Transform Your Life One Morning at a Time

On Wednesdays, I share posts, fables, songs, poems, quotations, TEDx Talks, cartoons, and books that have inspired and motivated me on my writing journey. I hope these posts will give writers, artists, and other creatives a mid-week boost.

Since retiring, I’ve rediscovered the benefits of expressing my ideas the old-fashioned way: handwriting my thoughts in a journal. I have Julia Cameron to thank for that epiphany. A fan of Julia’s books, among them The Artist’s Way and The Prosperous Heart, I found myself incorporating Morning Pages into my daily regimen.

In last month’s edition of Spirituality & Practice, Julia shared more insights about this classic practice. Here’s an excerpt from that article:

Writing morning pages is a form of prayer. We are telling the universe–or God, or a higher power, or the force, or the Dao, name it what you will–exactly what we like, what we dislike, what we want more of, what we want less of. We are contacting an inner resource that guides us carefully and well. Many of us would shy away from prayer. But, writing our pages, we may discover ourselves doing something that resembles praying. We contact an unsuspected inner resource. It doesn’t matter what name we give to this force. What does matter is that we listen to it. And this listening, done daily, brings startling results.

“Please guide me,” we pray, and soon we receive guidance. It may come as a hunch or intuition. It may come as a conversation with a stranger. The point is that guidance does come, and if we are open to listening, we hear it.

Source: Spirituality & Health, November/December 2018


Is Your Writing Muse in a Snit?

When Guelph writer Linda Johnston informed everyone on her Twitter feed that she had written 17,000 words in three weeks, we all congratulated her and wanted to know the secret of her success. I enjoyed following her tweets regarding this sudden burst of creativity.

June 26

My writing muse has returned from her snit and is in full swing. She has fused me to the computer.

July 13

My muse dictates how much I write. I just do her bidding.

I imagined one of the nine daughters of Zeus and Mnemosyne visiting Linda each morning, taking her hand and guiding her to the computer. There, she remains offering words of encouragement until Linda produces her daily quota. Later, I discovered that Linda received inspiration from a more concrete source: Sarah Domet’s book, 90 Days to Your Novel.

Patricia Anderson, another Guelph writer, found a muse that enables her to write prolifically and enjoy a vacation at the same time. At the end of June, she sets off for her trailer in Algonquin Park where she spends the summer working on her novel (without distractions).

While researching several famous writers, I discovered some unusual muses.

Alexander Dumas color coordinated his paper. He used blue paper for novels, yellow paper for poetry and rose-colored pages for nonfiction.

Mark Twain and Truman Capote write lying down.

Ernest Hemingway sharpened dozens of pencils before starting to write.

Willa Cather read the Bible before writing each day.

Before picking up his pen, John Donne liked to lie in an open coffin. (I wonder about this one!)

In my case, I like to stick to my morning ritual of easing into the writing. After breakfast, I linger over coffee as I check my emails, Twitter and other social media. Once I finish drinking  two cups of coffee, I start writing. When I hit a writer’s block, I follow Julia Cameron‘s advice from her inspirational books—The Artist’s Way, Walking In the Wind, The Prosperous Heart—and get myself back on track. I  enjoy the morning pages, twenty-minute walks and artist’s dates.

Any other muses out there? I’d love to hear about the eccentric ones.

Book Review: The Prosperous Heart

The author of more than thirty books—fiction and nonfiction—Julia Cameron is best known for her international bestseller, The Artist’s Way, which has helped millions of people realize their creative dreams. While conducting lectures and facilitating workshops over a thirty-five year period, Cameron discovered that many of her students did not want to talk about money and felt they could handle anything but money. She decided to write The Prosperous Heart, a book that would give her students “the tools to address their money issues directly while maintaining spiritual balance and an active creative life.”

Fans of Cameron’s books will recognize two of the tools: Morning Pages (three hand-written stream-of-consciousness journal pages written each morning) and a twenty-minute daily walk. New tools include Counting, recording each penny earned and saved in a small journal; Abstinence, a complete abstaining from any further debt; and Time-Outs, two five-minute periods of sitting quietly to consciously count your blessings or simply rest.

Cameron provides short exercises to complete as we go through the 12-week program and at the end of each chapter (week), there is a check-in and a list of “prosperity points.” She advises us to “choose the exercises you are most attracted to and the ones you are most resistant to. Our resistance often points us toward ‘pay dirt.’”

While guiding us through the prosperity plan, Cameron encourages us to be open to the unexpected gifts and answers that may appear along the way. In describing her recent move from New York to Santa Fe, Cameron demonstrates what can happen when we step out of our comfort zones. She explains, “I often find when my students shake the apple tree, oranges fall. And oranges may have been just what they were looking for after all.”

She stresses the need to accept even the smallest steps as progress and makes comparisons to other 12-step programs. In the chapter on forgiveness, she advises us to let go of “feelings, beliefs, and circumstances that do not serve you” and “open the door to allow the Higher Power to co-pilot your life.” While she liberally uses the word God throughout the book, she encourages readers to make their own substitutions.

Unlike other financial gurus, Julia Cameron does not preach or scream her message as she addresses the practical side of the creative life. The tone is a much gentler one which recognizes the greyness that often surrounds money issues. When outlining the prosperity plan, she reminds us that we will “slip backward and revert to old spending habits.” But the important thing is not to be discouraged. She ends the book with the following message: “Living a prosperous life means living a day at a time. It means starting over each morning, forgiving ourselves and beginning anew when we make mistakes, picking ourselves up when we fall, keeping on track.”