Thursday, March 31, 2011

Step Four: Rewarding Yourself (or how it works for me)

This is the forth post in a series leading up to TPR's one year anniversary on April 12th. It is time for us examine our habits and recommit to the practice room premise (it was also time for me to spell it out)! Find the other steps here, here, and here.

Make writing itself the reward.

I did Julia Cameron's book The Artist Way five years ago. Back when I just returned to writing after having my second child. I had got through grad school with one baby on my hip, but it was painful. I planned on giving up the writing when the second came around. Just for a little while. And then graduated very pregnant, gave birth a month later and did not pick up a pen again until the new one was three. Very thought through. It seemed like a good age. And when my planned return to writing came around, I did manage to find a little bit of time to sit down and do it. But the writing did not come as planned. I discovered it is not like riding your bike. There is too much baggage. I would pick up my pen and get tired. Excruciatingly so. Everything in my being screaming at me to stop. I took a lot of naps.

In the meantime I had discovered mindfulness. My new baby daughter required it of me. She was an explosive, sensitive infant and didn't comfort as my son had. For both our sakes I needed to learn how to breathe. And I did. I meditated her to sleep at night. I did yoga for me. I learned to breathe for her when she couldn't.

She is a changed kid. I can not take credit for it. But, thanks to mindfulness, I did no harm.

Writing was another sensitive and reactive baby. I needed to find mindfulness to cut it off at the pass before I made it to some kind of monster. Enter The Artists Way. You can say a lot of things about that book and I won't, but her morning pages are brilliant. Her program requires three handwritten pages a day. There is no goal to this writing. No good or bad day. No need to read them. No need to believe what they tell you. Just do it. The writing doesn't matter as much as the practice itself does. Writers write. I write. I wrote every crappy thought that crossed my mind. I didn't like them or hate them I just put them behind me. The words began to be something I craved instead of something that put me to sleep. It became another form of meditation. And in itself a comfort. I still write my morning pages everyday. But the pages have changed. I can not take credit for it.

There are a lot of critiques of writing as therapy. I don't totally get them. Where are the critiques of biking as therapy or yoga or breathing, because as far as I can tell all things that get you to the place where you no longer matter are therapy. The things that bring us to that flow state are therapy. That is where we find connection to something greater then ourselves.

I am writing this blog post as I write my pages. I do them on the computer now. At 750 Words. That address in the ether feels unhindered by expectations. I can explore my thoughts on my new manuscript, write a draft for a blog post, write copy of class descriptions and circle round my fears and insecurities, circumventing them until I am writing more and more and more.  I copy and past what I want to save, I leave behind those things I don't. I am not a good writer, nor am I a bad writer. I write.

How do you reward yourself?

Next Thursday: Habits are behavioral.


  1. I completely believe in this post...I write for the joy of writing - when I'm doing it right, that is. When I can empty my mind of ego-grasping and free fall into the world of just the right word, phrase or idea.
    I did the Artists' Way and thought it was swell. It was a form of western meditation for me, clearing my mind of the discursive thoughts or getting me to feel such revulsion for the cycles that I did something about them...all good. I do think there is a problem in ONLY writing in a journalistic way if you want to be a novelist - might work for essayists though. It is like training for a marathon - you have to do those long runs (walks) to build up to it - you can't only practice with sprints.
    As for writing as therapy, anything that brings you to your present awareness is therapeutic. And I guess I can say that because I'm a writer and a psychotherapist. I often give The Artists' Way to clients.
    Jan Morrison

  2. Yeah, Jan, you're absolutely right about the journalistic writing. If you want people to read your work you still got to do the craft. My husband the therapist often prescribes writing too. People often need a way into their thoughts and the present moment - writing seems to help. Thanks for your comment.

  3. I don't reward myself enough. I'm really terrible about that sort of thing. But I'm going to change, I tell you! :) Thanks for the nudge!

  4. Anita - You work hard! You deserve it.

  5. I'm a big believer in the reward system. There is a square of dark chocolate waiting for me in the kitchen for when I hit 2000 words today.

    I can almost taste it.....

  6. Yeah, Kelly, I should totally do that! Although who am I kidding I eat the chocolate before I write! Wait! What are you doing at my blog? Get writing!

  7. I like how you just write and cut and paste what you want to keep. Probably a good way to just let the words flow for the time being.

    And I seriously reward myself with chocolate. If I do this many words...I get this dessert. :) Except then I reward myself with dessert even if I don't make the word count...

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