that day for myself. Through a very season, and university term, I kept writing morning pages and using them as starting places for scenes and chapters. Now, at this pause before a new year, I find the WIP is nearing 30K. It will certainly be over that mark, when we toast a brand new year.
Consciously and unconsciously, 750 words sets me up for writing, however busy the day, because I have focused myself on it. I have stated my intent. I have set my brain on that work, as I boil the kettle, as I let out the dog, before the dash and rush to come.
In the new year, I will be teaching many mornings. For those of you who know me, you know how jealously I guard mornings, when I feel I write at my best. Though we aren’t always in control of our timetables, I aim to stay in control of my brain and my time, as best I can. In the coming new year, with all its early starts and pressures, I will seek to continue my practice and share it with students, asking them to begin our day with morning pages. I hope to introduce them to a practice and a ritual that will nurture their writing and their thinking, so that it might sustain them through their writing lives, as it does mine. Looking for a new you? Try an old practice. Morning pages.
See you on the page.