Back in November I started reading The Artist’s Way, a book that encourages, among other things, the daily practice of morning pages. Morning pages are three full handwritten pages of stream of consciousness writing first thing every morning. The author likens morning pages to a sort of meditation (something I’ve tried many times but have never been able to stand doing), and promises that anyone who practices morning pages on a regular basis will come into contact with their inner power, a clear sense of self, that ever-elusive source of inner wisdom. I’ve been trying to get in touch with my “inner voice” for years now, so two months ago I committed to giving morning pages a try.
I already get up ridiculously early every morning to go to the gym. So getting up half an hour earlier to complete morning pages means waking at 5:00 a.m. When it’s still pitch dark outside. And cold. But I’ve done it faithfully now for two months, missing only one day during that time. I’ve learned that my writing muscles are woefully out of shape, as my hand cramps and my thumb goes numb about halfway through each morning’s musings. Every morning I question my own sanity as I drag myself awake and start slogging away, pen in hand, often with very little to say.
The first hint that something might be stirring in there was when I was trying to create a painting for my aunt Sally’s 60th birthday. The thing I remember most about Sally when I was growing up was her wonderful imagination and sense of play. She could create the most fantastic worlds, and we would immerse ourselves in imaginative play for hours. Mermaids, witches, fairies… she filled my life with magic. Thirty years later, she did the same for my daughters. So when I set out to create a painting for her, the first thing that came to mind was magic and mermaids.
I started the painting, but just wasn’t feeling happy with it. It was a boring mermaid. But while writing my morning pages, it came to me that what it needed were words. I asked my pages what the words should be, and several partial ideas came to mind. I wrote them down. I still wasn’t satisfied. But that morning, while I was in the shower, just after asking my morning pages what he picture should say, the answer came to me. I wrote the caption that I felt captured Sally’s spirit on the painting, and suddenly it seemed right and complete.
So… I continue writing, each morning, before the crack of dawn. Mostly it seems like a waste of precious time. But Sally the Mermaid Queen convinced me to keep trying, and keep listening, for that ever-elusive voice within.