Morning Pages (aka Brain Drain) as a Spiritual Practice
Last night, I started reading the book, The Artist’s Way, by Julia Cameron. I bought it on a whim after noting how many people raved about it to a friend who had asked for recommendations on books about writing and the creative process. With a subtitle like “A Spiritual Path to Creativity,” how could I resist? The basic premise is that creativity is a spiritual process and an essential one that connects us to the Creator (she encourages people to use whatever word works for them – try flow if that feels like a better fit for you), which in turn unlocks our own creative process as part of a “creative alliance” with the Creator. Cameron writes, “I have come to believe that creativity is our true nature, that blocks are an unnatural thwarting of a process at once as normal and as miraculous as the blossoming of a flower at the end of a slender green stem.” Our work is to unblock this natural, spiritual, and essential process.
Cameron recommends this by way of two basic tools: Morning Pages and The Artist’s Date. So far, I’ve just dipped into the morning pages. She won me over when she referred to it as “an apparently pointless process” of writing three longhand pages every morning as a sort of spiritual discipline. So honest, and so compelling! In that short description, my perfectionism was asked to move to the peanut gallery (where it belongs). And this is precisely the point of the morning pages. They are meant to be stream-of-consciousness words put to paper. Cameron specifically warns her readers not to “try to write,” but just to put the words down, no matter how mundane, grumpy, or poorly written.
The effect of the morning pages is “brain drain,” the clearing of our brain clutter by pulling it all out and putting it into words on paper. This is the path to creative clarity.
This process, she explains, bypasses the inner critic, or Censor, that shuts down our creativity before it can even build up energy to start flowing. The effect of the morning pages is “brain drain,” the clearing of our brain clutter by pulling it all out and putting it into words on paper. This is the path to creative clarity. This writing isn’t supposed to be good, it’s simply a tool to serve our creative process. Cameron writes, “This stuff eddies through our subconscious and muddies our days. Get it on the page.” Once again, my perfectionism was disempowered. I am always a fan of practices that help to bypass my own Inner Critic, along with all of her perfectionist tendencies and outrageous expectations.
Here is a spiritual practice that need not be deep nor meaningful. It is rote practice. If I do it, Cameron tells me, the fruit will come. That fruit – of clarity, creativity, and connection with the Source of my creativity – is what I long for. So, I will commit myself to this for awhile. I wrote my first three pages today and it took just over 15 minutes. A small ask! My hand hurt from writing by hand, but this is a muscle I will build. It felt good to see my handwriting on real paper – a lost piece of my self-expression over the last decade as online interfaces have taken over. Already, my brain feels clearer – and here I am, writing on my blog!
As I considered the idea of brain drain, it occurred to me that my usual morning routine of browsing Facebook is exactly the opposite – I fill my brain with a hundred juicy tidbits, of things that make me smile, laugh, wonder, worry, and rage. I’m not planning to quit Facebook just yet (no shame, fellow Facebookers!), but it occurs to me that this is something to explore more mindfully in the weeks ahead. What do I do with the stuff in my head? What do I want to keep there, and what do I want to gently release via pen and paper?
So, I think I will make this my spiritual practice for the next little while, and see what comes.
What about you?
Have you read the book and found it helpful?
What spiritual practice is serving you well right now?
If you don’t have one, perhaps you’d like to join me?