Writing as a Practice

I make writing my spiritual practice. It takes practice.

Winding down my work days at my day job and gearing up for my new small biz, I have let my blogging slide. I want to get back into the practice.

Also, let’s face it, the Olympics are on. I watch these athletes every night. I see effortless skill and human perfection. It looks like magic. But to get into these games, they have spent at least ten thousand hours practicing.

Practice is such a boring word and is such a boring idea. It seems to bear no fruit. It reminds me of those few piano lessons I had in second grade, sitting there in our front room in Skokie, Illinois. No one to hear me or encourage me as I pounded out my drills and scales.

And it all amounted to nothing. I did not seem to get better. I still can’t play the piano. Truth be told, I spent way more time avoiding practice than practicing. I loved kickball better.

But wait, there were a few moments of fun. I remember goofing off on the piano by myself, figuring out how to play Raindrops Keep Falling on My Head, not by reading the music, but by hearing the tune I loved in my head and playing it. Just playing around.

I guess if practice requires some kind of play, some kind of goofing around, it is not deadly boring. Practice, then, becomes a discovery and not a rote memory.

Practice becomes a journey, a way to pole vault you from one side of the hurdle to another.

I may never make it to the Olympics of writing, but I will practice any way. For in the art of practice, there is gold.

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This was the back of a tee shirt at the United Methodist Ubuntu Day of Service, working at the Tierra Negra Farm in Durham, NC.
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Creative Writing Improves Health

Through a screen, this is this morning's view as I write in my journal.

I write about feeling unnoticed or unappreciated; I also write about feeling grateful and lucky. Today’s list was long.

One of the things I’m grateful for is this daily habit of writing. I journal every morning.

Here’s why:

Writing provides clarity. I come to the end of my three pages of handwritten catharsis with a deeper understanding of some of the puzzles of my life. Nothing’s resolved, but the clean sheets are hung out to dry. I can see what I’ve got.

Journaling improves health. The physical effects of journaling are similar to the effects of meditating. My breathing slows down. My attention turns inward.

Writing documents the journey. I can reassure myself that things aren’t that bad, or confess that they are worse. My written words, once laid out, give me a benchmark if I should ever look back. But I never look back.

Journaling taps into my unconscious. Writing first thing in the morning, I dump my dreams on the page. They make no sense, yet are telling me something, some bubbled-up, mixed-up message. In looking at my dreams, I take the position that I am every character. I am more than me.

This blog is about health and fitness. Journaling is part of my mental and psychic fitness. It is my therapy. And journaling every morning is cheaper and more convenient than talk therapy. I began this morning habit ten years ago following the path of Julia Cameron’s guidebook, The Artist’s Way. I heard her speak years ago at Marble Collegiate Church. Loved her then. Love her now.

I write a lot more about creative writing at my blog, The Connected Life. http://gettingmyessayspublished.wordpress.com/ There, I document unplugging the kids from their media and all things writing.

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3 Simple Rules

When I used to do stand up, I would tell myself 3 things right before I went on stage:

1. Be yourself

2. Have fun

3. It’s important

And I am trying to tell myself these same 3 rules at the start of every day.

I did not sleep well last night. One of the darlings came into bed with me at around 2. She’s nearly as big as an adult so she woke me. We have no air conditioning. It was  hot. I tossed and turned. Then I  moved to my daughter’s now-empty bed. I’d heard an antidote to insomnia is changing rooms.

As I walked in the hall, I heard the television was still on. My husband stays up way too late into the night, sometimes until 3 or 4. Then of course he falls asleep in the early evening hours when you’re talking to him (blame the Parkinson’s). Hearing the television just made me feel all sad and jumbled — my life, my restless night, my work. And I couldn’t wait until morning so I could dump all my thoughts, worries, dreams, into my journal.

1. Be yourself. Because there is a unique point of view based on a unique life’s journey. And for whatever reason, this is my journey. This is mine.

2. Have fun. Because I seriously believe that we are put on this earth to give and experience joy. The goal in life is to be happy, joyous, and free.

3. It’s important. Because I can easily dismiss my point of view, or expect that I am less than. But what I have to say is important.

I did fall asleep in my daughter’s bed and woke to write all this in my journal.