The Wellspring

More notes on creativity (from morning pages, of all things)

The act of creating (and the legacy our creations leave behind) is something that has been on my mind for a few years now. I recently did some mental and literal housekeeping, filing away old journals, reorganizing old essay snippets and things I’ve written down on virtual cocktail napkins, then moved everything into a new digital system to keep better track of what I’m thinking about.

From all this spring cleaning, I’ll admit to doing the inadvisable; nay, in some circles, the unthinkable: I read old morning pages. Morning pages are something I’ve committed to on and off over the last several years, though we’re arguably on a break more often than not.

Do you know the whole morning pages schtick? The heart of The Artist’s Way, I’ve seen it repeatedly referenced in writing workshops, books on creativity, books on getting started—basically anywhere that deals with making stuff. You set aside a time, ideally in the morning, to sit down and write for a specific length of time. You might measure the time in number of pages (The Artist’s Way recommends five total) or in actual minutes, but either way, the goal is to simply write and clear the mind of whatever junk is lingering. You could write down the same sentence over and over again, or ramble about a recurring dream you’re having, or address the pages in second person, like it’s a diary. Whatever! In doing this, at worst you clear the creative cobwebs and make way for the work of the day. At best, all that written meandering leads to some of your best work yet, easily incorporated into the project at hand.

Anyway, as I work on my own projects, I thought this entry I wrote last fall was worth putting out into the world. They are the early morning thoughts of someone struggling to make, struggling to figure out how to weave together a deep creative life with work and motherhood and family, of someone antsy and (if I recall) pacing in her cage. If you feel stuck creatively, I can’t tell you that I have any clear answers on how to fix it, but I hope in sharing my morning pages, you feel less alone.

November 2022

How do you learn to walk again? Especially when it feels like your legs were cut off—or, more like a third one was added to your body. Except this one is just shy of 3 feet tall and still learning how to balance and jump and dance.

I miss writing. I miss creating for myself and as a way to connect to the spirit and my own higher purpose. The last couple years have been hard on everyone, sure, but it does feel like something died in our culture, and usually when you’re at a funeral it is best to stay silent and simply observe and reflect. So I guess that’s what I’ve been doing. Living, working, raising a child, being quiet.

The older I get, the more “mother” I become, it feels less and less necessary to spray my thoughts across that blank, noisy void that is the Internet. But the irony is, the older I get, the more “mother” I become, I suspect I also have more to say, more wisdom to pass off, like I’m perched on your bed at night, whispering great lessons and gold nuggets right into your ear. That is probably pretty grandiose and delusional. Maybe for me, motherhood has taught me that I know both nothing and everything, that you can be capable of giving love that is continuously supplied from an unknown source, like a mountain spring with no origin point.

What does it even mean to create anymore when you are this tired all the time? Does the exhaustion push you to a place of genius? (Probably not.) Does your best work only happen in ideal conditions? How do you simulate those conditions when the ideal is nowhere on the horizon? It used to be that I could write something like this and then mull it over in my head for days, turning it over and over like rocks in a tumbler getting washed and polished smooth. Now it feels like the mind is so full and stretched and tired that there’s nowhere left to store these early morning thoughts, that they’ll be gone as soon as the notebook is closed. But maybe that is the thing that will stick with me in the coming days —that the pace at which I’m living and working but not even living and working has become untenable with the creative life I also wish to lead. Inevitably, then, I’ll probably gnaw on how to change that circumstance, or agonize over why it can’t be changed immediately.

Or can it? Maybe it’s as simple as waking up 40 minutes early, making a cup of tea, watching the sun come up, and writing something down.

Images by Victoria McGinley