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Try This: Daily Writing Practice

The Tools: Paper, a pen and a timer.

The Practice:

  • Find a place you won’t be disturbed and you’re comfortable writing.

  • Center yourself and let your rational, evaluative, critical mind know it’s off-duty while your creative, accepting, flowing mind plays for the next 10 minutes.

  • Set your timer, put your pen to paper and let yourself be completely surprised by what comes onto the page for a full 10 minutes.

  • You can write on any topic, but random prompts are useful. Try this one: When I had magical powers…

  • Sure, you may want to pause and think of just the right word, or wonder where the hell THAT came from, or decide you suck and want to rip up what you wrote. You may marvel that what you just wrote is pretty good and worry about whether you can keep it up. Simply notice whatever arises in your judging mind and keep your pen moving across the page.

  • This is an opportunity to see your actual thoughts—to begin to make friends with the messy, unpredictable, controlling, embarrassing, and glorious aspects of yourself. Practice putting your critic in the back seat. Practice letting your creative mind play outside the lines and see what it has to show you.

  • Experiment. Try starting your day with a 10-minute writing practice for a week or two. See what happens.

My Experience with the Practice:

It was 1994. I lived in West Hollywood with my dog, Greta, on the second floor of a 1930’s courtyard building, amidst the trees bordering Poinsettia Park. My three-year relationship with a live-in boyfriend had just snapped under the weight of things we could not say…things we didn’t even know about ourselves.

A flow of creative energy was erupting in me. I was bumping up against old structures and views of my self and being carried to the edge of something thrilling and terrifying. I didn’t want to keep doing life as I’d been doing it, but I needed support to cultivate a new relationship with my self, my desires, my creative life force. In divine timing, I found the The Artist’s Way.

It was a catalyst.

The foundational activity Julia Cameron promotes in the book is what she calls Morning Pages: Three pages filled, non-stop, with stream-of-consciousness bleck, every day. The idea being that once we get that junk out of the way, our minds are better able to receive creative inspiration.

Nearly every morning, for the remaining 5+ years I lived in Los Angeles, Greta and I would return from our trip to the park and I’d sit at the kitchen table with my cup of tea and peekaboo view of the sandbox below. I’d put my pen to paper and wouldn’t stop writing until three 8.5 x 11 spiral notebook pages were filled.

In hindsight, I see Morning Pages as a spiritual practice for me during that time. My daily attempts to dive past the internal critic into the unknown world of my creative mind were tilling the soil of my being, helping to loosen the tight grip on my precious self-identity.

This gradual turning over of my hard-packed—and previously unseen—ideas and ways of thinking would nourish a host of other practices I’d cultivate in the decades that followed.

My writing practice has evolved since then. I’ve found new catalysts, like Natalie Goldberg, whose Writing Down the Bones informs the practice I’ve suggested above, and many writing circles I’ve facilitated in the last couple years.

What’s been consistent for me, over all this time, is the power of stream-of-consciousness writing to aerate my egoic landscape and make it more hospitable for creativity to bloom.

Photo Credit: Flickr | ilmungo




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