Archive for February, 2008

How to lose control and find your plot

February 6, 2008
Writing became such a process of discovery that I couldn’t wait to get to work in the morning: I wanted to know what I was going to say. ~Sharon O’Brien

A few months ago I read “The Artist’s Way”, by Julia Cameron. There’s a lot of exercises in there to get the creative juices flowing and also plenty of opportunity for you to examine your lifestyle, behaviour, hopes and fears. One life-changing habit I have adopted from that book is the morning pages.

The morning pages are to be written every day as soon as you wake up. The reason is that our brains haven’t yet had the chance to digest all the events of our day and clutter our thinking. The book suggests we free-write for a minimum of three pages, other people suggest setting a timer for ten minutes and writing until the alarm goes off. How you decide to treat them is entirely your choice, as long as they’re done, but here I will tell you my routine and why it works for me, just so you can get an idea.

* I now set my alarm half an hour earlier than I used to, then I make a cup of fresh coffee and go and sit on the couch with my journal and pen. I don’t put on music or TV because this is top quality me-time and it sets me up for the day. Look here for other suggestions on morning rituals.

* I write freely for three pages without hesitation. I tried using the timer technique, but the silence and empty pages was daunting to begin with and I preferred to see how far I had come and how much further I needed to go. I don’t think I would have that problem now, but in the beginning it is important to do what feels right for you in order to successfully form the habit.

* Free-writing can be very difficult to begin with at first, but have no fear, it gets easier! If you are experiencing a block, why not write about why you think you’re having trouble writing? It might help to get to the root of the problem and at the very least, it will make you put ink on the paper.

* Don’t worry if you notice a lot of negative thought at first. Once this is on the page and you start to see positive consequences to your journalling, the balance will shift. I do not apologise for anything I write in my journal, rather it is better to be worked through in writing and looked at objectively than to mentally carry it around or act on the thoughts in a negative way.

* Reflect! Choose a day each week to go over the previous week’s pages. I prefer Sunday as it’s the end of the week and I can put a full stop to some issues and make a plan of action for the week ahead. Choose two different coloured highlighting pens and highlight insights and actions for the past week. This helps you realise thought patterns, underlying issues and empowering actions. It’s always encouraging to see how productive you have been in seven days and it’s a great foundation for a positive week ahead!

It took me a few weeks to really get into the flow of it and I have some prompts for getting over this hurdle:

  1. Write about a book you’re reading. How do you feel about it? Why do you like/dislike it?
  2. Write about a current problem you have, maybe with a colleague, partner or family member. What is the problem? Can you see the other person’s point of view? What steps need to be taken to resolve this?
  3. What have you always wanted to do but never got round to? What’s stopping you?
  4. Describe your dream from the night before, or your last vivid dream. What was symbolic about it?
  5. What are you most looking forward to about your day?
  6. What are you grateful for this morning? I would say this is the most important prompt of all. By focussing on all that we love about our life, we are creating a positive mindset for the day ahead and those niggly problems become even more trivial than usual.

Since I started my morning pages I have noticed that I am procrastinating less, as that is an issue I am addressing in my journal. I am also practising my writing techniques, always a positive thing! I would also credit it with improving my relationships, as I resolve petty issues with myself in the morning instead of allowing them to build up with others.

I’m interested in how many of you are already completing your morning pages and how they are helping you. Please leave a comment and share your experiences!