So it surprises me now to hear
the steps of my life following me ––
so much of it gone. . .
as though a prayer had ended
and the bit of changed air
between the palms goes free
to become the glitter
on some common thing that inexplicably shines.
~ Galway Kinnel (from ‘The Still Time’)
I saw the author of ‘The Artist’s Way,’ Julia Cameron, give a presentation recently. A friend who knows her introduced us. I was thrilled. I’d read her book in the early 90s when it first came out, and participated in a weekly group around the its principles. These groups grew into a worldwide phenomenon, and continue today. When she heard about my book ‘The Writer’s Block Myth,’ she wanted to know more and where to get a copy. I gifted her one. Somehow that felt special.
My take-away of the evening was the value of ‘morning pages.’ Three pages written in longhand first thing upon rising. Clear the mind, get the frets and broiling stuff up and out. What if you write 4 pages, someone asked. We get full of ourselves, Julia said. You’ve hit the real (sometimes hard) stuff by 1-1/2 pages. At three you get the heart of what you need and the magic happens. Seems there’s always a number before it’s too much or something else, doesn’t it? I made a vow to get back to morning pages.
I’ve been thinking A LOT about empowerment lately. This is no secret. I’ve written about it here. I’ve planned a retreat around women’s empowerment. I wrote a book of empowerment for writers and creatives. Behind my thoughts, the power of our words, spoken and written. How our stories are key in the narrative of our lives, and in a society’s narrative. Because stories are the glue of relationships and cultures. They drive us. They guide compassion and fear, biases and action. In the best of worlds, they have the power to light us up inside so we feel strong and confident, and we see we’re not alone. They’re a way to connect with ourselves and others, and have a Voice.
The truth of this is everywhere. I asked the lab tech if it was an iwatch I saw on her wrist as she drew my blood. It was. Do you like it? How do you use it? I asked. The questions I’ve had about this thing I perceived as frivolous, mainly because I couldn’t see a reason for it except as a gadget to further bombard one with info. She changed my mind with her story. ‘I have a special needs kid. He’s sight impaired,’ she said. ‘I get messages from his teachers during the school day. Now I can respond fast when I couldn’t before because our phones have to be off in the lab.’ A moment of connection with another person. A shift in perception for me. And for her, she had a voice, was more than her lab coat to this stranger.
I have a friend whose son is autistic. Speaking to people, especially in public, is hard for him. She home schools him, and posts some of her experiences with him on Facebook. The kid is brilliant. His response to his environment fascinating. Such as he knows and spells words I don’t have a clue the meaning of. Words far longer than the four & five letter words they had him read in public school. He saw a need, and decided he’ll found a university when he grows up.
I particularly love his answer to a woman who posed the question whether it’s OK to explain her child’s autism to strangers, or if privacy is more respectful and less ‘labeling.’ His spelled response: MY STORY IS SO TOTALLY WORTH NICE PEOPLE HEARING BECAUSE I REALLY LIKE MY DIFFERENT WAY OF SEEING THE WORLD. (caps his) It’s not just his answer I love. I love the message inside it.
He’s a kid with no throwaway comments like you and I have. This one sentence took significant time and energy to say. And it was important to him to share it. Because he wants the world to hear it. He has a Voice, he sees and processes the world differently than most, and he’s empowered with that knowledge. He’s OK. I rather like that he says ‘nice people,’ too. As if he knows some people aren’t owed an explanation of who he is. The simple fact is his brain works differently, his way of communicating is often difficult to understand, and that makes him different. I think different is OK.
It always gets down to how we stay focused and move toward the goals we desire. How we live a creative life. Especially for writers. What’s the secret for seeing and listening with the assumption the story will be interesting, and ignoring, as poet Maya Stein says, the catcalls of the deadlines.
My intent for morning pages the day after I saw Julia Cameron didn’t happen as planned. I wrote 2 pages the first morning. The following two mornings, I forgot. It’s been off and on sporadic since. I heard others’ stories, and wasn’t hearing my own. Then last week, I got pulled deep, deep down into sleep. A nap in the afternoon, and again all thru the night. My dreams full and fat with presence and lots going on. My limbs weighed a thousand pounds when I rose the next day. Mid-afternoon, the BLUES came on with all caps. They curled up inside me, made a nest of my heart. I felt inconsequential and questioned myself, what I’m doing, & not. Those stories felt more real than all the good stuff in my life. At 2:30pm, I decided to write my morning pages.
I followed the pen, didn’t lead when I wrote, as I know to do. I was present and paid attention, resisting the urge to judge words or myself. I connected with both sides of the narratives running thru me. The one that squeezed my heart, and the one that stood in the shadows and needed a Voice. My perspectives shifted. My view of myself grew. I felt the blood move thru my arms and legs once more. I didn’t have answers. I had my Voice back. I wrote myself back up & onto my feet.
I live with these truths. . .Our Voice is our Superpower. Our stories are our connective tissue.
Tell your stories. The true ones. The ones in your strong heart without fear.
- In the morning when you rise, write 3 pages longhand – your morning pages. Stick with it, finish the three. Note what you discover, what shifted, and how you feel at the end.
Photo: Jonatan Pie
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