Why I Stopped “Morning Pages”

Have you ever heard of morning pages? They are one of the basic tools laid out in The Artist’s Way by Julia Cameron. I recently had a writing instructor recommend her students read the book and begin the practice.

The morning pages practice is simple: rise early each day to write three pages “of longhand writing, strictly stream of consciousness” (10). One should use the space/time to get the gunk of life out of one’s head, down on the page, and move on from there. The book has many examples of the miracle of morning pages, about students who had started the practice and found success in their professional field, crediting morning pages for the breakthrough.

I was completely enamored with the idea. It was presented that if I could just journal for three pages every morning, well, then I’d start writing in a meaningful way and actually become a writer. Though I already had a pretty consistent journaling practice, this was a more structured take on it.

Since last fall until about two weeks ago, I was very dedicated to the morning pages. I would wake up at four AM before my twelve hour shifts to journal. I would journal on my days off my day job. I would sometimes write more than three pages. I would pull a tarot card and use that as a prompt. I felt very productive.

Can you guess what I wasn’t doing? I wasn’t writing anything creatively. No inspiration appeared “seemingly out of nowhere” (17). In fact, my morning pages turned into me writing that I was anxious about not writing. I was talking myself through it being ok that I wasn’t writing creatively. I was making excuses, writing, ‘well, at least I’m reading a lot right now.’ I would journal and then think ‘ok well there’s that writing done for today…now to go do my work/errands/chores/exercise/etc’ with no space left for the writing that I actually wanted to produce!

I talked this through with a writerly friend. About how journaling/morning pages was actually holding me back from writing. About just doing the damn thing and actually writing. I decided to say fuck it to morning pages and put my journal aside.

That was a week and a half ago.

Since opening up that time in my life — and giving my headspace a break of the ‘checked box’ that was morning pages — my creativity and desire to write creatively has grown. I still get up at four AM on a work day, but now I produce story. I read more short stories. I’ve nearly finished my own short story. I am doing. And that’s the real miracle.

Cry, Babe, Cry

At our last session with our therapist, my partner and I were challenged to cry with one another.  The therapist suggested we put on a sad film, and (1) feel in our body where the emotion of “sadness” starts, and (2) shed tears with one another.  We decided to watch This Is Us, a family drama tv show, one I had already watched before, and cried at on my own.  A tv show works well for us because we don’t have much relaxing time together.  Andy liked the first episode, and we both had a little tears, so we’re sticking with it and we’ll see where it goes from here…

But the day after that therapy session, I did a tarot spread for myself that I had found on Sammy’s blog, Spirit and Saga.  Her post talks about how her inability to cry led her to feeling stagnant creatively, and vice versa.  This peaked my interest, as while I am not feeling particularly stagnant creatively, I wondered how the release of my emotions could contribute to my creative productivity, and help me to write my novel.  She provided the following spread.


The positions are:

  1. Block.  What’s in your flow’s way?  What is the root issue that blocks you from feeling?
  2. Action.  What action can you take to overcome this block?  What release work can you try now?
  3. Affirmation.  What advice does the Universe have for you?  What can you keep in mind while feeling and releasing?

My responses were pretty interesting, and are shown below.


  1. Block.  Eight of Wands.  Well, this card isn’t one I would traditionally think as a blocking card.  This card is about forward action, it’s about movement, inertia, results.  And perhaps that is my exact downfall at this time.  I’m concerned with moving from place to place, solving the problem and moving on to the next.  I’m working on writing my novel, and sometimes that takes precedence over all things.  The warning inherent is this card is of being too aggressive, of ignoring the need for balance, of not sitting and settling with the emotional experience.  And I feel that is exactly the answer to this question.  As an Aquarius/swords-y person, I tend to brush over emotions.  A lesson that came in the next week after pulling this spread, is that it’s ok to sit with the hurting emotions, it’s ok for things to not be immediately perfect.  And I think this card here reflects that.
  2. Action.  Three of Wands.  This is kind of a weird card to me.  I almost feel as if it’s unnecessary, but when looking at in within the context of the two of wands and four of wands, it’s meaning is more clear.  Quite simply, this card is about growth and perspective.  It is the leverage that takes the dreams of the two of wands to the stable positioning of the four of wands.  Here, it tells me to take a step back, to look at the larger context of my emotional experience.  That larger context is, perhaps, how my emotional tides can affect my creative productivity.  In the Hudes Tarot (which is the deck I used here), the three of wands talks of looking inward for strength.  The woman pictured appears lost in thought, as she picks up the fallen wand.  While I believe inward contemplation is necessary, the three of wands in general has an expansive meaning, growing in potential and perspective so that I can contextualize my emotional experience.
  3. Affirmation.  Eight of Swords.  Another eight.  This card does not feel like an affirmation from the universe, it feels like a warning of what could happen if I don’t reel in the eight of wands energy from card one.  Though the eight of swords is basically a prison, it reaffirms to me that I can break out of it.  My emotions need not be a prison, my emotions need find a flow, a flow between emotion and expression, creatively and emotionally.

As if this spread didn’t give me enough food for thought, the same day I did this spread, I received a reading from Ashley over at Moon & Lioness, shown below.


I asked her to read on my creative endeavor, my in-progress novel.  What struck me most about Ashley’s reading for me was the connection she drew between my relationship and my creative work (from the two of vessels mostly).  She wrote of finding a balance, of taking inspiration from my relationship.  She emphasized participation with my full heart in my life, and thus, in my novel.

That all of the fiery imagery in Ashley’s reading for me, and my own reading with the fiery wands, happened on the same day tells me that my creativity, my relationship, my emotions, my tears are inherently linked.  It tells me that what happens in one part of my life is inexorably linked to another part.  My emotions are not a prison, my emotions are part of the flow of creativity.  Such a big, morphing message to integrate into my practice!

What a day for all of these thoughts to ruminate!  Happy full moon and lunar eclipse in Aquarius, my friends.

Do you have any problems embracing your emotional flow?  What happened *when* you embraced your emotional flow?  How do you relate your emotions and creativity?  Have you every used Sammy’s spread (highly recommend!)?  Let me know in the comments.

exploringly yours,
Alaina x


Scary Couples Therapy

I had a therapy session with my partner yesterday.  We’ve been seeing this therapist since the beginning of the year, and we both enjoy attending the sessions and find value in our conversations.  She calls us on our bullshit and pushes us where we are uncomfortable.  And, boy, we’ve been uncomfortable.  We’ve been resistant, hesitant, lazy, and scared.  But we’ve also been successful, begun healing, busted barriers, and continue to grow together with her assistance.  It’s a practice: showing up, trying things to see what works, and then trying something else.

We were extremely resistant about starting couples therapy.  We were confused about why our “young” relationship needed such work.  Shouldn’t this be easy?  Shouldn’t this be something people who are married 20 years need, not a couple that has only been together for 5 years?  Are we failing?  Are we trying to scoop water out of our sinking boats with barehands?  The answer to all those questions, of course, is yes, and no.

One thing I realized yesterday is that we have gone through more shit together in 5 years than a lot of those couples who have been together for 20 years.  He was in school, I was in school (nursing school = hell), he moved away, his brother died by suicide, my grandparents passed away, I moved away, he started school again, we moved in together, and some other things that are too big and too private and maybe one day I’ll write about them, but that day is not today.  So, damn, yeah, it’s like we can’t catch a break.

But, we’re still together, and that is thanks to hard work and consistent practice.  Couples therapy is like that buzzword “shadow work” on a massive scale.  To be honest, I’ve never seen a therapist on my own, so I don’t really know how this would compare.  But, sitting on a couch, with the person who you love and trust most in this world and talking about your shame or your past or your hurts is really fucking vulnerable and scary.  You’ve got to pull out everything that is ugly and look at it and talk about it.  You’ve got to accept it or change it.  You’ve got to honor those dark underbelly thoughts and feelings, the things we keep hidden and buried.

I have no doubt my partner would accept me and all of my faults, whatever comes out, but admitting those faults to myself is really the scariest part.  I know I’m getting to something good in therapy when I start to go: “well, umm, yeah, kinda.”  I know I’m getting to something good when I can’t completely own it outright.  95% of the time, our therapist calls us on our shit and is accurate.  100% of the time I resist immediately when someone tells me how to feel.  But then I sit, and I allow, and I know she’s right.  We walk out of our sessions smiling, particularly the sessions that kick us in the ass.

And so yesterday, our therapist tasked us with watching a movie and examining our emotions while doing so.  Not just any movie, a sadass, hold-those-tears-in-because-I-don’t-want-anyone-to-see-me-cry, tear jerker.  Except that she wants us to cry.  There have only been a handful of times that Andy and I have cried in front of each other, and it’s always been stilted, awkward, pretend-I’m-not-really-crying crying.  And let’s be real, that’s pretty fucked up.  I love and trust this person more than anyone, why can’t our emotions flow with each other?  (I did a tarot spread yesterday on this, and that will be the next blog post ;))

That’s what I’m doing in the next week: watching a movie with my lover and trying to cry.  Give me some recommendations of excellent crying movies!  And, if you’ve seen a couples therapist and want to talk about, I’d love to read your thoughts in the comments!  What was your experience like?  Scary as hell, too?  Or, the opposite?  Let me know in the comments 🙂

exploringly yours,
Alaina x

A Smorgasbord of a Post: Spring, Hitchhiking and DVD Players

Photo by Josef Stuefer

Small town living has given me time to consider and observe. Since I’ve been here, life, for me, has slowed down considerably. There is time to share a coffee and pastry with my landlord, have a meandering walk to the grocery store (but before 7:30 pm, because that’s when it closes!), listen to the birds chirping in the morning and evening or take a bath if I so desire. And while I didn’t end up penning that elusive first novel, I’ve been able to make many valiant attempts. This year has been a welcome break from the hustle-and-bustle that was the University of Michigan.

And so, now, I give you my observations of the week, which are not much to publish in independently, but combined, make a nice smorgasbord of thoughts…

  • Bad Aussee is GREEN. Last Saturday, walking to the train station, I felt like my eyes opened for the first time. In the past two weeks, the snow has melted off all but the highest peaks, I’ve sun-bathed on my balcony in shorts and a tank top and we’ve had a few days of rain and cloud cover. The result: green, in every shade! The trees are sprouting their leaves, buds are budding and the grass is growing at an astounding rate. My walk to school is shaded in yellow-green, emerald green, evergreen, lime green, pea green and everything in between. I thought I knew what green was, but know I really know.
  • Hitchhiking is OK when you live in the middle of nowhere. My parents, grandparents, media and campfire horror stories all taught me that hitchhiking was bad. And inevitably ended in kidnapping and/or death. There is a sign on the drive to my cottage in Gaylord, MI that says, “PRISON ZONE: Don’t pick up hitchhikers.” … OK, OK — hitchhiking is wrong and dangerous: I get it. But in the last two weeks, I’ve been the hitchhiker twice and in the vehicle picking up a hitchhiker once. And you know what, it was a fun, even pleasant, experience each time. I think my small-town area lends itself to hitching. When you could stick out that thumb or walk the 3 km to your destination under the hot sun, I’d say the choice is clear. I no longer have qualms about trying to catch a ride whilst trudging along. However, not sure I’d do it in the US…
  • I hate my DVD player on my computer. Why is it that computer DVD players cannot play DVDs from all regions? Why?? I purchased my computer in the United States and it can only play Region 1 DVDs, which have been produced, purchased and intended for viewing in the United States (and Canada). But guess what? I live in Austria, a Region 2 country. I’ve watched the same DVDs all year, and while my British friend, Frankie, can buy a new DVD every time boredom strikes, I cannot. Please, computer companies, take folks like myself and other expats into consideration next time and start producing region-less DVD players, OK? Thank you.

So, what has been on your mind this week? Share your thoughts in the comments.

Until next time!

The End is Nigh.

Well, people, 41 more days and I’ll be landing at perhaps the most heinous airport in the world, Detroit Metro. I purchased my ticket, everything is official. I’m excited to go home and see my family, friends and dogs. I can’t wait to eat Mexican food and drink Oberon. Yet, as I sit in my apartment, I get an anxious knot in my stomach.

This knot is not only from the incredible task ahead of me — sorting through all of my belongings, deciding what to keep, toss or leave behind for next year, taking the train and two airplanes back to Detroit with all my luggage — but it’s also from indecision. Should I be happy to leave? Should I be sad? Do I want to leave? Do I want to stay? Am I really about to leave?

This year has been the best year of my life. I’ve met so many new people who I love and get along with really well. I’ve been able to explore a new country, expand my German skills, learn how to live completely on my own and take care of myself. I’ve partied in countless cities and seen the sun rise on many-a night out. I have no regrets.

But the end is in sight. Since my Easter Break in the Czech Republic and my last weekend partying in Graz, it feels even closer. I’m not sure who I’ll see again before the end of the year, I won’t go to Vienna again and probably not Graz. My teachers never seem to need me anymore (I’ve worked 4 of 13 hours this week) and boredom has reached an all-time high. I just want to be home already.

41 more days… I know THE END won’t hit me until a few weeks later. And though I’m coming back to Austria in 4 months, next year will be a whole different experience with new people and places.

I look at this past year as another phase in my life. I’m a big believer in phases. High school was a phase, college a phase, Freiburg was a phase, and Bad Aussee, Austria is my most recent phase. I made memories and friends in each phase, and some people have made it through to the next, but many have been left behind. I’ve taken what I could from each phase, and soldiered on to the next one.

I don’t know, I never know. I’m rambling — that much I do know.

“What I was really hanging around for, I was trying to feel some kind of a good-by.  I mean I’ve left schools and places I didn’t even know I was leaving them.  I hate that.  I don’t care if it’s a sad good-by or a bad good-by, but when I leave a place I like to know I’m leaving it.  If you don’t, you feel even worse.” ~J.D. Salinger, The Catcher in the Rye, Chapter 1

I hear ya, Holden.