Every morning (OK, almost every morning), I sit down and write 3 handwritten pages. No keyboard use here. It’s an idea that originated with artist/author Julia Cameron in her book The Artist’s Way. She recommends it as a potential cure for writer’s or artist’s block, that condition of inspirational constipation where it seems like nothing wants to come out. Yeah, I know that’s gross but it’s true!
Actually, I’ve found it beneficial (and therapeutic) as a daily exercise, as great for working and stretching the mind as cardiovascular activity is for physical fitness.
There are at least 4 reasons you should start doing this:
- It clears your head and gets out the little things that are taking up “psychic RAM” as David Allen defines it.
- It’s powerful: You are forced to come up with ideas even if it’s just griping and whining because you have to keep the pen moving. Eventually, you’ll write something you can use.
- It’s therapeutic. You can describe your fears, prejudices, aspirations, fantasies, and just plain weird things that you’d never share with anyone.
- It’s slow and low tech. Since you’re using a pen and not a keyboard, your mind can’t race ahead too quickly. You’re temporarily disconnected and that’s always good.
Julia describes the experience in this video.
Possibly my strangest post on these pages was an explication of the nursery rhyme “Jack & Jill.” For some reason, I wrote down, “Jack & Jill went up the hill to fetch a pail of water.” Then, it was off on a series of strange speculations about what was behind their ill-fated climb.
- Was there a drought that required their fetching water from the hill?
- Was this regular chore in a rural area where they had no running water?
- Were they older than normally depicted and the hill a trysting place?
- Was Jack’s “breaking his crown” referring to a skull fracture or was he perhaps royalty and damaged his diadem?
I think you get the idea.
But, in reviewing pages like these months later, I’ve found presentation inspirations, phrases, and other ideas that have been of great use for both work and personal life.
It’s free-form, free-association, free-thinking romp through the gray matter writing down any thought that pops in to my cranium.
I prefer using a fountain pen. It hearkens back to a simpler time and is like painting words on a page. I also use a particular type of paper from Levenger that has room on the left side for reminders, side thoughts, or space I can use to quickly label a longer entry for later retrieval.
It’s been a regular part of my morning for almost 2 years and I get a little uncomfortable if I skip it for more than a day, somewhat like the tension you feel when you haven’t worked out (assuming you engage in regular physical exercise).
Try it and tell me what you think.