Lately, I’ve been sneaking out of bed at 5:45am. Please withhold your judgement, it might seem unnecessary, and yes, ‘sleep is the most important thing for a human’ (I’m still getting my 8 hours most nights). When I’ve looked at the London commute ahead of me in the morning, it has for years, been tempting to clutch the safety and quiet of the depths of the duvet and pull it slowly back over my head.
Take this morning’s journey for example; having left the house at 7:30am, I (wrongly) assumed I’d snuggle into a Southern Rail seat and arrive safely calmly at my destination a mere thirty minutes later.
My first obstacle; a delayed train. This meant I tried to be clever, jumping on a different route and trying to cheat the system (what is this Final Destination?). Feeling clever, I stood on another more promising platform with no other commuters, plugged into an insightful podcast about ‘stillness’ (the irony) but alas, the train time crept further from the scheduled time as many more competitors for my space on the train lined up alongside and behind me. Of course, when the train finally arrived and stopped in front of us all, the train door couldn’t ave been further from my feet. I became that commuter, shouting assertively, yet politely (still British after all) ‘Please can you just squidge down a little, there’s only two of us left here? Please?’
I closed my eyes, wedged between the underarms of city folk, all breathing in the same frustrated air, counting the seconds for the doors to open and let us all tumble out.
I decided a few weeks ago that I can’t change this part of my day. I’m contracted to arrive at work before 9:30am, so naturally, peak time cannot be escaped. But if I can find time and space before I leave the house, I can add to the story. Create a ‘buffer’ either side of the city commute if you will.
I’ve always wanted to be one of those people who could fit in an hour of something (running, learning, meditation) even before it’s even breakfast time. I sniffed at articles of people that could do it as it felt untouchable to me (the calling of the duvet just too strong). That’s before I opened the pages of ‘The Artist’s Way’. Different friends have been recommending it for years (all amazing artists themselves) and it was only when my best mate Shaz and I were on a night out together, that she exclaimed over a final espresso martini “Just fire up Amazon and order it now!’ And so I did. And there it was, four weeks later, sitting on my desk at work whispering, ‘it’s time‘.
I’ve wanted to find time to write my own material in some form for so long (four years?) and had been searching my days for space to fit it in, yet strangely, the early hours of the day seem to be the only time I can focus on something that is just for me. Not work. Not life admin. Not decorating. Just…food for the soul.
The book, written by Julia Cameron, suggests practising ‘The Morning Pages’; which sees the reader building a ritual of three A4 pages of longhand stream of consciousness writing (basically scribbling words without thinking, just letting it all roll out of your ballpoint) and you’re to do this each morning upon waking. Apparently, this is to ‘get the thoughts out before the brain even knows they are thoughts‘. This is said to help clear the mind to make way for creative ideas and self-expression.
When I started to read these instructions, met with many brain blurt of cynicism. “Every morning? BEFORE work? When I’ve just woken up?? PRE-shower? I really don’t have time!” But I did have time. I always had time.
Following the first few days practicing the morning pages, I felt some level of elation that can only be compared to…things like; finishing school for the summer holidays, coming first in the school egg and spoon race, finding out at the age of 7 that you’re going to Disney World this summer, having Scary Spice tell you-you’re sweet to have had a spiral perm to look like her, listening to a brilliant singer belt out a song you’ve written in front of a room of people for the first time, giving your parents or siblings a Christmas gift you KNOW you’ve nailed this year. All of that…combined. That’s the closest I can take you to how I felt.
I’m still trying to hold on to the excitement of finally setting my pen ink-free.
Can someone out there explain to me why we can be built with such an electric reward system and not know that we can tap into it at any time until you read a book that tells you to?
All I can say is, Julia Cameron, you’re a total legend. I’m so glad that I’ve discovered this book whilst we’re both on this planet together. If I ever have the pleasure of meeting you, you’re going to get one hell of a greeting from me. It might be awkward for you, but it’ll be everything to me.