My picks to do this practice with are mostly random, although I admit that if my first random pick doesn’t jazz me at all, I move on to another one. I suppose were I a purist, I’d be stuck with my first pick but then the post itself (the reflection on the earlier writing) might be quite curt.
Given this, a few words on the tools of the trade. I bought a number of colorful spiral bound notebooks in the 8 1/2 x 11 inch size with 80 college ruled pages per notebook. Each day I write morning pages, I write on three pages in longhand with a gel roller pen. I only use the front of the page, not the backside so I can read them more easily later. I date the entries and have lately put the time I begin writing and the day of the week. What I’ve learned is that these help orient me when I look back. I generally do not re-read what I’ve written for a long time. In some cases, I’ve still got some old morning pages from years ago that I’ve never re-read.
I’m not constrained in what I’m writing – and I have written everything from daily brain dumps, to to-do lists, to issues I can’t quite get rid of in equal measure. I record dreams that I remember and sometimes try and work with the dream although at other times, I just let it go on the page. It’s not meant to be writing that will ever be read by anyone else. Although to the extent that I am sharing some of these pages on the blog, it’s because in re-reading them, something has been sparked and they may be worthy of a second look by me.
So with that – I give you a portion of my morning pages from March 27, 2013:
The blank page. The beginning of a day – or a life. Of course the page isn’t entirely blank – if paper, there is matter there, the fibers formed together to create the paper, and ink for the lines. If on the computer screen, there is a vast army of resources and time to create the blinking cursor. So nothing is entirely a blank page.
But still – as I sit and write out these words, place commas and periods appropriately [or not], I am really astounded at the mystery of creation, even if the only creation is the words on this page. That really doesn’t matter – it is creation. It comes from somewhere inside me – a part that can read, interpret symbols, form thoughts using my language, and express them through holding my pen and scratching ink across the paper.
Really, it’s all quite remarkable. The only downside to this process is that my brain works faster than my hand. No surprise there. But even so, the physicality of of [handwriting] to say, typing on a computer, is striking.
As you might note, I use brackets when a word needs to be changed or added for clarity. I try not to edit the entries too much, though.
And maybe that is the reflection of what I wrote just over a year ago. That the process of handwriting organizes my thinking and writing differently than writing on a computer. It may just be a function of the relative slowness of handwriting. Or it may be that the physicality that I mention above of holding a pen, forming letters and words, putting in punctuation, scratching out words as I go (oh, yes, I scratch out grievously mis-spelled words or ones that make no sense) and doing it over and over again for three pages reframes my thought process in a way that the relative speed of working on a computer cannot.
I type fast. Long ago, I worked as a secretary where I had to be at certain speeds to even get the job. I’m not sure I’m still at the speed I was when I was taking typing tests, but it’s significantly closer to my thought process, although not quite that fast.
To me the speed of getting it down, although sometimes quite helpful, is also crippling too. I can capture most everything on my mind, but should it all be captured? It’s like yes, I can vomit on the page/screen, but really is that a useful thing? I think not.
So slowing it down and allowing thoughts to form a bit more slowly, reflectively, has been helpful to me. I do tend towards scattering more than others.
I’ve long been interested in the idea that language changes our brains fundamentally and were hugely important in evolution. I don’t know that there’s an argument against this.
However, just a few nights ago, the History Channel had a program on about ancient man that made the statement that it was cooking and cooking meat in particular that made a huge leap in our evolution. There are anthropologists right now apparently looking into this idea and trying to find the evidence which turns out to be scant. There isn’t a lot of evidence of the vessels used in cooking, I guess. They think that when nomads made fires to warm themselves while hunting that meat dropped into the fire by accident, and that’s when they discovered – hey, this tastes better than the raw stuff (d’oh!).
It turns out that different enzymes are needed to digest cooked food versus raw. And the energy converted in the gut lasts longer with cooked food over raw, so this one thing, cooking, allowed people to be able to have more energy longer.
Even if it is was slight, the ability to be able to not have to spend every single minute of your waking state looking for food was a miracle. And it is what begins to distinguish us from our mammalian ancestors – we start having time to do other things besides survive. Oh you know . . . like painting in caves and writing blog posts.