Practices

I have been doing various daily practices for many years and they have been instrumental in my artistic and spiritual growth. For over 20 years I’ve been doing “morning pages” (from The Artist’s Way by Julia Cameron) which is doing 2 to 3 pages of stream-of-consciousness writing in longhand each day. For almost 20 years I’ve also been writing one haiku every day, which means I have a lot of haiku by now. And for about 5 years I’ve been doing what I call my “daily draw” which means I draw or paint or sculpt an image from the day before, sometimes illustrating the haiku I just wrote, or something I saw on my daily walk, or something I remember from a conversation, or whatever appears from my hands.

None of these writings or drawings has to be good, although sometimes they are excellent. But quality is not the issue, and despite the mounds of paper I now have filled with scribbles, poems, and drawings, neither is quantity. The issue is practice. In practice you are allowed to make mistakes, to be a novice, to admit your failings. Practice teaches you to love and appreciate yourself, in all your flawed and silly glory.

Practice makes me happy. Every day.

The Origin of Flowers

Red rosesYesterday was Valentine’s Day, symbolized by roses and other flowers. Who doesn’t love flowers? (Grouchy people, that’s who.) But where do flowers come from?

They come from garbage, decomposition, and death, that’s where. In short, they come from compost, which is the name of this blog.

Every morning I write my morning pages, which are made of both garbage and roses. I write whatever comes out of my pen, and out of the discarded boring self-centered rubbish sometimes blooms words and thoughts of enormous beauty. I have been proving this to myself for twenty years and yet I am still excited and amazed when it happens again.

Thank you, compost, for giving me roses on Valentine’s Day.

Compost: History or Compost?

notebooksI have twenty years’ worth of “Morning Pages” cheapo notebooks stacked in my spare bedroom closet. I started doing morning pages, as suggested by Julia Cameron’s The Artist’s Way, in early 1993. Morning pages changed my life, and I am not indulging in hyperbole. I wrote (and continue to write) three pages in longhand per day of what I came to call my “compost.” I’d estimate that out of those 7300 days (365 times 20) I’ve missed maybe 30 at the most. One notebook includes about two to three months’ worth of entries, depending on the size of the notebooks. (I like variety in my notebooks, so they come in all sizes, wide ruled, narrow ruled, number of pages, etc.) Twenty years is 240 months, so at two months per notebook, I have about 120 notebooks. My closet is stuffed.

Wow. Now what do I do with these notebooks, currently stacked in that closet in the room I fondly call my library, because it’s where I keep all my books, except for my growing collection of ebooks, which take up no room but often don’t feel real. My Morning Pages notebooks are more than real. They are full of unimportant trivia and deep insights, often nestled together on the pages. Frustrations, anger and joy – and memos to myself to do the laundry, and what food I had for dinner the night before. Ideas for new books, stories, and poems. Writer’s block blown up and creativity unleashed – right next to complaints and bitchiness. Forgiveness and grace, pettiness and guilt. Spilling some secrets that I’ve never told anyone, and even had problems writing them down because it was the first and only time I could admit them to myself.

I should throw these notebooks away, right? Or burn them? The historian in me rebels at that. Save them for my kids to decide to throw them away after I’m dead? But – they might read them and perhaps some of my unedited ramblings will hurt or upset them. Equally bad – they won’t read them because they don’t care, and all my brilliant thoughts will be lost.

And if I save them, then what about when I’m 90 and living in one room in a home for “seniors,” that euphemism for Old that fools no one. By that time there will be even more notebooks and they will take over, I’ll be eaten by my past.

I don’t know what to do with them, so for right now I’ll just continue to write in them and stuff them in the closet. And my life will continue to be saved.