Pages Before Phones

Friday is street sweep day in my neighborhood. I'm one of those Manhattanites who have a vehicle for the purpose of driving to the Bronx to going to Target once every six weeks. The rest of the time, I sit in the car for an hour and a half every Friday so I could keep my precious spot. And, holy shit, if I get a spot IN FRONT OF MY BUILDING, that fucker is staying there till the season (and my seasonal depression) turns over.

Anywho, that's not what today's post is about (but more on that later), so much as I love to brag about getting a parking spot in front of my building, today's post is about morning pages.

I've touched on The Artist's Way in a previous post. It's a 12-week program that helps you conquer your blocks, and builds a path to creative recovery (the author, Julia Cameron, puts that way more elegantly). You don't have to be in the arts to get the full experience - a lot of what I took from it was business-related.

Most people drop out after a couple weeks. And, those who make it to the dreaded "money week", usually high-tail it the fuck out of there. You're forced to confront a lot of demons, make sacrifices, and take accountability for a lot of difficult things. It's a lot of work. I see a lot of artists try and start groups to do it together, and most of them fall off pretty quickly. It's one of the hardest things I've ever stuck with and DEFINITELY the first time I've ever actually read and absorbed a textbook.

Even if you forget nearly everything you work on while completing the program, the two most crucial things people usually take away are the weekly "artist date", and the morning pages. The artist date is the fun one, where you take yourself out for a treat, whether it's a museum, restaurant, walk in the park, whatever tickles your fancy. It's meant to be 100% by yourself, where you spend time reflecting on your art and perform an act of kindness for yourself. As you can imagine, this is REALLY hard for people to do without feeling guilty. Because why the fuck should we be nice to ourselves, amiright?!?! (Tell them you're being facetious.) Shut up, asshole. They're adults, they understand sarcasm.

While I occasionally forget (feel like I didn't earn) the artist date from time to time, the morning pages have been critical to my mental health. And by critical, I mean c-r-i-t-i-c-a-l. With a capital C. (They get it.)

An excerpt from the book:

"Morning Pages are three pages of longhand, stream of consciousness writing,

done first thing in the morning. *There is no wrong way to do Morning Pages*–

they are not high art. They are not even “writing.” They are about

anything and everything that crosses your mind– and they are for your eyes

only. Morning Pages provoke, clarify, comfort, cajole, prioritize and

synchronize the day at hand. Do not over-think Morning Pages: just put

three pages of anything on the page...and then do three more pages tomorrow."

I'll admit - for the longest time, I feel like I've done them wrong - especially in the past few months. They are intended to be written as soon as you open your eyes in the morning, when all of the "gunk" - anxiety, self-loathing thoughts, second-guessing, etc. is ready to fucking pounce.

What I would do looks something like this:

  • Wake up.

  • Snooze for an hour, which isn't a bad thing.

  • Stare at the ceiling for 6 minutes, hoping I could get back to sleep, allowing the anxiety demon to kick in the door and wave the 44.

  • Open Instagram, doom scroll for 40 minutes.

  • Open Twitter, global news doom scroll for 20 more minutes.

  • Reopen instagram, continue to compare myself to others for another 15 minutes.

  • Get up to pee (you can tell them you're a morning pooper.)

  • Make coffee. Jump back and forth between Instagram and twitter in my underwear while the coffee brews.

  • Answer an email or two.

  • Sit down at my desk. Answer text messages.

  • Open my morning pages journal, then open my laptop.

  • Think about starting my pages, get distracted by a text.

  • Write a page.

  • Open ESPN.

  • Read about the Mets' loss the night before and get pissed off.

  • Write a couple of sentences.

  • Seek out dumbass relative that I unfriended on Facebook and read their latest share of an idiotic, political meme.

  • Answer an email.

  • Stare at the wall for three minutes.

  • Fill out the rest of page 2.

  • Yell at Fucko for scratching the carpet.

  • Pick him up and tell him I'm sorry for yelling. Put my ear on his fur and hear his purring. Wonder why this isn't a professional form of therapy.

  • Sit back down, write a couple sentences.

  • (They get it.)

Okay, you get it (I said it first).

As you can see, I've allowed way too many outside factors, almost all of which, outside of having a purr-fest with Fucko, to create anxiety before I'm able to fully commit to what I'm putting on the page. That ain't good.

A few weeks ago, my acting coach, Matt Corozine, opened class by talking about how tending to his phone was the LAST thing he does while getting ready for the day. That hit me. The same night, I turned my phone off before bed, which is something that, in my ten+ years of having a smart phone, I've never, ever done.

The next day, I wrote the most coherent, productive pages I've written since I initially started the program in late-2019. Every day since, I've put off turning on my phone until I was truly prepared to see what the fuck was on the other side of that screen. Had I not started incorporating that into my morning routine, I probably wouldn't have had the capacity to start this blog. No bullshit.

This morning, upon sitting in the car and waiting for the street sweeper to come by, I didn't have time to do my pages before I left. Once I got in the car, I dawned on me that I should have taken my notebook. So instead, I turned on sports talk radio… and my phone.

The difference in my pages today were stark. It was the same scatter-brained routine as before.

When I get into a healthy groove, I have the "winning streak" mentality that can be counterproductive. Maybe it's the sports-fan blood, but when I have a three-week streak of doing this really cool, productive activity, and it gets broken, I will beat the shit out of myself.

So, I'll try and manifest a new, difficult-to-execute mentality on this here blog:

Forgive myself, start a new streak tomorrow.

If you are struggling with your mental health, there is no shame in getting help:

The National Suicide Prevention Lifeline is a United States-based suicide prevention network of over 160 crisis centers that provides 24/7 service via a toll-free hotline with the number 1-800-273-8255. It is available to anyone in suicidal crisis or emotional distress.

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