September 15, 2008
Morning Pages - Violet Nesdoly
If there's one kind of book I enjoy reading it's writing how-to. Julia Cameron, Natalie Goldberg, Heather Sellers, Anne Lamott-- I've read them all, and more. Books like theirs make me feel hopeful, optimistic and reassured that with perhaps a new method and just a little more self-discipline there is still hope for the writer in me.
I've come across another such book lately and, predictably, it's put me on a writing high. But these books also have a negative effect on me. Specifically they challenge something in my spirit -- the side of me that hears God's voice and wants to follow His call no matter what my self-will or others says.
The conflict comes because these books are, by and large, written from a humanist perspective. They espouse the world view that says the most important thing is me and realizing my own potential. If writing is part of that, growing and developing my gift becomes my first priority.
Take, for example, Heather Sellers' book Page After Page (a book I read some time ago). One of her main messages is that you need to treat your writing like the lover in the center of your life.
Now I have a little problem with that. You see, I already have a lover - it’s Jesus. And I’ve struggled against my natural tendency to make writing my lover enough on my own without being told to do it by others as well.
I found myself in the battlefield again last week after I'd read the first chapter of Julia Cameron's newest book, Finding Water. In it she prescribes three pages of journal writing in longhand first thing every morning (Morning Pages).
Now I know this is a good habit. Trouble is, I already have a routine where the first thing I've done every morning for years is have my quiet time (read the Bible, journal about it--another type of morning pages really, pray etc.). But because my current writing practice needed a boost I decided there'd be no problem with putting my usual practice in second place. I found an empty scribbler and began writing Morning Pages first thing in the morning.
However, after a few days of pre-empting my quiet time with Morning Pages (even though I had an abbreviated quiet time later), something seemed askew. I knew without much introspection what it was. By substituting Morning Pages, I was in some way giving priority to this (wo)man-made plan, rather than putting my trust in God -- to whom I've surrendered my writing life and its success countless times.
So about three days into Morning Pages, I made them my second activity (sorry, Julia Cameron). Because in the end, it's not writing success that's first in my life, but the "Well done" of my Master. I've decided it's more important that I meet with Him first every day than that I adhere to the prescription of the writing gurus, even if my writing suffers for it.
I know I'll continue to read, enjoy, and benefit from books about how to write. But as I read I will also need to keep reminding myself about whose I am and how my relationship with Him trumps everything else in life -- even the best writing advice in the world.