Julia Cameron and her book,The Artist’s Way came out of left field. I was sixty years old, and they change my life.
Journal writing is my favourite creative tool. It is also my favourite tool for living.
‘My journal’ spans the last fifteen years. It’s written in a series of cheap chain store exercise books which take up two shelves of a bookcase. Unlike the beauties that feature on Pinterest boards, my journal is ordinary.
Three pages written in longhand first thing every day, get easier with practice. The pages aren’t for anyone else’s eyes. I love the fact that even my Censor (who often looks like a lion ready to pounce) has nothing to do when I write morning pages. Without him looking over my shoulder telling me what I can write, there’s space to moan and complain, I can play, change and grow.
The pages don’t nag about single words and half-formed ideas, poor grammar or spelling mistakes. They don’t mind that my never-copperplate writing has deteriorated over the years or that some pages are illegible. They don’t worry if I’m tired, grumpy, depressed, disappointed. They don’t care if I’m elated, joyful or complacent.
Content doesn’t matter, either. As long as my hand keeps moving over the page, all is well. If I write, ‘I can’t think of anything to write,’ a couple of times, some other part of my brain takes over. Before long, words, sentences and ideas tumble onto the page. They tell me what I’m thinking and feeling, what I need to do or what I’m longing for.
I stumbled on the idea of morning pages serendipitously. Julia Cameron’s inspirational book, The Artist’s Way, was on display in the bookstall at an Intergenerational Conference where I was speaking on advocacy for older people. I’d never heard of the writer or the book. It didn’t fit with the conference theme, but something about it attracted me. I bought it. That was one of my most significant purchases ever. The Artist’s Way would probably be the most life-changing book I’ve read.
Soon, morning pages, journal writing in another guise, became entrenched in my life. It’s is hard to imagine abandoning the practice of filling the pages.
Often the writing is mundane. Sometimes it is energetic and exciting. Journal writing pushed me into Masters and Doctoral degrees. Mostly the ideas are good, sometimes not so good. As a result of an idea while writing, I once painted an old wooden outdoor setting brilliant turquoise. It was fun, but the chairs and table looked odd under the wisteria in my cottage garden. Someone carted the furniture away ten minutes after I put it on the verge outside my house.
There are tear-spattered pages in my journal – memorials to personal tragedy and overwhelming sadness. Highlighted passages, asterisks and arrows confirm exciting breakthroughs when new ideas I could use in my work, writing and life tumbled onto the page.
My journals incorporates ‘to do’ lists, written once a week in coloured Textas. They act as prompts for things I have to do or hope to achieve in the short term. At the back are lists of longer-term goals. The lists grow organically from what I’ve written.
My journal writing is
- A blessing
- A creative prompt
- Inspiration for writing
- A place to play with ideas
- A change agent
- A problem-solving space
- An aid to deep and clear thinking
- An organising tool
- A life-saver
- A life-changer
- Emotional release
- Intensely personal
- A record of my life.
Journal writing is also discipline in the best sense of the word. It is often prayer.