When my son was a baby and could fly on my lap for free, I took him with me on a long-weekend visit to my girlhood-best-buddy Tracy, whom I’d known since we were literally in diapers ourselves, but whom I hadn’t seen (or really even talked to, when long-distance calls cost money) for a year or two. I remember just a handful of things from that trip. At the beginning, relief-and-joy at finding our friendship picking up right where we’d left off when we’d roomed together in college. At the end, scouring an airport news-stand for diapers, when snowstorm-delays exhausted the supply in my carry-on. I remember we rented Spiderman (from a Blockbuster video—remember those?) because I hadn’t seen it and she was quite taken with Tobey Maguire … we drank wine … we had a spirited discussion of some empty shelves in her dining room and how it’s almost bucking the cultural norms to not fill space like that… And she loaned me a book she found important: The Artist’s Way by Julia Cameron. Tracy creates art in many media, and I’d recently embarked on M.F.A. classes in creative writing—and this book spoke to both of us.
My one take-away from Cameron’s book has stuck with me more—and served me better—than the whole fifty credit-hours of graduate work: the practice of “Morning Pages”. It’s achingly simple: hand-write three pages—of anything!—every morning. (In other words, of course: engage in the act of writing.) Because it doesn’t have to be “pretty” (or even coherent), because the content itself needn’t meet any specific criteria, because no one is meant to read it, and “because” a number of other things, Morning Pages can accomplish the near-miraculous feat of clearing up Creativity and Flow.
It’s been twenty years since I saw that book, but after reading about September-new-beginnings at the start of this month, I deliberately hit the school-supply aisle for a stack of cheap notebooks and a carton of pens.
I tend to think of synchronicity as one of the ways in which God tells me stuff—so I pay attention when anything seems to surface as a repeated theme. The week of my notebook purchases I began reading on the subject of Writing (see above: writing-related-but-Not-Writing activities) and in the space of a few days came across not one, but several different writers referencing Julia Cameron’s book. (Maybe that’s not even strange, given its applicability to the topic at hand—but in the two decades since Tracy shared it with me, I’d never seen or heard it referenced even once.) More poignantly, after a number of years out of touch, an unexpected and welcome phone call from Tracy herself.
Yesterday, after encountering yet another reference to The Artist’s Way, I downloaded the 25th-anniversary edition of the book onto my iPad. Not a dozen pages in, the word synchronicity leapt off the page. (Yes, God, I’m listening.) Cameron also makes the connection, right off the bat, between the spiritual path of her Recovery from alcoholism and the spiritual path of her Creative life. Recovery held no interest for me the last time I held this book, but I expect these pages will speak to me now on multiple levels.
All in all, I find my September-fresh new year prospering with promise. I like it. I’m thinking of rewriting my personal calendar. But with apologies to the current Pope, mine won’t be named for him—we’ll give Bilbo the honor.
Out with the Gregorian calendar… and in with the Bagginsian!