Thing Number One: Today marks my 155th day in a row of doing morning pages. Every. Single. Day. Through holidays, visits from friends, heart transplants… through it all. I didn’t skip a single day.
Thing Number Two: My brain has a flavor of austism called PDA. (I just keep learnin’ about my brain y’all). PDA either stands for Pathological Demand Avoidance (which I hate because it makes it sound like I am actively avoiding something) or Persistent Drive for Autonomy (which I also hate because it makes it feel like a choice). I like to combine the two into Pathological Drive for Autonomy, which feels more like what it really is.
Now, the whole PDA thing means when something feels like a demand to my brain, alarms go off and it becomes 100 times more impossible to do the thing, whatever it is. I hate this part of my brain with more than any other amount of burning fires I have ever referenced before.
Cause here’s what it does to me. It makes things I want to do feel like a demand and then puts up all these red flags until overcoming the “demand” feeling isn’t worth it anymore. And it happens at the dumbest times, like…
Setting the alarm for ceramics class the next morning, which is – no exaggeration – my literal favorite part of every week, my brain pitches a damn fit every single time. Like this is something someone is forcing me to do and not something I look forward to coming back to the minute class is over.
Setting up the Streamyard room to watch Aussie “Survivor” with Barbs and Molls, my brain will try to convince me that this is a demand for all three of us and who am I kidding to keep this going? I should just end it so they don’t have to awkwardly try to figure out how to tell me themselves. Aussie “Survivor” is another highlight of every single week. It gets me SO HYPE, y’all.
Getting into a lovely routine of savoring a book by an author I cherish on the front porch in the cold with twinkle lights and a warm beverage, my brain starts setting off bells if I start doing it too many days in a row, making me think things like, “Oh I have to fit in that reading time” instead of, “Oh yay, I get to have my fun reading time again!”, which thus turns it into a demand. EVEN THOUGH I AM ENJOYING MYSELF!!!!!
And then the ones that really annoy me are when there is something I have been wanting to do, or watch or listen to and then someone tells me, “Oh you should do, watch or listen to this thing!” Nope. Now it is a demand and my brain will take too much convincing.
It’s infuriating. Embarrassing.
For a long time, I heavily masked it because I knew that what my brain was doing was negative and the wrong reaction to have, but that just lead me directly to burnout town, at many of the past jobs I’ve ever had. Some faster than others. It’s even a cycle I notice in my relationships, now that I know what to keep an eye out for.
I’ve started writing two books in the last year and change. At some point in each, the practice of writing – which I fully enjoyed – somehow became a demand to my brain and I slowly stepped away from both. I think there is something to be said for speaking about projects like that aloud, too. I haven’t quite been able to unpack that part of my brain as much as I have the PDA portion… yet!
I tried to buck the trend when I was working on the elephant book over the 22-23 NYE trip to Canada with KPerks by making accountability posts with word counts and what not. It worked for a while, then Logan went into the hospital and everything else felt tiny in comparison.
Then I was inspired to write something called “Benji Spaghettihead” because of a nickname I gave an Australian “Survivor” contestant. It was like this character popped into my head and demanded to be written about. So I did.
(It’s about a middle school-aged girl, not an Aussie Survivor fanfic. Don’t worry, I’m not that obsessed.)
Until I didn’t. See? I had made a habit of the daily practice of writing and busted past my elephant book word count super fast. But the habit felt too much like a demand. I let my brain win once, took a couple days break and it was hard to get the habit back. Then I asked a friend to read the first couple chapters because my brain had also convinced me that I was writing a crazy person’s book. And I haven’t moved an inch since then.
But I have done my morning pages every single day for the past 155 days. It has not once felt like a demand. Part of that is realizing the way my brain “sees” demands before I set out on my morning pages. The other big help was the companion book, “The Artist’s Way”. It spoke to my brain in the way it needed.
Morning pages are one of the big parts of working through “the Artist’s Way.” Basically, the first thing you do every morning is just write three pages of whatever words plop into your head.
For me, I wake up, fall back asleep for 30 more minutes of cuddles (still can’t believe I like cuddles now), wake up again, do my bathroom stuff, load the dishwasher and then settle into the front room to do my morning pages.
Some days I write about what I dreamt the night before. Some days I write about how sad I am that my favorite cheesesteak place stopped delivering at my favorite cheesesteak time. Other days I write a detailed pros and cons list about using a canteen for my water drinking vessel. Then there are times when I write about the connection between my bathroom habits and what I’ve been eating lately.
Then there are other days still when nothing of coherence comes and I just write nonsense. Or just describe the world around me, what the weather is like, what the couch I’m sitting on feels like, how the radiator heat is radiating towards me and keeping me warm.
Other days, I’m unpicking things in my brain, trying to figure out how it works the way it does. Others, I’ll write down the looping OCD thoughts that are stuck in there, no matter how ridiculous they are.
Those days are immensely helpful and fell like a weight has been lifted. It somehow makes things easier to let go, not all things, but, hey, a start is a start, right?
The other thing is, no one else is supposed to read your Morning Pages and, in fact, you shouldn’t even go back and read them. THat’s not the purpose of them. The purpose is to help get into the practice of getting the words in your brain out into the real world. Kind of an untangling, if you will.
It has been massively helpful for me. I look forward to it most mornings.
Yes, of course there have been a handful of days where my brain tried to talk me out of doing it. But I remained steadfast and told it, “Shut up, this is good for you.”