Working My Way Through “A Writer’s Book of Days”
While attending the Southern California Writers’ Conference last month, I bought a book written by one of my favorite presenters, Judy Reeves. Her “A Writer’s Book of Days” takes a similar approach to daily, free-form writing I learned in Judith Cameron’s “The Artist’s Way” with one twist. She gives a prompt for each day of the year.
As I started working my way through the book on March 6th, I chose the prompt for that day, more to remember where I’m at than any other reason. As I glanced through the prompts for January and February, I didn’t notice any kind of progression which would lead me to believe I needed to start from the first of the year rather than the current date.
Free-form writing with nothing but a spiral notebook and a pen is hardly new to me. I’ve been diligently writing my morning pages with only a few widely scattered missed days for well over a year, and have a growing collection of filled spiral notebooks to prove it. In fact, I’m seriously considering buying the darn things in bulk, if I can find a vendor with prices and quantities I like! The longer I write, the more I develop preferences.
Appreciating the Nearly Lost Art of Longhand
For notebooks, I like spiral-bound, 5-subject, college ruled books with 180 pages or more. (I’d love to find some with 500 or so pages, but so far, I’ve been thwarted in my search). After trying everything from Flair to Gel pens (I love lots of colors), I found my preferred implement in the Pilot Precise V5 Roller Ball. The extra fine tip suits my minuscule script perfectly. The only downside is the lack of color selection, as they’ve limited themselves to 7 colors. But I guess it’s better than the traditional black/red/blue combination.
Since re-discovering the nearly lost art of writing longhand, it’s become a great source of inspiration, not to mention the perfect way to start my day and eject any lingering dream fragments. Until today, though, my writing has been nothing more than a free-flowing and often disjointed stream-of-consciousness which may or may not bear some semblance to continuity.
Switching Things Up With Interesting Results
Writing with a prompt and freehand is an entirely new experience. Yes, the words still tend to meander from place to place, and at times may wander so far away from the prompt as to seem completely random. And yet, somehow, they string together with one thought flowing into the other instead of the way my morning pages seem to grasp stray thoughts out of the air and put them on the page with no thought for continuity or cohesiveness, a true picture of my monkey mind at work.
I’m also rarely called upon to re-read my morning pages unless some particularly useful (read blog-worthy) thought manages to find its way from brain to pen to paper. So writing with the help of a prompt brought a whole new element into the process, and made it far more personal than following where a prompt might take me with keyboard and computer screen.
The most conspicuous difference was a heightened awareness for a word or idea I repeated as my thoughts wandered. In this case, the word “variables” kept coming up in various contexts.
Finding Inspiration in Repetition
After reading what I’d written aloud, I also noticed I referenced wandering down paths a lot as well as returning to my sanctuary.
Before I go much further, let me share the prompt, though I guess unless you’re inside my mind, where it took me won’t make a whole lot of sense. Quite frankly, I’m not sure it makes much sense to me either, but I suppose making sense isn’t a requirement of the exercise.
What can be seen through the fog
The purposes for doing the prompts longhand are many, I’m sure. But the one which makes the most sense to me is how it connects you more directly to your subconscious, or even a place where the thinking part of your brain isn’t allowed to go. Though I’ve gotten good at shutting off my brain when I type, I wasn’t sure it could be done while trying to manipulate a pen. It seems to me that would require a little more attention from the thinking part of the brain. My first foray into prompted manual writing seems to tell a different story. Somehow, it isn’t really necessary to think about forming the words with the pen. Long years of practice (at least for people from my generation) make it as automatic as the steps for a line dance I’ve done over and over. It works best when I don’t think!
Other things came out of my initial leap into a new game. The repetitions tell me my higher mind has a few things it needs to get out in the open.
What’s in a Theme?
I seem to be getting hung up in all of the variables inherent in choosing a path. I see dozens of choices of direction, but far too many potential hazards and unpleasant outcomes to actually wander down any of them. I also seem to lose sight of the idea that I can turn back any time I want to if I don’t like the landscape, and that I’d consider few if any either life-threatening or irreversible. Instead, I hunker down in what I call a sanctuary, but is, in reality, another rut; another place I hide rather than risk making a bad decision.
What happened to the woman who took a massive leap of faith a few years ago? What happened to the conviction I’d be OK no matter where the new road I’d chosen took me? Yes, I know I’ve closed a few doors in the process, and the longer I’m gone from the corporate world, the harder it will be both to go back and to even be allowed back in, even if that was really what I wanted anyway.
I’ve come a few thousand miles closer to where I thought I wanted to go. Things are getting more complicated. As the variables and unknown factors mount, I am more afraid. But I’ve also spent the last few years being less inclined to fumble through all alone. I’ve let people in and given them reason to return the favor. I can share my fears without feeling like a failure. But in many ways, I’m stuck in one place; neither moving forward nor back, but simply fretting over moving at all. That’s what came out of the first step on my newest journey.
Dragging My Fears Out in the Open
At some point, a story might come out of these writing prompts, but for now, what I’m finding is self-awareness. Once again, I’m afraid. But I’ve been afraid before. I’ve been in far worse places than I am now. Each time, I focused on what was before me, more because I didn’t know any better than through the lessons I’ve since learned from works by Eckhart Tolle, Deepak Chopra, Lao Tzu, and others.
My biggest fear is financial, as it seems to always come back to my ability to take care of myself and my cats. Yet not once in all the times I’ve been nearly broke and struggling to climb out of a pit of self-imposed debt have I ever given up, or ever fallen all the way to the bottom. I’ve always had a roof over my head, food in my belly, and maybe most important of all, the ability to go out several times a week and dance away my fear, frustration, and feelings of unworthiness. Eventually, in every case, I found myself far better off than I’d been before the temporary setbacks.
In all fairness, I probably wallowed a bit before I started climbing back out. I probably despaired for a while before I came up with a solution, or started moving in a different direction than the one which had me feeling like I was drowning. And maybe that’s the message I need to take out of this writing exercise. Take what I’ve learned through countless trials and setbacks, discard any paths which have realistic reasons for being alarming, and give the rest of them a chance to prove my misgivings false. Hiding out in my house, ensconced in the comforting embrace of my cats and books isn’t going to take me any further along my path. It’s not going to get the stories I need to share to the people who need to hear them. And it’s certainly not going to give me a fighting chance of improving my financial future.
Stepping Onto the Next Road on My Life Journey
At this point, I’m excited about what the next writing prompt will uncover. The worst person in the world we can be dishonest with is ourselves. Yet we tell ourselves lies all the time. Not just the obviously destructive ones like “I’m unworthy” or “I’m not smart enough”. But the more subtle, more insidious ones: “I’m afraid I might fail.” “I can’t.” “I’m better off going it alone.”
Digging into my own psyche may have started out as a tool to help fuel my creativity, but sometimes, you have to exhume old bodies before you can create something new. The lessons long buried often yield unexpected stories ready to be told.
So Much to Be Grateful For
My gratitudes today are:
- I am grateful for new and different ways to get at the creative genius who lurks within.
- I am grateful for the new people with whom I’ve connected in the last month or so. They’re giving me new insight and inspiration.
- I am grateful I’ve learned comparing myself and my work to others is both limiting and damaging. We’re all at different places in our journey, with no true point of comparison with anyone else’s. It’s like comparing prunes to rattlesnakes.
- I am grateful for friends who tell it to me straight, and who know I’m strong enough to hear things that might, at first be uncomfortable because in the long run, they’ll encourage me to do better, be a better version of me.
- I am grateful for abundance; lessons, opportunities, possibilities, variables, reminders, guides, friendships, letting go, reaching new heights, commitments I’m keeping to myself, love, joy, peace, harmony, health, money, prosperity, and philanthropy.
Love and Light
Sheri Conaway is a writer, blogger, Virtual Assistant and advocate for cats. Sheri believes in the Laws of Attraction, but only if you are a participant rather than just an observer. She is available for article writing and ghost writing to help your website and the business it supports grow and thrive. Her specialties are finding and expressing your authentic self. If you’d like to have her write for you, please visit her Hire Me page for more information. You can also find her on Facebook Sheri Levenstein-Conaway Author