I decided on my birthday in April to follow Julia Cameron’s The Artist’s Way, a twelve-week program that inspires and nurtures the creative spirit. One of the exercises—and it’s one you have to do no if or buts about it—is what Cameron calls “The Morning Pages.”

Every morning before you do anything—walk the dogs or check email—you get up early to write three full pages—front and back. Thank goodness for Rhodia notebooks that don’t measure 8.5 by 11 inches because writing those three full pages has been and is a struggle.

Does that surprise you considering my posts tend to blather on and on? Truth be told, I don’t want to bare my soul first thing in the morning. Most of what I write on those pages are related to work, finances, some writing, the weather, and maybe if something is really bothering me, but over the years I’ve learned to keep certain topics internalized.

Surprising, right? I come across as a forthright person so why should it be so difficult to just spew out the joy, the frustrations, and the pain? I’ve discovered that writing about frustrations bores me because I come across like a broken record (remember those?). The joy has to be something that’s so out of this world (I have an agent! I have a major book deal and a six-figure advance! I’m moving to Paris!) that I can’t contain myself, but the pain, involving a whole slew of items from actual physical pain (there is none) to mental pain (oh, how I torture myself) and that is too hard to put down on paper.

When I start writing about my fears it feels as if I’m sitting at a therapist’s office with the onset of a flash flood of tears. Crying over events from the past that hurt me and that I can’t change; constantly worrying over the state of my health (I’ve become a hypochondriac); fears about the writing (thank you Grammarly, I really thought I understood comma usage) and a slew of other things that are enough to give me angina (see, what I mean?)

These morning pages have become the bane of my morning. There are days I’m able to write three full pages because I’ve latched on to an idea and just go with it, but most of the time I struggle. Some days I write two pages and other days I write one page (and, ahem, I’ve skipped a few days here and there). When I don’t write those three full pages, I feel terribly guilty and I that’s when I’m convinced I don’t have this writing passion. No matter how much I try to nurture to encourage myself, it’s simply not there.

Yet, recently, I’ve surprised myself. For a recent article, the words flew off the keyboard and landed onto the screen without having to use the delete key and make edits (as I did just a second ago, but that’s good too, the editing brain is working).

So there’s a lesson here. Maybe those morning pages are working in spite of how much I hate them. Creating art is all about joy, frustrations, and pain. I realized what I’m doing, avoiding that tsunami of emotion, I am stifling my creative self.

So, Julia Cameron, you’ve succeeded in convincing me of why I need to write those blasted morning pages. There will be mornings I’ll moan I have nothing to say for three full pages, but there will be other days when I’ll be laying out my guts and tears on the page.

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