Thursday, June 19, 2008

This morning I managed to wake up on time, which meant 15-20 minutes for writing my “morning pages” which I’ve been pretty lax about the last few weeks. Now, on the far side of the morning, I can definitely feel the difference that getting those 3 pages written has on my energy levels. Starting the day on the right foot has a profound effect on my mental processes. The same way that lean protein for breakfast has me craving healthier stuff all day, focusing my attention on writing when I first wake up makes me feel more in control for the rest of the day. I’m now in week 10 of Walking in this World (from now on: WitW), Julia Cameron’s follow-up to The Artist’s Way (TAW), which means morning pages have been in my life for almost 6 months(!). Along the way I’ve added in the weekly “artist date”, regular long walks, and now the end of day “Ta-da list”.

I’ve always been a bit of a creativity manual glutton. I eat them up. I love reading about artists’ processes – Ray Bradbury writing out a list of random words every day and then doing a story about each, Stephen King putting out 2000 words a day no matter how long it takes until he has a finished book to edit, Robert B. Parker managing to be more prolific than King by writing 10 pages every morning and leaving the read-through to his wife. I always wonder how much experimentation went into arriving at those numbers. Does Stephen King get cranky if he has to sit down and write 2500 words? Does Robert Parker lose steam at 11? Being a writer is like being a word factory, so I love to see the leading manufacturers releasing their corporate manuals to the public. The machinery and end results may differ, but the raw materials and the process look remarkably the same.

I’m still figuring out the best conditions for my writing machine. Last week’s WitW called for a start to finish perfect day. At first I was thinking “Okay win Nobel Prize, swim in the ocean, deep dish pizza with Oprah for dinner...” but in truth the best possible day for me has all cylinders warmed up and running at their best. It likely would look something like this:

-Early am: wake up, write 3 pages
-Big breakfast – eggs, fake bacon, multigrain toast, coffee, fruit, milk
-Read and respond to mail/ emails (mail in the am? I’m dreaming big…)
-Walk to gym along bike path
-work out, with tv on Biggest Loser or SYTYCD
-Long walk home, catching up with family by phone
-Writing for 2 or 3 hours
-Dinner someplace I’ve never been and walk around different neighborhood

Not so tricky, huh? And I could put it into practice this weekend if only the mailman and TV stations would oblige.


Cammila said...

Hey it's Kayleigh! Ryan mentioned to me that you'd seen my blog but he neglected to tell me you HAD a blog -- not to mention a blooger account!

Oh man, I am SO an Artist's Way dropout. I have no excuse -- it was pure lethargy. Morning pages are so absurdly helpful, and most of the exercises were fun.

But on the other hand, I had a really hard time relating to all that focus on overcoming pain and discouragement. There's an exercise like less than half way in where you're supposed to write a pretend letter to a mean, stifling figure from your past -- the cold hearted teacher or disapproving parent -- who made you feel you or your art weren't good enough. This was laid out like a given, there wasn't even a mention of how the reader might not have such a figure!

Honestly, are most artists strapped with trauma over dispiriting, abusive assholes? That seems like such an ancient, "The artist's life is pain" sort of thing.

Anyway, I'm looking SO forward to reading more of your blog. If you can't tell, I really dig hearing about the creative process. Plus, you're really cool.

Kayleigh said...

Thanks for the kind words! This is a pretty new blog -- still in the primordial blog ooze stage, so I appreciate the readership!

I definitely hear what you're saying on TAW. Some weeks really work for me, and other weeks not as much. I especially have a tough time with religion because I flat out do not believe in fate or God, even if you call it something else. I think it's hard for someone who believes in God to imagine what it's like not to, and she isn't able to overcome that. But overall, I've found enough useful ideas in TAW to stick with it.

I recently read this great article about creativity in American Scientific Mind: It kind of breaks down the good habits that productive creatives have and what roadblocks they need to watch out for. A lot of it is in line with Julia Cameron's philosophy (she's one of the people they interview) but it's more of a straight-forward take as opposed to JC's mystical tone. I think as long as you have those habits in your life -- writing down your ideas, surrouding yourself with creative people, bringing in new ideas, and challenging yourself -- it doesn't matter so much if you know who to blame for your blocks and have written a letter to your childhood self.

You seem like a very productive artist, though. Did you find something else that worked for you?

allaboutattitude said...

ooh .... i need a life like yours ...... desperately

Cammila said...

I never did find another method or program, but then, I never looked very hard. I try to do things like carrying a camera and taking a picture whenever I see something cool, keeping a notebook, fingerpainting/collaging/etc, but I'm sure I don't need to tell you it's hard to keep up with creative "play" when you've got a job and a boyfriend and ongoing creative projects that require work. Actually, the friend who recommended taw to me did so on the grounds that it helps you integrate some of nourishing, stimulating stuff into your busy life. So maybe I should try again.