Since the 1990s, Julia Cameron has dominated the bookshelves, bookstores, and church basements with her “The Artist Way” series of writings. At the center of each work is Cameron’s two regular exercises for Creatives—the artist date and morning pages. The artist date is not a date with an artist, though that would be good too, but a weekly visit to a creative place such as a gallery, bookstore, creative group, etc. The morning pages, what we will consider here, are 750 handwritten words Cameron wants a Creative to write each morning to kick off the day.
Cameron points to the power of these three pages as a way to dump out and work out inner issues that we may not be aware of but are influencing our lives. This writing is both catharsis and self-discovery. A similar idea was promoted back in the 1930s by Dorothea Brande in her book, Becoming a Writer. Brande asked writers to sit down each morning and let flow the details that bubbled up from their dreams and between waking and sleeping. Brande said the writer would be surprised at the creative ideas and solutions captured in these free association sessions.
Cameron and Brande, of course, point to valuable advice. We all can benefit from conversing with and being open to the offerings of our unconscious. With that said, the Creative has, I believe a more pressing concern each morning.
Every day, we need to review where we are with our creative work, study, and planning. If we don’t take somewhere between 5 to 15 minutes to gather again, our focus on what we want to do, why we want to do it, and how we are going to do it—we go spinning off course. Once we are off course, the probability increases that we are going to stay off course. Trouble.
We have got to stay focused if there is to be any hope that we are to reach any level of our creative ambitions. A Morning Focusing Worksheet can accomplish this. It starts off with a few notes about our vision for our project, the general plan of how to get there, and a paragraph or two of our values and standards we wish to hold during this process. This section of the worksheet can grow each day as we re-read what we wrote the day before and we throw down a few more thoughts. Over time, this section will develop into a well polished and clear view of our creative life.
Having this emerging view at our fingertips is a great help for what comes next: listing what we need to do the rest of the day. This is not an entire things-to-do list of everything going on in our lives, just our creative tasks. That’s where we will do our best to keep our focus.
How to Do It – Your Morning Focusing Worksheet
I recommend doing this on a computer so you can easily revise the big picture elements and update your daily list. Don’t worry about grammar or spelling, just get down a word or two, or a few sentences. On your first day, spend a few extra minutes writing down your vision: for yourself, your creative life, and the specific project you are working on.
Next, write down what you realistically can get done during the day. Don’t over do it. As you think about what you want to accomplish, hold in mind an image/feeling that represents “getting focused.” This can be something symbolic (i.e. a magnifying glass), a role model (i.e. Sherlock Holmes), or an image of yourself on top of your game. Focus your head, heart, and body as well as your intention to make the day a productive one, a creative one.
The next day, the process starts again. Look at your Morning Focusing Worksheet, take the opportunity to say a bit more about your overall vision and goals or refine what is already down in that section. Then make your short list for the day. Pull your focus together with your focusing image. Next, get out there and have a creative day.
Repeat in 24 hours.
How to Create a Worksheet: Here’s what to include:
-Add a title of your worksheet (“Morning Focusing Worksheet” has a nice ring to it)
-Include a photo/illustration of a powerful image of focusing (i.e. a magnifying glass) – optional step
– List of what you are going to focus on for that day (keep it very short!)
– Make room for a slowly growing description of your: creative big picture goals; your creative standards; vision for yourself; etc.